Predictions for The 2020 College Football Season
College football is officially back! After university promises, player opt-outs, and political controversy, somehow, with the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) and Big Ten Conference (Big Ten) finally opting back into play, all of the Power Five conferences are returning to the turf.
College football is officially back! After university promises, player opt-outs, and political controversy, somehow, with the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) and Big Ten Conference (Big Ten) finally opting back into play, all of the Power Five conferences are returning to the turf. With these conferences back in action, college football fans will rabidly discuss their favorite question: Who will make the College Football Playoff? Every year, people debate over the accuracy of College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee’s decisions, which are based on the supposedly “simple” comparison of one team’s schedule difficulty and record to another’s. This year, however, the selection will be more challenging, as each Power Five conference will play a different number of games, giving some teams a larger sample size than others for the committee to judge. Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams will play 11 games, the South Eastern Conference (SEC) and the Big 12 will play 10, the Big Ten will play nine, and teams in the Pacific-12 (Pac-12) will play seven.
he Pac-12 deserve to make the playoff? In short, probably not. The Pac-12 Conference has become progressively weaker in recent years, and it is the one conference without a singular year-in, year-out powerhouse team to buoy the rest of the conference. The two teams that are by far the best in the division, the University of Oregon Ducks and the University of Southern California Trojans, both lost top talent to graduation, the draft, or, in rare cases, some opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19, like Oregon’s probable top-five NFL Draft pick Penei Sewell. The Pac-12’s standard compares poorly to the elite level of competition in the ACC and SEC, the two conferences that combine to account for five of the favorites to make the playoffs. Oregon, while being the top-ranked Pac-12 team, is currently slotted in at number 13 in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 Poll, which does not necessarily signal serious postseason contention considering only four teams will make it. Per the Allstate Playoff Predictor, an undefeated Pac-12 team would still have a mere 44 percent chance of making the playoffs despite the relative ease in reaching 7-0.
Football fans should expect at least one Big Ten team to make the postseason though, given that Big Ten teams are set to play two more games and typically face a higher level of competition. The Big Ten is a top-three conference in football for good reason, with perennial title contenders like the Ohio State University Buckeyes and Penn State University Nittany Lions. No Big Ten team has an easy schedule, and therefore a 9-1 record in the Big Ten would be far harder to achieve than a 7-0 in the Pac-12. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions seem ahead of a formidable pack, also including the University of Michigan Wolverines (one should expect another end-of-year ranking of 18-23, as has become status quo under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh), University of Iowa Hawkeyes, and the University of Wisconsin Badgers (I would only start genuinely believing 2020 is the apocalypse if Wisconsin does not have another All-American running back). Long story short, the Big-10 is once again very, very good.
Without further ado, here are my playoff predictions:
1. Clemson Tigers
Dabo Swinney builds teams that are ridiculously deep on both sides of the line. Clemson may be the only team in the nation whose third and fourth-stringers see the field in the second half after their starters torch whichever unfortunate opponent lays in their way. Not to mention, Clemson has the likely number one overall pick for the 2021 NFL Draft in Trevor Lawrence, who is playing at an unparalleled level, having thrown 10 touchdowns and over 1,100 passing yards, posting an unreal 183.4 passer rating. His offensive partner in crime, running back Travis Etienne, another future first round pick, is amazingly somehow still a top-25 rusher despite having missed a game.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Welcome back to the CFP, Alabama. The Tide did not lose as many players as it usually does to the NFL, except quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and a pair of top receivers, and they absurdly still have one of the best receiver corps in all of college football with Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith. Its offensive line has serious depth and they once again have a gluttony of defensive talent, including linebacker prospect Dylan Moses, to help Nick Saban lead the team back to the promised land.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes definitely lost talent last year, the most notable being cornerback Jeff Okudah (picked third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft), but they will return with what many consider the top offense in the country, led by 2019 Heisman Memorial Trophy candidate and dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields. While the defense may not meet its usual standard in Columbus, it most likely will not matter with an offense that can blow out almost any opponent.
4. Georgia Bulldogs
Picking the fourth and final spot required a difficult decision: whether to pick Georgia or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I settled on the Bulldogs, anticipating both teams will only lose to their conference’s probable champions (Alabama and Clemson). Alabama already defeated Georgia, but Clemson’s potential to convincingly beat the Fighting Irish in both the regular season and the conference championship could rule the Irish out while Georgia keeps it close in a rematch. The level of competition that Georgia has played so far also exceeds that of Notre Dame, crushing the Auburn University Tigers by three touchdowns and then number-14 University of Tennessee Volunteers by 23 points.