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College Football Rankings: Early Look at 2021 Preseason Top 25

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 12, 2021

Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches his team during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Ohio State, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The unorthodox 2020 college football season is over, and Alabama has regained the national championship. For the third time in six seasons (and the first since the 2017 season), the Crimson Tide won the College Football Playoff National Championship, this time rolling to a 52-24 win over Ohio State at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Monday night.

Now, it's time for fans to shift their focus to the 2021 season. And while some of the top stars who were on the field for the Tide and the Buckeyes will be heading to the NFL, these programs are set up well to have more success in the near future.

Alabama and Ohio State aren't the only programs that will still have plenty of talent on its rosters when the 2021 season arrives. More top recruits are on the way across the nation, young players will get greater opportunities, and some returning stars will be poised to become even better.

It's still early, but here's a prediction for how the Top 25 rankings could look when the new campaign arrives in the fall.

        

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2021 Preseason Top 25 Predictions

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Oklahoma

4. Ohio State

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. Notre Dame

8. Iowa State

9. North Carolina

10. Florida

11. Cincinnati

12. Texas

13. USC

14. Miami

15. Oklahoma State

16. Oregon

17. Iowa

18. Indiana

19. Wisconsin

20. Ole Miss

21. Arizona State

22. Penn State

23. Utah

24. Northwestern

25. LSU

               

Alabama is not only losing a Heisman Trophy winner (wide receiver DeVonta Smith), but it's also likely to see the departure of other strong players, including quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, cornerback Patrick Surtain II and more.

However, the Crimson Tide have never had trouble replenishing their talent during the Nick Saban era.

Because of that, Alabama is poised to maintain its No. 1 ranking when the 2021 preseason arrives. It'll be set with a new offensive leader, as Bryce Young is set to take over as the starting quarterback. He was a 5-star recruit in the Crimson Tide's 2020 class and the No. 2 overall recruit in the nation, per the 247Sports composite rankings.

The 19-year-old will still have some impressive playmakers to utilize in Alabama's offense, too, including wide receiver John Metchie III, who will be heading into his junior season. There are also other talented youngsters who have yet to get an opportunity who should emerge as top players moving forward.

Clemson is losing a star player, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence set to be in the NFL next fall. He was a three-year starter for the Tigers, leading them to the College Football Playoff each of those seasons, which included winning the national championship in the 2018 season.

However, the Tigers have a 5-star quarterback ready to replace the 21-year-old, and fans have already had a glimpse of him in 2020. D.J. Uiagalelei made two starts when Lawrence was out due to a positive COVID-19 test, and he impressed both times.

In the win over Boston College on Oct. 31, Uiagalelei passed for 342 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing score. Then, in a double-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, he passed for 439 yards and two touchdowns and had a rushing score. He should only get better with more experience, and he's likely to lead Clemson to more success in 2021.

While Ohio State and Notre Dame should both be ranked highly after making the College Football Playoff in the 2020 season, another team to watch early in 2021 will be Oklahoma. The Sooners enjoyed a strong finish this past season, winning their final eight games, including the Big 12 Championship Game against Iowa State and the Cotton Bowl versus Florida.

Spencer Rattler is set to be back at quarterback for Oklahoma, as he'll be a redshirt sophomore in 2021. He's expected to be among the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy after passing for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions this past season, his first as a starter.

Georgia will also have a returning quarterback in JT Daniels, who transferred from USC but didn't play for the Bulldogs until Nov. 21 as he was recovering from a torn right ACL. But once he got on the field, he played well, passing for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in four games.

While Alabama could again be the top team in the SEC in 2021, Georgia should be among the conference leaders, as should Texas A&M and Florida, which also boast plenty of talent on their rosters for the future.