Preseason College Football Rankings 2020: Predictions for Initial AP NCAA Top 25August 24, 2020
Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama are likely to headline 2020's funky, understandable and bizarre preseason AP Top 25.
Scheduled to be unveiled around noon ET Monday, the ranking will include several teams not playing in the fall. The most notable will be Big Ten and Pac-12 programs, such as Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon and USC.
"This year, we think it is crucial to give all the teams and all their fans a snapshot look at what the Top 25 would have been to open the season," AP global sports editor Michael Giarrusso said.
Nevertheless, the initial AP Top 25 moves us one familiar step closer to the beginning of the college football season.
AP Top 25 Prediction
2. Ohio State
8. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
11. Texas A&M
16. Oklahoma State
18. North Carolina
24. Boise State
25. Iowa State
Who's No. 1?
As football fans await the AP release, remember the subjectivity of preseason polls. While a voter is certain to factor in 2019 performance, the order is largely based on expectations for the 2020 season. Last year's results don't necessarily dictate where a program starts the beginning of this year's campaign.
That's the long way of saying LSU won't be No. 1.
After an offseason full of key departures—notably Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow—Ed Orgeron's team is likely to follow Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State in the preseason AP Top 25.
In what order, though?
Clemson held the No. 1 spot ahead of Ohio State and Alabama, respectively, in the Amway Coaches Poll. That's a fully deserved place for a program with five consecutive ACC titles and appearances in the College Football Playoff.
The offense returns a couple of All-American talents in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. The defense is consistently among the nation's stingiest units. Even with Notre Dame joining the ACC for a season, Clemson is a clear favorite to reach the CFP in 2020.
Still, both Ohio State and Alabama have a compelling case.
Unfortunately for Ohio State, that will forever be a hypothetical. Led by quarterback Justin Fields—a Heisman finalist in 2019—the Buckeyes had terrific offensive upside. And the defense returned a handful of key pieces from a unit that surrendered the lowest yards per play nationally last season.
But as the Big Ten announced it wouldn't play football in the fall, Ohio State's championship dreams faded.
Provided that all AP voters still ranked the Buckeyes as they would have in a normal situation, perhaps the not-at-all-consoling consolation prize will be a preseason No. 1 ranking.
Alabama, meanwhile, boasts an exceptionally talented roster, as usual. Potential early draft picks DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood and Dylan Moses all returned for 2020, delaying their pursuits of the NFL dream for another year.
Plus, since the program has just 17 total losses in the last 12 seasons, any benefit of the doubt is completely merited.
Between the poll's subjectivity and the intensity of fandom, there inevitably will be disagreements about the order. For the teams scheduled to play in the fall, though, the ranking merely sets the table for the main course of the regular season.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR