Preseason College Football Rankings 2020: Predicting AP Top 25 After Amway Poll

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2020

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

One month away from the start of the 2020 college football season, the first preseason poll of the year has been released. 

The Amway Coaches Poll was released on Thursday, with the Clemson Tigers set to open the season as the No. 1 team in the nation for the second straight year. 

Here is the full list of 25 teams that make up the initial Amway Poll:

      

Amway Coaches Poll (First Place Votes)

1. Clemson Tigers (38)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (17)

3. Alabama Crimson Tide (4)

4. Georgia Bulldogs

5. LSU Tigers (6)

6. Oklahoma Sooners

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Florida Gators

9. Oregon Ducks

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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11. Auburn Tigers

12. Wisconsin Badgers

13. Texas A&M Aggies

14. Texas Longhorns

15. Michigan Wolverines

16. Oklahoma State Cowboys

17. USC Trojans

18. Minnesota Golden Gophers

19. North Carolina Tar Heels

20. Utah Utes

21. Central Florida Knights

22. Cincinnati Bearcats

23. Iowa Hawkeyes

24. Virginia Tech Hokies

25. Iowa State Cyclones

    

Projected AP Top 25 Poll

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

4. LSU Tigers

5. Oregon Ducks

6. Georgia Bulldogs

7. Oklahoma Sooners

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

9. Florida Gators

10. Penn State Nittany Lions

11. Auburn Tigers

12. USC Trojans

13. Texas Longhorns

14. Michigan Wolverines

15. Wisconsin Badgers

16. Texas A&M Aggies

17. Minnesota Golden Gophers

18. Utah Utes

19. Oklahoma State Cowboys

20. Iowa Hawkeyes

21. Boise State Broncos

22. Washington Huskies

23. Virginia Tech Hokies

24. Central Florida Knights

25. Arizona State Sun Devils

     

Assuming there is a season that starts in September, we know that it's going to look very different from what was expected at the start of 2020. 

The Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC have announced their teams will only play conference games. The ACC and Big 12 are playing schedules that will consist mostly of conference-only games, but schools can play one non-conference home game. 

While that will likely have a significant impact on the end-of-season results, it shouldn't have an impact on what poll voters do with the first top 25. 

The Associated Press Top 25 shouldn't look dramatically different from the Coaches Poll. 

Ohio State and Clemson appear to have the inside track on being the top two teams in the College Football Playoff standings at the end of the regular season. 

The Buckeyes did lose J.K. Dobbins, who ran for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, All-American pass-rusher Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah. But they are bringing back 11 players with at least 600 career snaps, including Justin Fields. 

Ohio State's most difficult game under the original schedule was expected to be a Sept. 12 showdown against Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Since that matchup had to be canceled, the Buckeyes' only potential danger games are against Michigan on Oct. 24 and at Penn State on Nov. 7. 

Clemson has won 20 straight ACC games dating back to October 2017. The Tigers beat their conference opponents by an average of 41.4 points per game last season. 

One wrinkle to the ACC schedule that should at least present a challenge to Clemson's quest for a third straight undefeated regular season is the inclusion of Notre Dame. The Tigers will play the Fighting Irish in South Bend on Nov. 7 in a game that could have massive playoff implications. 

Nick Saban has a knack for stocking up on talent every single year, and the initial rankings indicate voters aren't too concerned about everyone Alabama lost after 2019. 

The Crimson Tide have to replace four offensive starters—Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Jedrick Wills—who were all first-round NFL Draft picks. 

One thing that may have helped Alabama's team in 2020 is Tagovailoa's season-ending injury last year. Mac Jones was terrific in the four games he started, throwing for 1,172 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. 

It doesn't hurt that Jones, assuming he remains the starter, still has Devonta Smith at wide receiver and Najee Harris at running back to ease the pressure on him. 

Another reason for Alabama optimism is injured starters returning on defense. Connor O'Gara of Saturday Down South noted the Crimson Tide will have three key players back after they suffered season-ending injuries early last season:

"A healthy (Dylan) Moses is important (what a sentence) and so are the returns of Ray and Josh McMillon, who also suffered a season-ending injury last August.

"Getting those veterans back in the front 7 with the return of more battle-tested sophomores D.J. Dale and Shane Lee should help Alabama improve in the area it looked least like its former self. That is, defending the run. Alabama was No. 7 in the SEC and No. 37 nationally in that category."

Moses tore his ACL during a practice last August and didn't appear in a game. Expectations were high for him after being named to the All-American second team in 2018, so having him back on the defense now certainly provides a huge boost for Alabama. 

The SEC is always an intense battle, especially with the defending champion LSU Tigers bringing back a loaded roster even without Joe Burrow and a talented Georgia Bulldogs squad capable of beating anyone in the country at any time.

Alabama doesn't have much margin for error as it tries to replace all of that offensive production lost by star players who moved to the NFL. 

This could be one of the most wide-open years in college football history because of the unique schedule set up. Traditional powers seem likely to be good no matter what, but there could be more potential for upsets given the limited practice time during the offseason.