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Peter Snyder’s 2020 Full College Football Preview

2020. A year to forget. As late August rolls around, I am usually amped in animation to write about the best sports on this God’s green earth. I am excited to write about the big stories coming into the year as well as highlight the sleepers that nobody is talking about. However, due to COVID-19, this excitement has become desolate.

As we sit here in September, two of the five Power 5 conferences have suspended their seasons with others potentially to follow. It started with the Big Ten, which announced that they would be suspending their football (along with all other fall sports) season in attempts to play in the spring.

This means no Justin Fields, no Micah Parsons and no rowing the boat. The Pac-12 soon followed suit, suspending all athletic activities for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year. Hence, we will not be able to see how Mario Cristobal handles his program post the Justin Herbert era. Nor will we be able to see Kedon Slovis make his SoCal trek as a Heisman hopeful.

America needs college football and without it, we are a nation with a lost cause and broken promises.

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With all this being said, there is still some hope as we head into the college football season. The SEC, which is without a doubt the most successful conference in the history of college football, has all intentions to play in 2020.

The ACC and Big 12, who are also loaded with perennial powerhouses, plan to play this fall thanks to an all play-in conference model. The SEC also established this.

Additionally, Notre Dame, who has one of the most famous and distinguishable programs in the world, will be joining the ACC this year, in order to form a schedule and be able to compete for a conference title.

It may not be pretty, but in some shape or form, we will see college football come fall, and that is a beautiful thing. It also means it’s time for my college football preview.

Now it’s time to jump into the good stuff. The meat and potatoes of sorts. It’s time to talk about the x’s and o’s, the pigskin, the good ole rough and tuck.

Enough of this negative Nancy crap. Throughout this preview, you will get an in-depth look at each of the three Power 3 conferences who plan to play this fall. You’ll also read a preview of the American Athletic Conference, who also intends to play this season.

Furthermore, I will be providing you guys with five teams who I feel will shock the world this year, as well as five programs who are going to sh*t the bed. Finally, I will be giving you my preseason CFP prediction which will be accompanied by my preseason national championship pick.

Ya’ll ready to run through a brick wall like I am? Let’s get after it.

College Football Preview: ACC

Ah yes the ACC, or shall we say, Clemson and those other guys. For the past half-decade, Dabo Swinney’s bunch have dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference, winning each of the last five ACC championships in dominating fashion. In fact, the ACC has been such a lopsided conference that only two schools (Florida State being the other) have won a conference title since 2011.

Notre Dame, the honorary member

While it may seem like 2020 may be much of the same, seeing that Clemson is ranked as the nation’s top team, we may not want to run before we walk. Notre Dame, who has been granted honorary membership to the ACC, is one of the nation’s more fascinating teams. With the Fighting Irish’s returning 5th year senior QB Ian Book, Notre Dame is said to have one of the country’s most potent offenses.

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of Book’s, as he has the tendency to hold onto the ball too long and make rash decisions when under pressure. However, I am a big fan of Fighting Irish TE, Tommy Tremble, and I believe that this team could live through their WR depth.

As far as Notre Dame’s defense is concerned, you pretty much get what you get in terms of the physical nature the Fighting Irish present on an annual basis. Clark Lea, Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, is entering his third year on the job and, thus far, has done a great job.

Overall, this is a really talented Irish team. They are balanced offensively, stacked defensively and have some of the best personnel that you are going to find in the country. Am I saying that they have a chance to dethrone Clemson, however? Only time will tell. (Probably not though, unless a guy that goes by the name of Trevor Lawrence gets hurt.)

The official sleeper

I now want to talk about my official sleeper to WIN the ACC in 2020. This team is getting some praise heading into the fall, but not nearly enough. That’s right baby, I’m talking about the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Mack Brown’s boys enter the 2020 season loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. This is a team that is going to tire opponents out with their speed and will flat out beat them with sheer athleticism. It also doesn’t hurt that their head coach is one of only five active coaches to have won a national championship. (Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron and Dabo Swinney are the others).

One of the main reasons why I am so high on this Tar Heels team is that they have a QB in Sam Howell who I think has a legitimate chance of winning the Heisman Trophy. Last season, during Howell’s freshman campaign, the Indian Trails native threw for a total of 3,641 yards and tossed 38 TDs with only 7 INTs. Those are numbers you would expect from a seasoned senior, not a true freshman. Howell is poised, composed and has all the making of a SPECIAL talent.

The Tar Heels also return with two thousand-yard receivers in the likes of junior, Dyami Brown and senior, Dazz Newsome, who will both be accompanied by one of the ACC’s premier rushers, Michael Carter. This is an offense, a system, and a team that is going to be must-watch for a majority of the 2020 season.

The defending champs

It’s now time to talk about the 5-time defending ACC Champion Clemson Tigers. Over the past decade or so, the expectation at Clemson has been to win the national championship and settle for nothing less. This year should be no different, as the Tigers are my favorite to win the 2020 National Championship.

So let’s yak about why I am so high on this Clemson team. Well for starters, they are host to the best head coach and defensive coordinator in the entire country. Some may argue that until Nick Saban retires, the world of college football will run through Tuscaloosa. But how I see it, there is a new sheriff in town and his name is Dabo Swinney.

Swinney has proven that he is the better recruiter, a more aggressive play-caller and a better winner, at least as of late. On the defensive side of things, Brent Venables is as good of a defensive coordinator as you will ever find, college or pro. Since taking over the reins in 2012, Venables has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s led a defense that is regarded year in and year out as one of the best in the nation. He’s been so good in fact, that he was promoted to associate head coach in 2018 by Dabo, who considers him to be a key part of their highly-successful cog.

In terms of the actual talent on the field, this Clemson team has firepower at every angle. Travis Etienne, the running back who rushed for 1,600 yards a season ago, shocked the world this offseason when he announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Shift one place to the right on the line of scrimmage, and you are staring right in the eyes of the best QB in the country, Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence, a junior out of Cartersville, Georgia, has all the makings of a potential Sunday superstar. He has the arm, the flow and oh yea, my dude only lost one game thus far in his collegiate career. That loss came against LSU in last year’s national championship game. With Justin Fields not being on the field this year, Lawrence will be the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

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Clemson also brings in the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class which is highlighted by 5-star recruits: DJ Uiagalelei (QB), Myles Murphy (DE), Demarkcus Bowman (RB), and Bryan Bresee, (DT and the nation’s #1 overall recruit according to 247 sports). As the saying goes, the rich continue to get richer. And in this case, the Tigers continue to get fed 5-star recruits like it’s nobody’s business.

Overall, this Clemson team may be the deepest and most talented thus far during the Dabo Swinney era. They have the star-studded recruiting class, the dominant defense and TWO Heisman prospects in Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence.

The ONLY weakness that this team may have is in the wideout position. This weakness may be due to a season-ending injury, sustained by WR Justyn Ross. However, Lawrence is good enough where he can turn the next man up into a better version then Ross ever was…a Brady like quality of sorts. Buckle up, strap in and enjoy the show that will be the 2020 Clemson Tigers.

College Football Preview: Big 12

Much like the ACC, the Big 12 has experienced its own form of lopsided success over the past half-decade, as the Oklahoma Sooners have won the last five conference championships. As the Sooners come into the 2020 football season as heavy favorites to reclaim their crown, I think there are three teams who have a legitimate chance to knock the kings of their throne.

Underdog #1: Iowa State Cyclones

The first team that has an outside chance of winning the Big 12 this season is the Iowa State Cyclones. Led by head coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have a team filled with talent, explosiveness and most importantly, experience.

The thing that really attracts me to this Iowa State team is that they have an offense that does not quit. The Cyclones returning running back, Breece Hall, led the team in rushing yards with 897, to go along with 9 rushing TDs last season.

Additionally, Iowa State plays host to one of my favorite QBs in the entire country, Brock Purdy. Purdy, a junior from Gilbert, Arizona is the type of QB that coaches only dream of. He stands tall in the pocket, has incredible field vision and is not afraid to step into a throw, even if it means taking a lick in the process. Last season, Purdy is coming off of a 3,982 yards, 27 TD and 9 INT season. Now, he is looking to cement himself as one of the elite QBs in his class.

While Iowa State may be spread out thin on defense, losing key pieces such as LB Marcel Spears and defensive lineman Ray Lima to graduation or the NFL, this team is talented enough in other spots to succeed come fall.

Underdog #2 Texas Longhorns

Next, I want to talk about the Texas Longhorns, who very well could be the most fascinating case study in America. Make no mistake about it, Texas has the TALENT to compete for a national title this year. They have a highly-praised recruiting class coming in which is highlighted by 5-star running back Bijan Robinson.

The Longhorns also have a new offensive coordinator coming in the likes of Mike Yurcich, as well as new defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Heck, they even have a Heisman-caliber senior QB in Sam Ehlinger. What more could you possibly ask for?

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The fact of the matter is this, however. No matter how talented Texas is, for whatever reason they seem to continuously get in their own way.

Coming into last fall, the expectations for the Longhorns were through the roof. They were fresh off a 10-4 season which was capped off with a Sugar Bowl win against SEC Powerhouse, Georgia. But as the season went on, Texas began losing games that were very winnable, which left them with an 8-5 record and gave many fans west of the Mississippi a pit in their stomach.

Look, I like Texas. I even want to LOVE them. But they have to prove to me that they are built for the big moment before I am ready to put them with the elites of the elite.

Now let’s transition our attention and talk about my pick to win the Big 12, OUTRIGHT. Of course Oklahoma has a stud QB in the likes of Spencer Rattler and may have the best offensive mind in college football in Lincoln Riley. HOWEVER, there are some boys in Stillwater who are ready to make some noise come 2020.

That’s right, I’m talking about the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Big 12 Winner?

This Cowboys are going to be a force to be reckoned with thanks to a three-headed beast made up of Spencer Sanders, Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard.

Was there any better way to make a first impression than what Spencer Sanders did during his freshman campaign a season ago?  He threw 2,065 passing yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs, and 628 rushing yards. Now sure, these numbers are not going to jump out of your computer screen and kick you in the face. But you gotta understand something. Sanders was taking the reins from Mason Rudolph who had dominated at Stillwater just a few seasons ago. Sanders is a special talent who will only get better with age.

Next, let’s talk about senior WR, Tylan Wallace. Wallace, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, will arguably be the most explosive WR in the Big 12 come 2020. During Wallace’s junior campaign, the 6’0 wideout managed to rack up 903 receiving yards to go along with 8 TD catches and 53 REC. It is also important to note that Wallace tore his ACL in October, which left him sidelined for the remainder of his junior season. If Wallace had not torn his ACL, there is a good chance that he would have been a top-10 pick in this past year’s NFL Draft.

Finally, let’s talk about the man, the myth, the legend, Chuba Hubbard.

Oklahoma State had just one Heisman Winner in the history of their football program. In 1988, the electric Barry Sanders was awarded the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 2,628 yards to go along with 37 rushing TDs. To this day, it is considered to be one of the most dominant single-season performances in the history of college football.

During a podcast last fall, I claimed that Chuba Hubbard was as electrifying of a running back as Sanders was during his time in Stillwater. Surprisingly, I did not receive positive feedback for my remarks. Now mind you, I was not alive to watch Barry Sanders play at OK State, but I watched enough highlights to form an opinion.

The reason I made the statement was because I knew if Oklahoma State was ever going to have another Heisman winner, it was going to come from the likes of Chuba Hubbard. I watch a lot, and I mean a lot of college football. And let me tell you, Chuba Hubbard is a star in the making.

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The explosiveness that Hubbard presents is almost unfair. He is a downhill runner who can accelerate in very tight windows. And once he gets in open space, it’s game over, as he is as fast as the day is long. Last season, Hubbard rushed for a total of 2,094 yards, accumulated 21 TDs and racked up 328 carries. These are video game-type numbers and defy human physics.

If last year was any indication of what is to come, Hubbard, Sanders, Wallace and the great people of Stillwater are in for a special season.

AAC

Since the Big 10 and Pac-12 decided that they would not participate in football activities this fall, I felt I would give the American Athletic Conference an honorary membership into the Power 5. Let’s call it the “revised Power 4” of sorts.

Last year, the AAC had a year for the ages, as it featured three teams who were nationally-ranked for the majority of the season: the Memphis Tigers, the SMU Mustangs and the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Memphis Tigers

The Tigers of Memphis ended up winning the conference title and were selected as the group of 5 NYB6 selection. As we look ahead, it seems the conference will be just as, if not more, competitive than a year ago, as four teams have a lawful shot of taking home some hardware come seasons end.

When talking about the talent that comes out of the AAC, we must first start with our defending champs, the Memphis Tigers. Last season, the Tigers experienced one of the best seasons in program history, going 12-2, winning a conference title and making an appearance in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The expectations should not drop off too much as Memphis enters the fall with a laden roster.

The biggest headline coming into the Memphis Tigers 2020 campaign is that they will be supported by first-year head coach, Ryan Silverfield. Silverfield, who has been with the Memphis program since 2016, will be taking over the reins for Mike Norvell. Norvell accepted the head coaching job at Florida State during the offseason.

Now look, is it hard having success with a first-year head coach? Absolutely. It is even harder during the midst of a global pandemic. But Silverfield is not an outsider being thrown into an entirely new system. He has been with this program for four years now and knows this organization like the back of his hand. If the athletic director didn’t feel comfortable with him in charge, he would have hired someone else.

Also, it is important to note that Silverfield is being gifted with one of the nation’s deepest offenses. The Tigers come stacked with skillful talent that is highlighted by two senior superstars in the likes of WR Damonte Coxie and QB Brady White. The pairing of White and Coxie was lethal last year, accounting for nearly 1300 yards of total offense. This is going to be a team that is fast, disciplined and, overall, very fun to watch.

The Runner Up

The next team highlighted on our AAC preview is the team that Memphis beat last year in the conference championship, Cincinnati. On paper, the Bearcats have the most talent in the conference coming into the 2020 season. This is going to be a team that scores a lot of points, while giving up very few on the other side. It’s a recipe for success.

When talking about this Bearcat team, we have to start with the stud that is dual-threat QB, Desmond Ridder. Ridder, a junior out of Louisville, Kentucky, is the type of QB that can do it all. Last season, Ridder managed to compile a season that featured 2,164 passing yards, 18 TD passes, 5 rushing TDs, 9 INTs and 650 rushing yards. Ridder had a slow start to his year per se, but picked things up through the back half of the season, becoming one of the most dangerous QBs in the AAC.

Along with Ridder, Cincinnati will be relying on wide receiver Michael Young to carry much of the offensive load. Young, a grad transfer from Notre Dame, is looking forward to contributing to this Bearcat program. The reason why I say that Young will have to carry a substantial part of the Bearcats offense this season is because Cincinnati is now without two key parts of their offense in WR, Malick Mbodj and RB, Michael Warren II.

Warren is the sixth-most leading rusher in program history. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an UDFA, but was waived September 3. Mbodj entered the transfer portal in January. 

Departures aside, this is a polished football team that should have no problem in filling in some holes.

SMU Mustangs

In 1987, the Mustangs were given the “Death Penalty” by the NCAA, due to repeat violations through the nonprofit’s (LOL) parlance. Fast forward 33 years later and the Mustangs are back in the national news, only this time, for being a successful team with one hell of an offensive system.

Look, SMU’s game is going to be pretty simple in 2020. It’s going to be pass heavy with a run option mixed in every once in a while. This is a program that has the offensive tools to win the AAC this year.

When discussing these weapons, start with the program’s offensive leader, Shane Buechele. Buechele, a senior QB from Arlington Texas, is what we like to call an old fashion gunslinger. Last year, during Buechele’s junior campaign, the Texas transfer accounted for 3,929 passing yards, 34 TD passes and threw just 10 INTs. Buechele is a poised pocket passer with a rocket arm. Expect him to light up scoreboards come kickoff.

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Complementing Buechele, the Mustangs will trot out two really talented playmakers in the likes of WR, Reggie Roberson and TE, Kylen Granson.

If we are being 100 percent transparent, however, I do feel this SMU offense will take a slight dip this season for a few reasons.

For starters, SMU is losing three MAJOR parts of their offense in the likes of wide receiver, James Proche, and running backs Xavier Jones and Ke’Mon Freeman. These three weapons accounted for a huge chunk of the Mustangs’ offense last year. With them gone, it will be hard to produce the type of production and overall success that the Mustangs experienced a year ago.

Secondly, SMU averaged 41.8 points a game last year. That is a ludicrous stat line that will be almost impossible to repeat. In short, SMU will be a contender this year, but to say that they will be the same offensive juggernaut that they were a season ago may be a stretch.

UCF Golden Knights

Finally, let’s talk about the 2017 National Champion, the UCF Golden Knights. To say that UCF had an uneventful 2019 campaign would be a gross understatement. First of all, the Golden Knights’ streak of 27 straight regular-season wins came to an end on September 21, 2019 as the program suffered an upset loss at the University of Pittsburgh. Then, on November 8, the Knights found themselves in the headlines once again, getting upset by conference rival, Tulsa, 34-31.

UCF now looks to put what was somewhat of a disappointing season behind them and get back to the success they experienced just a few years ago. Furthermore, if the Golden Knights are going to have a successful 2020 campaign, they are going to need to rely on significant production from sophomore QB, Dillon Gabriel.

Gabriel, a 6’0 pocket passer from Mililani, Hawaii, has all the makings of a prime time Saturday night superstar. During Gabriel’s freshman year, the strong-armed prospect managed to compile an overall stat line of 3,653 passing yards, 29 TD passes and just 7 INTs. Gabriel is looking to cement himself as the second great quarterback out of Hawaii to play for the University of Central Florida. McKenzie Milton, who led the Golden Knights to an undefeated season in 2017 and was responsible for most of the Knights wins during their historic 27-game regular season winning streak, is also a native of the great state of Hawaii.

UCF’s rushing game may be the deepest in the AAC. The Golden Knights have the luxury of trotting out two poised backs in the likes of seniors, Otis Anderson and Greg McCrae. Starting with Anderson, it is said that this downhill rusher is all but a formality to run for 1,000 yards this fall. When you watch this kid on tape, you can only help but smile at his ability to hit holes.

As for McCrae? Let’s just say the guy was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2018 and would be the primary back for most programs in the country.

UCF also has a physical defense led by one of the smarter football minds out there in Randy Shannon.

I like this team a lot and they are my official pick to win the American Athletic Conference in 2020.

SEC

The SEC. It’s a conference where it just means a lot more. Since 2010, the SEC has been host to six national champions, countless top recruiting classes and a bevy of lawful talent. In 2020, the expectations of the SEC’s success should be no different, as the world’s best conference is loaded with talented teams and even more talented football minds.

Because the SEC is so stacked, I have decided that I will preview both the East and West divisions of the conference, as well as predict an overall champion for the nation’s steepest climb.

SEC East

Starting with the SEC East, I think there are two teams that have a legitimate shot of winning the division this fall, with one of those teams just having an outside chance.

The Vols

Starting with my sleeper team, the Tennessee Volunteers may turn some heads this year. It goes without saying that the Volunteers had a 2019 to forget, going 8-5 and losing home games to both Georgia State and BYU to start their season. However, this was a team that really got its footing under them during the back half of the season. The Vols won their final six games, including a bowl win over the Indiana Hoosiers.

Now listen. Do I think this Tennessee team is good enough to win the SEC this year? Nada. But I do think they are coming into 2020 with momentum, and they do have some playmakers which should help them compete.

The Volunteers top player comes in the likes of their senior QB, Jarrett Guarantano who can do it all. Last season, Guarantano compiled a final stat line of 2,158 passing yards, 16 TD passes, and 8 INTs. Guarantano is not a guy who is going to light up a stat sheet by any stretch of the imagination, but the dude is a competitor and will put his back on the line during any given snap.

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While Tennessee’s offense may be impressive, the thing that really excites me about this Volunteers team is their high power defense. Last season, Tennessee’s defense did not allow more than 22 points during any of their final six games. Those are wildly impressive numbers that played a big part in the Volunteers’ six-game winning streak at the end of last season.

This 2020 Volunteers defense will be led by sophomore linebacker, Henry To’o To’o. To’o To’o racked up 72 tackles last season during an impressive freshman campaign. Accompanying To’o To’o, will be outside linebacker Quavaris Crouch, making this Tennessee linebacking corp one one that shall not be messed with.

Overall, Jeremy Pruitt has something cooking in Knoxville, and I’m excited to see what his boys will do come fall.

Florida Gators

During last year’s college football preview, I said that the Florida Gators were my sleeper team to make the college football playoffs. While that may have been a stretch, seeing that the Gators lost two games in 2019, it was still a successful year for the program that featured an Orange Bowl win.

Much like last year, I am wildly optimistic about this Gators team coming into 2020. They are fast, athletic and have all the pieces to make a serious run at the CFP.

While talking about this Florida team, we need to talk about their explosive offense. Head coach Dan Mullen always had an eye for a high tempo exasperations and this Gator offense is a breathing example of that sentiment.

Bouncing off of that idea, if the Florida Gators are going to want to experience offensive success come fall, they will need to rely on their offensive leader, Kyle Trask. Trask, a native Texan, is not your typical college quarterback. He was not a coveted high school recruit and, heck, he was not even the starting QB when he first arrived in Gainesville. And if it wasn’t for Feleipe Franks dislocating his ankle at the beginning of the 2019 season, Trask could very well be sitting on the bench to start this season.

By last season’s end, Trask had shown the world why he should have never been a backup QB in the first place. He had thrown for 2,941 yards, 25 TD passes and just 7 INTs. When I watch Trask play, I am in awe of just how composed he remains in the pocket.

If you are familiar with the SEC, you know that they have some DAWGS at the defensive tackle position. To sit in the pocket and make tough throws, knowing you are going to get smacked just seconds later, takes some real guts. I can’t wait to see what Trask does come fall.

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On the defensive side of the ball, Florida is led by a dominant defensive front, highlighted by junior DL, Kyree Campbell and 5-star recruit, Gervon Dexter. I expect this lethal combination to put pressure on SEC QBs all season long and collect sacks like it is a hobby.

Is this Florida Gator team deep enough to win the SEC East? Yup. Are they deep enough to win the SEC outright? YUP! Are they even deep enough to even win a national championship? I’ll say this. Do not sleep on this Gator team.

Georgia Bulldogs

Let’s now shift our attention to one of my favorite teams in the nation, the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia comes into 2020 ranked as the fourth-best team in the country, according to the Associated Press and has all the makings of the CFP caliber-program. However, there is one caveat.

Like Texas, Georgia finds themselves year in and year out disappointing to the masses. During the last three seasons, Georgia has managed to compile an overall record of 35-7. And while that may seem impressive to the common eye, during those three years Georgia was said to have some of the deepest rosters in the country and was expected to win at least one national championship. The closest they got was a national championship loss to Alabama in 2017.

The biggest headline coming into the Bulldogs 2020 campaign is the battle that will take place at the QB position. The Jake Fromm era in Athens officially came to a close, but lucky for Kirby Smart, the program has been gifted with two of the best QB transfers you are going to find (not named Justin Fields or Joe Burrow.)

The first transfer that came the Bulldogs way was Jamie Newman, a senior from Wake Forest. Newman is the type of QB that the city of Athens is going to immediately fall in love with. He is versatile, has an extremely accurate arm, and can extend any play by virtue of his long strides. During two full seasons at Winston-Salem, Newman was able to pass for a total of 3,456 yards, tossed 31 TD passes and 14 INTs, and averaged nearly 8 yards per passing attempts. He rushed for 648 yards to go along with 7 rushing TDs. Newman is a dominant talent who could very well take home the coveted Heisman Trophy when all is said and done.

UPDATE: Jamie Newman has opted out of the 2020 CFB season in order to concentrate on preparing for next year’s NFL Draft.

Now let’s talk about our second QB transfer, JT Daniels. Daniels, a sophomore out of USC was never supposed to end up in Athens. Coming out of high school, Daniels, a 5-star recruit from Mater Dei, was THE guy. He could choose any college he wanted and decided that USC was the place for him.

However, during his collegiate debut against Fresno State, Daniels suffered a torn ACL, leaving him sidelined for the remainder of the season. One may think the USC starting job would have been safe upon Daniels’ return, but an unknown gunslinger named Kedon Slovis burst onto the scene, leaving Daniels with a decision to ultimately pack his bags, head east and transfer to a place he now calls home.

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So by default, it seems Daniels will start this season. I think it is apparent that Daniels has more god-given talent, although some of it may be untapped. If you watch Daniels’ high school tape, you are reminded of NFL greats lighting in up on Sunday afternoons. 

PS: It is worth noting that Georgia will be without two huge parts of their offense in running back D’Andre Swift and OT, Andrew Thomas (both now in the NFL) but thanks to Kirby smart being the recruiter in the entire country, the Bulldogs should be just fine.

SEC West

The SEC West. Oh the SEC West. One of the deepest divisions we have ever seen. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. All ranked in the preseason top 25. Seriously? This is a subdivision of a conference, and you are meaning to tell me that there are 4 teams ranked nationally from it? Oh, how the rich get richer. I guess we have no other option than to go ahead and talk about these powerhouses.

Texas A&M

Kicking things off, I would like to talk about the Texas A&M Aggies. If you were to look at the Aggies record from a year ago, you may not be overly impressed, being that they were just 8-5. But, A&M  played arguably the toughest schedule in the country last year, as their losses came to Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. Those five teams were all nationally ranked at the conclusion of last season and made up half of the CFP.

In that same breath, however, if the Aggies want to be considered as title contenders this year, they are going to have to win at least one, if not more of those marquee Saturday afternoon soirees.

As we discuss the Aggies in more detail, it is important to talk about the lethal combination of senior QB Kellen Mond and senior WR Jhamon Ausbon. Starting with Mond, there is a lot to love about this dual-threat QB, but also a lot to hate. There are certain games where he looks like vintage Russell Wilson and others where he looks like a JV backup.

One thing that Mond does bring to the table almost every Saturday afternoon is his ability to allude pressure with his feet. During his first three years at college station, Mond has been able to rush for a total of 1,112 yards to go along with 16 rushing TDs. Those are reliable numbers that can be expected to continue come Mond’s senior season.

Along with Mond’s ability to scramble, the Texas native has a knack for the deep ball, and there is nobody he likes throwing to more than Jhamon Ausbon.

Ausbon, a 6’2 wideout from Houston, is one of the more athletic playmakers you will find in the SEC. When you watch Ausbon’s film, it is clear to see that he likes to go up and get it, almost like a lion hunting down his prey. Last season, during Ausbon’s junior campaign, the skillful wideout was able to rack up 66 REC, 872 receiving yards, 5 TD catches while averaging 13.2 yards a catch in the process. Ausbon presents a threat every time he touches the turf and I am excited for what he and Mond can bring during Saturdays this fall.

Finally, if the Aggies have any chance of contending for an SEC title this year, they are going to need to ride the coattails of one of the greatest football minds of all time, Jimbo Fisher. Fisher has been coaching football since 1988, and is as good of a head football coach as you will ever find. Currently, he is one of five active coaches to have won a national championship. Including himself, three of those coaches come out of the SEC, with Orgeron, and Saban being the others.

While I do not think Texas A&M is the most talented team in the SEC, I have learned over the years to never count Jimbo out.  

War Eagle baby!

That’s right. Let’s talk about Auburn football. 2019 was an up and down year for Auburn, which featured a 9-4 record, an Iron Bowl win, and an Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota. And while I like this Auburn team a lot, I do feel as if they may have played a tad below standards a season ago.

Obviously, when talking about this Tigers team, you have to start with the face of the “franchise,” Bo Nix. Nix, a sophomore QB out of Pinson, Alabama was the talk of Auburn football a year ago. The true freshman compiled a rookie stat line of  2,542 passing yards, 16 TD passes, 6 INTs, 301 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs. The great people of Auburn are ready to praise this kid as the next Cam Newton, but I have to be honest, I am not.

While Nix is an incredible athlete that can extend plays with his legs, I haven’t seen enough to conclude that he is is a great thrower. When I watched Nix play last year, I saw him miss a lot with the deep ball and make several poor decisions over the middle of the field. With age these problems should diminish, but I do not see a Heisman in Nix’s future anytime soon.

One area where I feel that the Auburn Tigers could really excel in 2020 is on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, they had one of the most dominant defenses in the land, giving up just 19 points per contest. And while the Tigers defense may look different in 2020, seeing that DT Derrick Brown, and DB Javaris Davis are no longer with the team, this is still a defense that is going to rough teams up in all four quarters. One key returning piece to this Tiger defense is LB K.J. Britt, who I think is going to have a monster year.

Overall, this is a really deep Tiger roster that should at the least be competitive during every game they play this season.

GEAUX TIGERS!!

This is a sentiment… no scratch that, this is a mating call that can be heard by the great people of Baton Rouge on Saturdays during the fall. It signifies one thing and one thing only: LSU Football.

I have been waiting to talk about this team since I started writing this preview. The defending national champions. The Cinderella story. If you weren’t totally enthralled by everything that was the LSU Tigers championship run last year then you either A) hate college football or B) are an Alabama fan. I mean, they had every storyline imaginable.

They had the transfer QB in Joe Burrow who came from Ohio State to Baton Rouge only to win a Heisman, a national championship and become the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They had the undersized running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire who is now projected to be the starting running back for the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. And oh yea, they had only the coolest, most badass coach in the world in the likes of Ed Orgeron. The 2019 LSU Tigers were a team made up from a storybook and will be one that will not and shall not, ever be repeated.

Let’s now move on and talk about the new, and I can not emphasize new enough, 2020 LSU Tigers. LSU will almost look entirely different on both sides of the ball, as they are now without key members of their championship team such as: Joe Burrow, WR Justin Jefferson, CB Kristian Fulton, edge rusher, K’Lavon Chaisson, TE Thaddeus Moss and RB  Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Additionally, LSU will be without one of the smartest offensive minds in college football, Joe Brady, who took an NFL job with the Panthers during the offseason.

With all this being said, all hope is not lost for the Tigers coming into this season. This is still a VERY talented football program. Replacing Burrow at the QB position will be junior gunslinger, Myles Brennan. Brennan, a native of Long Beach, Mississippi, is said to be a Heisman hopeful coming into the year.

Now you may be sitting here thinking to yourself, how is this even possible? Brennan spent two years riding the bench. Well, for starters, Brennan is at LSU for a reason. The kid is a special talent who has one of the more accurate throwing arms I have ever seen. Secondly, Brennan will be gifted with the opportunity of throwing to the best WR in the country in Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, a junior from Louisiana, is one of the most explosive playmakers that the SEC has seen in quite some time.

A year ago, during LSU championship run, Chase was able to rack up 84 REC, 1,780 receiving yards, 20 TD receptions while averaging over 21 yards per catch. Those are ludicrous numbers that happened, on the conditions of Chase being the primary receiver (Justin Jefferson was WR1.) With Chase being the new WR1, who knows what this star will be able to accomplish under the bright lights.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that while LSU may not be as dominant as they were a year ago, they will still be one hell of a football team who opposing schools will not want to catch on a bad day.

UPDATE: On Sunday, August 30 it was announced that Ja’Marr Chase, who in my eyes, is the most talented wideout in the country, has opted out of the 2020 season in preparation for next year’s NFL Draft. This is a MASSIVE blow for the Tigers and could easily cost them two or three games on their schedule.

Roll Tide

Finally, let’s talk about the deepest team in the SEC, the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems as if this is the 95th straight year where we are talking about a Crimson Tide team that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. I mean think about it, Alabama lost QB Tua Tagovailoa, OT Jedrick Wills Jr, WR Jerry Jeudy, WR Henry Ruggs III, CB Trevon Diggs, and Safety Xavier McKinney all to the 2020 NFL Draft.

Yet, Alabama still returns star-studded talents in the likes of RB Najee Harris, WR DeVonta Smith, LB Dylan Moses, and CB Patrick Surtain. All of these players have the potential to be first-round picks in future drafts. You want talk about the rewards of knowing how to recruit? Nick Saban has been dominating the game of college football for quite some time and this is just another example that proves that claim.

However, we can sit here and talk about the key returners or the flashy recruits of Alabama all day long. If the Crimson Tide are going to have any REAL success in 2020, they will need to depend on their new faced QB Mac Jones. Jones, a junior out of Jacksonville Florida, is your prototypical strong-armed pocket passer. Last season, after Tua Tagovailoa was sidelined for the season after sustaining a knee injury, Jones stepped in and did not miss a beat, throwing for a total of 1,503 passing yards, accumulating 14 passing TDs and tossing just 3 INTs. I think it is unreasonable to expect Jones to produce that same type of production Tagovailoa had, but he will experience some sort of substantial success nevertheless.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1212438046383034368?s=20

Overall, it is apparent that Alabama is the most talented team in the SEC. They have the most talent, they have the deepest roster and they have experienced the most success in recent years. Although the Crimson Tide experienced somewhat of a down year a season ago, going 11-2 and not playing in an NYB6 game for the first time in 2010, I expect the Tide to bounce back in a big way and have a gargantuan 2020 campaign.

 

Now let’s switch it up and talk about some teams that I think will fall under expectations.

Five Teams That Will Disappoint in 2020

  1. Florida State

I’m starting off our list here with a bang. Listen, I get the hype around Florida State guys. Mike Norvell is coming in as the new HC and everybody thinks the program is going to get turned around overnight. But over the last three seasons, the Seminoles have gone 18-20 and have only won one bowl game (Independence Bowl in 2017 against Southern Miss). News flash, that’s not great.

And junior QB, James Blackman is a decent dual-threat option under center, but there are rumors in Tallahassee that the starting job may not even be his. Novell is a hell of a coach, but I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I know that this program is going to take more than one year to turn around.

  1. Virginia

It goes without saying that 2019 was a historic year for the Virginia Cavaliers. They finished with a 9-5 record, had a win against Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003, and topped it off with an ACC Coastal Division Championship and an appearance in the Orange Bowl. It doesn’t get much better than that. What Bronco Mendenhall has been building is Charlottesville is special and this is a program that is only going to get better with time.

https://twitter.com/thesportsontap/status/1200515627347144704?s=20

With that being said, however, I do expect Virginia to experience a slight setback during the 2020 season. The reason for this setback is simply because the Cavaliers are losing way too much talent to possibly catch up. For starters, the Hoos will be without QB Bryce Perkins, who was an existential part of their success a season ago. Additionally, Virginia has lost multiple pieces on defense including CB Bryce Hall who was recently drafted by the New York Jets.

While I do think this program has a bright future ahead of them, I feel that this will be a forgettable year. 

  1. Ole Miss

I recently read an article saying that Ole Miss had an outside chance this year of contending for an SEC West title. UHH, what?! I understand the allure over newly-hired head coach Lane Kiffin, but I think that is a bit much.

https://twitter.com/SECNetwork/status/1296548344161013761?s=20

Will Ole Miss win a few games this year? Sure. But when you look at their schedule, there are just too many programs that will overpower this slim team from Oxford.  Take opening night for example. The Rebels are slated to face the Florida Gators at Vaught Hemingway Stadium. You mean to tell me that Ole Miss’ QB John Rhys Plumlee is expected to out-slug a guy in the likes of Kyle Trask? It simply is not going to happen.

Stars down south shine when the lights come on and more often than not, the better team with more skillful players come away with a W on SEC Saturdays.

  1. Kansas State

Kansas State had a really solid 2019. Chris Klieman, who is most known for his success at North Dakota State, made his coaching debut for the Wildcats, leading the program to an 8-5 season, featuring an upset win over Oklahoma and an appearance in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.

While the Wildcats have returning starting QB Skylar Thompson, they are almost completely gutted everywhere else. The ENTIRE Kansas State starting offensive line from a season ago is now gone, and the Wildcats come into 2020 with the fewest returning starters of any program in the Big 12. It seems as if these boys from Manhattan will be scrambling to get some wins.

  1. Baylor

I’m going to be honest with you guys. I have been going back and forth with this pick for a good two weeks now. The Baylor Bears are coming into 2020 as a team with high expectations and plenty of fresh faces. In 2019, the Bears had a year to remember, going 11-3 and making an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game to go along with an arrival at the 2020 Sugar Bowl.

https://twitter.com/ESPNCFB/status/1212584951780200450?s=20

However, as we flip the calendar ahead to 2020, I do not think it’s necessarily fair to say that the Bears are ready to experience this same success. For starters, Baylor is coming into the year with new head coach Dave Aranda, who previously served as LSU’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator. Aranda is expected to bring some new fire and passion to the program but is not the same coach as Matt Rhule, who left during the offseason to become the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Additionally, Baylor will be without their 1,000-yard receiver, Denzel Mims. The Bears do have the luxury of returning senior QB Charlie Brewer, but I don’t see that being enough for this program to endure any substantial success come 2020.

Five Teams That Will Surprise in 2020

  1. Miami

I will be the first person to admit that I was very critical of the 2019 Miami Hurricanes. But can you really blame me? This was a team that came into the year with way too much hype, only to go 6-7 on the season which featured an upset loss to FIU. Yes, FIU.

But you know what, as the saying goes, new years bring new beginnings, or in this case, you can say that new years bring new flashy, transfer QBs. That’s right, baby, it’s time to talk about D’eriq King.

King, a grad transfer from Houston, shocked the world a season ago when he decided to redshirt during the middle of the year, in order to give himself an extra year of eligibility. Spectators hated the move, but at the end of the day, King put himself in a position to be recognized as one of the elite talents in all of college football heading into the 2020 season.

https://twitter.com/canescorner_/status/1237532695879487488?s=20

When talking about King’s game, you must first start with the dual-threat’s ability to light up the turf with his legs. During four seasons at Houston, King managed to rush for a total of 1,383 yards to go along with 28 rushing TDs. Additionally, King has the luxury of being born with a rocket arm, seeing as he racked up over 4,600 passing yards to go along with 49 TD passes during his stay in the Lone Star state. Personally, I see King taking over South Beach the second his cleats hit the gridiron… and we may be looking at our next Ken Dorsey.

  1. Florida Atlantic

We stay in the Sunshine State for the second team on our list. Over the last three seasons, the Florida Atlantic Owls have become known as the kings of Conference USA, winning two of the last three conference titles. However, with Lane Kiffin now gone and Willie Taggart in, some may be speculating that this program is headed for a downward spiral.

https://twitter.com/FAUFootball/status/1299774549412765696?s=20

With that being said, all those doubters can take a seat and rely on this program to do what they do, which is win at home, and compete at an extremely high level.

Listen, I understand that Lane Kiffin was the godsend in Boca Raton, but Florida Atlantic is still the most talented team in Conference USA. Although the Owls will be without star QB, Chris Robinson, who left the teams roster after being accused of sexual battery in May, this is a team that has talent all over the field and should have no problem running away with the conference come fall.

  1. Arkansas State

The Sun Belt. A conference which has recently run through the great town of Boone, North Carolina. And while I feel that the Appalachian State Mountaineers are still the favorites to win the Sun Belt coming into 2020, there may be a team ready to nip at their tails.

It goes without saying that 2019 was an emotional roller coaster for the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The program’s head coach, Blake Anderson, took a leave of absence during the fall after his wife, Wendy, passed away after a two-year battle with breast cancer. The Red Wolf community, along with the CFB community, gathered together to show their support for Blake and the Anderson family.

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1172941434300878848?s=20

As we turn the page, continuing to honor Wendy, the Arkansas State Red Wolves are due for a year of success. This is a team that is deep on both sides of the ball and is host to the best player that you’ve never heard of. Layne Hatcher isn’t just a good college QB. The dude is a damn star.

Last year, during Hatcher’s freshman campaign, 6’0 slugger compiled a season that featured 2,946 passing yards, 27 TD passes and 10 INTs. Additionally, Hatcher had a completion percentage of 65.8 and averaged nearly 10 yards per passing attempt. With Hatcher leading the way, this is going to be a fun team to watch and, perhaps, a team that could even run the table at a conference championship.

  1. TCU

Year in and year out, it seems as if TCU is always considered a “sleeper team.” You have your big boys out of the Big 12 such as the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns, but with the TCU Longhorns, it is as if they have to create their own buzz. With that being said, however, Gary Patterson is one the best head coaches in all of college football and is not a persona that should be taken lightly. In fact, Patterson, who has been the head coach of TCU since 2000, is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the country.

So let’s talk about the 2020 TCU Horned Frogs. This is a team that may lack offensive firepower, but will probably have the best defense in the Big 12. I am a huge fan of TCU’s defense coordinator, Chad Glasgow, and think he has done a tremendous job of turning his players into dominant show stoppers.

Leading the TCU defense this year will be a presiding pass rush highlighted by defensive ends, Ochaun Mathis, Parker Workman and Colt Ellison. If TCU can hold opposing offenses to under 25 points a game, they should have a good chance of competing in every game they play.

  1. Virginia Tech

Finally, let’s talk about the Virginia Hokies. If you are a fan of Hokies Football there is a lot, and I mean A LOT, to look forward to coming into 2020. We are talking a dominant defense, a dazzling QB, and a coach who is coming into the fifth year of his tenure. Plus they have a new offensive line that has the people of Blacksburg ready to get out of their seats and do a dance.

Starting on the defensive side of the ball, Virginia Tech is expected to look drastically different come fall. Bud Foster, who has been the Hokies DC since 1995, is now retired, leaving the reins to Justin Hamilton, who spent 2019 as a Safeties coach for Virgina Tech. Hamilton is said to be an aggressive-minded defensive thinker, and I am excited to see what the 37-year-old has in store during his debut season.

As far as the talent goes on the field, VT will be expected to rely on defensive production from senior LB Rayshard Ashby. Ashby has been a tackle machine for the Hokies over the past two seasons and I expect much of the same this season.

As we now shift our attention to the Hokies offense, it is safe to say that the most anticipated part of this program comes at the QB position. Last season, when Hendon Hooker was awarded the starting job during the fifth game of the regular season. The 6’4 junior did not miss his opportunity. He compiled a season stat line of 1,555 passing yards, 13 TD passes, 2 INTs, 356 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs. Hooker is a dual-threat playmaker that is only going to get better with time and, with one of the best offensive lines in the country protecting him, I’m expecting him to have a monster year.

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/1288142173402214408?s=20

Overall, I like this VT Hokies team a lot. And frankly, I am a little bit baffled that they have not been given more national attention coming into the season. I don’t necessarily think they have enough talent to compete with a powerhouse such as the Clemson Tigers (who does?), but I could very well see this team end up in the ACC Championship on December 12.

Pete Snyder’s Preseason CFP Selection

 

  • Georgia
  • Oklahoma State
  • Alabama
  • Clemson

Pete’s Preseason National Champion
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1071px-clemson_tigers_logo.svg_-2.png

 

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Peter Snyder
Peter Snyder is an Intern sportswriter who covers collegiate athletics as well as professional sports.
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