With the start of the college football season just days away, my system (Savvygameline) has finished preseason rankings for the PAC-12 and all 130 FBS teams. The full rankings can be seen here.
1) Oregon begins the season ranked atop the Conference and 11th overall. The Ducks will be solid at quarterback as they turn to Anthony Brown, who comes to the Ducks with plenty of big-game experience after transferring from Boston College. Oregon has a terrific amount of star talent, but the offensive line doesn’t rank with the big boys. Neither did last year’s rush defense or negative turnover margin. Overall, the roster is much stronger, and this should be the year Duck fans see Joe Moorehead’s clever offense in all of its glory.
2) Washington will be the closest challenger to Oregon in the North, but there’s a lot of slippin’ n’ slidin’ going on in Seattle these days. Recruiting has dropped considerably since the hiring of coach Jimmy Lake. The defense which hadn’t given up more than 19 points per game in five years suddenly yielded 25 and dropped to 39th in the nation. The defensive coordinator left the program, as did three players who not only transferred but did so to other PAC-12 schools. The Huskies are not headed in the right direction, and their ranking in the top 25 is likely to be short-lived.
3) Stanford’s senior class is the last of the great recruiting years and is enough to project that the Cardinal will finish as high as third in the PAC-12 North. The offensive line was strong last year and will be even better in 2021. Former Alabama recruit Jack West takes over at quarterback, and he has both a strong arm and immeasurable poise to move the offense. Inability to stop opposing running backs will keep the Cardinal from rising higher than third.
4) Washington State and 5) Oregon State will fight it out for fourth in the PAC-12 North. These teams rate nearly the same on the Savvy Index, so the advantage, for now, goes to WSU because Oregon State has not defeated the Cougars since 2013.
6) California’s offense has scored fewer and fewer points each season since 2014 and only averaged 20ppg (110thnationally) last year. The offensive line is better, but it still only ranks 109th in Savvy’s ratings.
1) Utah is a slight favorite upend USC as the PAC-12 South champion despite the Utes having lost to both division champions last season. The difference between Utah and USC now is that Utah has a proven running game, a stronger defense, and the inheritance of former Baylor star quarterback Charlie Brewer and a stronger defense. Brewer is not a miracle worker by any means, but he’s a God-send after Utah tried five quarterbacks just in its first game last year and never did get traction with any of them.
2) USC could barely get three yards per carry behind an awful offensive line. Our system also recorded an unusual number of negative game trends to go with USC’s desperation comebacks in three of its five wins.
3) Arizona State has to be rated as high as third because the Sun Devils have too much talent to project them any lower. They have a top 10 quarterback and a top 25 roster, but they are also riding a legendary scandal that will likely affect on-field performance.
4) UCLA will be fun in ‘21. The Bruins return all of their two-deep offensive lineman, a quarterback who has plenty of experience and should finally hit his stride, and some transfer running backs to make this offense lethal. This is a bowl able team with a top 30 roster. The question is whether or not these Bruins can come up with some consistently good defense.
5) Colorado shocked everyone in 2020 on its way to the national rankings. There is a lot of star talent returning, but the trenches are a concern. The Buffs will have a new quarterback, and we are projecting it will be Brandon Lewis over Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout. The schedule isn’t kind for the Buffs as they play both Oregon and Washington in the crossover schedule and Texas A&M and Minnesota in non-conference.
6) Arizona was winless and clueless in 2020, but that seems to be changing under new coach Jedd Fisch. On paper, he doesn’t have the background that excited fans or analysts, but once he hit Tucson, he put his immense energy to work in recruiting, and his results have been outstanding. The Wildcats won’t win much right now, but they will be measurably more competitive in 2021 and even more so in 2020.
Looking at the rest of the nation shows us that Alabama roared through the 2020 football season by scoring 49 points per game, giving up just 19, demolishing all 13 opponents, and winning the national championship. Along the way, they defeated three teams that finished in the top five, and only one of those came within 28 points.
Now, the Crimson Tide enters the 2021 campaign with an even stronger roster. Is it any wonder that our Index has Alabama listed as the preseason top team in college football?
Yes, Alabama is replacing its starting quarterback, but so are three of the next four teams. And, Bryce Young is not new to the Tide offense since he played in nine games last year.
Clemson is ranked second, and the Tigers also have a stronger roster than a year ago. They’re also replacing their starting quarterback as D. J. Uiagalelei takes over for legendary Trevor Lawrence. Uiagalelei performed extraordinarily well in 10 games last year.
The primary difference between these top two teams comes down to defense. While Alabama held all three of its top five opponents to 24 points or less, Clemson allowed 47 points against one top-five and 49 against another.
Third-ranked Notre Dame’s roster doesn’t rate with either Alabama or Clemson, particularly on offense. Still, Wisconsin transfer quarterback Jack Coan is a proven winner who threw 339 passes with just five interceptions last year. The Fighting Irish have a championship-level defense but not a championship-level offensive line.
Oklahoma begins the season fourth. The Sooners have legitimate championship talent and a Heisman-level quarterback, but their problem is inconsistency. Championship teams don’t lose on successive weekends to unranked opponents nor two years in a row to Kansas State. If coach Lincoln Riley can get this group together, then Oklahoma is the team to watch when challenging Alabama.
Ohio State comes in at number five. The Buckeyes are loaded, but a 52-24 loss to Alabama last year tells us they still have some ground to make up before they win it all. They also have to break in C. J. Stroud as the new quarterback after Justin Fields elected to go to the NFL. Despite three blowout wins, coach Lincoln Riley didn’t give Stroud a single snap in 2020, even though Stroud could have played in four games and retained his redshirt.
The first week of game predictions by Savvy will be released in two weeks.