Over the past couple of seasons, one thing has become almost unanimously hated among college football fanatics, preseason rankings. The AP Top 25 is the poll that is most widely recognized by fans and media alike, but it is also a major player in determining strength of record through the first eleven weeks of the season. While everyone loves debating the newest rankings, the preseason iteration tends to be fairly inaccurate and leads to issues when translating the importance (or lack thereof) of early-season wins. With that being said, I’m going to be putting a little twist on an idea that David Hale had over at ESPN which puts teams into a tier system rather than focussing on a specific 1-25 order.
The top six tiers do not include any teams that do not reside in the Power 5 (ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC), non-Power 5 teams that I believe could sneak into the top 25 can be found at the bottom of the list*
National Championship Contenders (3)
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State
These teams are the absolute cream of the crop. Are there other teams that can compete for the championship? Sure. Is there anyone else in the country that you would bet the house on them making the playoff? Not a chance, and that’s how these three find themselves alone atop college football heading into 2020.
Most Likely to Fall- Alabama
Conference Championship Contenders (15)
Arizona State, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
This next tier is chock-full of teams that are set to be major players in their respective conferences in 2020. While they don’t currently have the elite status of the tier-one teams, any of them could certainly find themselves competing in the College Football Playoff if they play to their full potential.
Most Likely to Rise- Oklahoma
Most Likely to Fall- Utah
Final Top 25 Potential (10)
Cal, Florida State, Iowa, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Washington
This is where we start to see the drop off from elite to very good. While this third tier may not scream champion, the ten teams that reside here are good for anywhere from seven to nine wins with the potential to upset a top team or two.
Most Likely to Rise- LSU
Most Likely to Fall- Tennessee
Going Bowling (8)
Baylor, Kentucky, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, Washington State
This is the last tier that many would consider true “quality” teams. While I see a minimum of six wins for all eight of these programs, I don’t believe that they will be able to do just enough to push themselves into the final top 25 rankings.
Most Likely to Rise- Baylor
Most Likely to Fall- Nebraska
Too Close to Call (16)
Arizona, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Maryland, NC State, Ole Miss, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Wake Forest
This was a challenging tier to put together, and it was honestly added in retrospect due to the immense gap that I noticed between the “Going Bowling” and “Time to Rebuild” . The main commonality between the teams of this fifth tier is uncertainty. Looking at different schedules, there are so many swing matchups that I projected anywhere from four to eight wins for these programs.
Most Likely to Rise- Illinois
Most Likely to Fall- Kansas State
Time to Rebuild (13)
Arkansas, Colorado, Duke, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Oregon State, Rutgers, Stanford, TCU, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
The title of this tier could be interpreted as harsh, but there was really no better way to phrase it. The way that these teams’ schedules shape up makes it difficult for me to see anything more than four wins, partially because of S.o.S and partially because of a lack of talent in comparison to their peers.
Most Likely to Rise- TCU