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Complete College Football Preview 2020

DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Full Top 25*

1. Clemson Tigers -- The Tigers have the best backfield in college football, bringing back Heisman contenders in QB Trevor Lawrence and tailback Travis Etienne. The defense may lose do-it-all Isaiah Simmons, but the return of coordinator Brent Venables should ensure it is once again among the best in the nation.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide -- Alabama lost their usual crop of NFL defections over the off-season, but also returns more proven stars than usual. That list includes running back Najee Harris, wide out DeVonta Smith, linemen Alex Leatherwood, and linebacker Dylan Moses, players who all could've gone pro. That core, plus improved health, will keep the Tide locked in on top of the SEC.

3. Florida Gators -- Could this be Florida's breakout season under Dan Mullen? The Gators have one of the best returning quarterbacks in the conference in Kyle Trask, and the defense is loaded with future NFL talent. With Georgia revamping their offense, there is a clear window for UF to take back control of the SEC East.

4. Oklahoma Sooners -- Spencer Rattler looks ready to be the next great Oklahoma quarterback, and he'll be aided by a proven offensive line and an improved defense. OU is thinner at the skill positions than in years past, but they still have enough to be considered the favorites in the wide-open Big 12 race.

5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- The Irish bring back multi-year starter Ian Book at quarterback, and are loaded along the trenches. The offense should undergo a transition under new OC Tommy Rees, which could actually be a benefit as ND enters a one-year stay in the ACC.

6. Georgia Bulldogs -- UGA is absolutely loaded on the defensive side of the ball at all three levels, but can the offense take the next step? Kirby Smart brought in former NFL OC Todd Monken to help modernize the Bulldog offense, which will be led by USC transfer J.T. Daniels (Jamie Newman announced he was opting out).

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys -- Chuba Hubbard should be at the top of every preseason Heisman watchlist, but he's far from the only piece the Cowboys bring back. Tylan Wallace is a former Biletnikoff Award finalist on the perimeter, while the defense brings back a lot of experience for coordinator Jim Knowles.

8. Texas A&M Aggies -- Jimbo Fisher brings back a proven QB in Kellen Mond, but can he return to his 2018 form after a down 2019? Either way, the talent level in College Station has taken a major leap, and SEC West contention should now be expected.

9. Texas Longhorns -- Sam Ehlinger should be considered a serious Heisman threat as a senior, and the Longhorns have no shortage of talent on either side of the ball. The big question? How do they acclimate to new coordinators on both sides of the ball, particularly a defense that suffered through an injury-plagued 2019?

10. Auburn Tigers -- Can Bo Nix take the next step for this Auburn offense? Losses on the offensive line won't help but if he is, Auburn has a really potent group under new OC Chad Morris. The D-Line was similarly gutted, but the defense should still be serviceable enough to keep Auburn in the SEC Title mix.

11. LSU Tigers -- We shouldn't be expecting a repeat of last fall with so many Tigers gone, but LSU still has enough to contend in the SEC West. They may still feature the best secondary in the league, spearheaded by Derek Stingley.

12. Cincinnati Bearcats -- After two consecutive 11-win campaigns, Luke Fickell and Cincinnati are thinking bigger in 2020. They return a veteran QB in Desmond Ridder and are set up with a deep and experienced defense.

13. UNC Tar Heels -- Mack Brown has come on and elevated the North Carolina program, who returns a budding star at QB in Sam Howell, plus his top three receivers on the outside.

14. Iowa State Cyclones -- Don't overlook this Cyclones team; they have a rising star at quarterback in Bryce Purdy, and are experienced throughout the defense. With the Big 12 so wide open, this could be ISU's year to really breakthrough.

15. Memphis Tigers -- Mike Norvell may be off to Tallahassee, but new head coach Ryan Silverfield should keep the Tigers humming. Brady White and Damonte Coxie will be an absolute chore for opposing defenses, and Memphis' defense should be good enough.

16. Louisville Cardinals -- Louisville is going to be fun to watch in 2020. They are loaded at the skill positions, with Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell creating constant big plays. If the defense can become even just average, the Cards will challenge for an ACC Championship Game berth.

17. Tennessee Volunteers -- The Vols ended last season on a six-game win streak, and they have a solid core back in 2020. Tennessee may feature the best O-Line in the country, which will allow them time to figure out their QB situation.

18. UCF Knights -- Even with some recent opt-outs, UCF has the pieces to compete with Cincy-Memphis for the AAC crown. Sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel could be in store for a special season, but the defense has to improve.

19. Baylor Bears -- New head man Dave Aranda loses a lot from this Baylor defense, but he's got a veteran QB to work with in Charlie Brewer and some intriguing playmakers at the skill positions.

20. Appalachian State Mountaineers -- Eli Drinkwitz moves on to Missouri, but don't expect App. State to slow down anytime soon. Both sides of the ball are dotted with contributors from last year's 13-win squad.

21. Virginia Tech Hokies -- VT's 2019 second half should encourage fans that 2020 will be a quality campaign, with Hendon Hooker settling into his role leading the offense. Bud Foster might've retired, but the defense still has a lot to like.

22. UAB Blazers -- The C-USA favorite has back Spencer Brown to lead the offense, while returning nine starters to a defense that was eighth in the nation in total scoring last fall.

23. Mississippi State Bulldogs -- The controversial but never boring Mike Leach arrives in Starkville with a record-setting tailback in his backfield (Kylin Hill) and an experienced transfer QB to work with (K.J. Costello).

24. SMU Mustangs -- SMU has one of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks in Shane Buechele, who will help break in new OCs Garrett Riley and A.J. Ricker. Buechele has two proven weapons in Reggie Roberson Jr. and tight end Kylen Granson.

25. Pittsburgh Panthers -- Pittsburgh might have the ACC's best secondary, and the offense will once again be led by QB Kenny Pickett, who is hoping to end his Pitt career with a grand finale.

Others to Consider
Miami Hurricanes
Kentucky Wildcats
Marshall Thundering Herd
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Florida State Seminoles

Award Projections
Bednarik (DPOY): Derek Stingley, LSU
Biletnikoff (best WR): DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Davey O'Brien (best QB): Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Doak Walker (best RB): Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Jim Thorpe (best DB): Derek Stingley, LSU
John Mackey (best TE): Kyle Pitts, Florida
Coach of the Year: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Heisman Memorial Trophy: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (winner), RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma St. (finalist), QB Mac Jones, Alabama (finalist)

Playoff Predictions
1 Clemson over 4 Oklahoma 
2 Alabama over 3 Florida

National Champ: Clemson Tigers
Maybe it's become "boring" to pick the Clemson Tigers to win the National Championship, but so be it. Even before the Pac-12 and Big Ten postponed their 2020 seasons, it was hard to overlook the pedigree of this program, and the offensive talent they have back. They'll once again face a familiar foe in Nick Saban and Alabama, but the Tide simply won't have answers to Lawrence and Travis Etienne.

* Note: Only teams that are confirmed to be attempting to play a 2020 season are eligible.

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