College Football Rankings 2021: Predictions for Week 1 NCAA Standings
Both of college football's major polls released last week, but with no matchups featuring top-25 teams in Week Zero, it's unlikely we'll see much change—if any at all—when the pre-Week 1 rankings come out.
Alabama, the reigning national champion, faces a stiffer season-opening test than usual with a matchup against No. 14 Miami in Atlanta, while No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia meet in one of the most anticipated opening matchups in recent memory in Charlotte.
All 25 teams in the rankings will be in action this week, and there is a total of five games pairing ranked teams.
Here's a look at the projected rankings.
Projected Week 1 Top 25 Rankings
4. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
7. Iowa State
9. Notre Dame
10. North Carolina
19. Penn State
22. Coastal Carolina
25. Arizona State
Best Week 1 Matchups
No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia
This one is a no-brainer. Both the Tigers and Bulldogs are legitimate national title contenders, and the loser likely can't lose the rest of the way if it expects a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Clemson replaces generational quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence with former five-star high school player DJ Uiagalelei, who played in nine games last season as a backup, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
He's far from inexperienced for a first-year starter, and he'll get back one of the most dangerous deep threats in college football in wideout Justyn Ross, who missed last season with a spinal cord injury that many thought could end his football career.
The Bulldogs, though, return Heisman contender J.T. Daniels, a transfer from USC who started Georgia's last four games in 2020, throwing for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns while racking up a mind-boggling 178.5 quarterback rating.
He'll be without George Pickens, his best receiver who tore his ACL during spring practice in March, as well as LSU tight end transfer Arik Gilbert, who is away from the team for personal reasons, according to head coach Kirby Smart.
Despite that, the 'Dawgs have one of the most talented rosters in the country, and if they can keep Daniels protected against Clemson's vaunted defensive line, he could have a big opening salvo in his Heisman campaign.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Clemson 27
No. 21 Texas vs. No. 23 Louisiana
The Steve Sarkisian era at Texas starts with what could be a make or break game for the Longhorns.
Their talent alone, while not on par with the elite programs, should overcome an upstart Louisiana squad, but Texas' reputation for underachieving in recent years is almost unmatched by anyone in the country. Redshirt freshman Hudson Card won the quarterback competition and was named the starter last week, and thankfully for him, the Longhorns do return stud running back Bijan Robinson to take some of the pressure off.
Louisiana returns 10 defensive starters from a unit that ranked 33rd nationally in total defense last season and only allowed 170.6 passing yards per game, which pegged them No. 6 in the country.
The Cajuns do have to replace a large portion of their rushing attack, which featured four running backs who notched more than 330 yards last year, but quarterback Levi Lewis, the school's third all-time leading passer, is back for a super senior season and leads a potent dual-threat attack.
Prediction: Louisiana 35, Texas 31
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami (Fla.)
There's no team in college football's upper echelon that has to replace as many starters as Alabama does. There's also no team more prepared to do so than Alabama.
The Crimson Tide had 10 players selected in the 2021 NFL draft, including seven from their record-setting offense that destroyed everything in its path. Only three starters return on that side of the ball, while eight do on defense, but the Tide have brought in top-two recruiting classes each of the past three years that should easily replenish both sides of the ball.
Their biggest question mark is at quarterback, where former five-star Bryce Young takes the reins after Mac Jones was drafted by the New England Patriots. It's unlikely he can recreate what Jones did a season ago, but if he's even above-average, Alabama has enough defensive talent to carry them into CFP contention.
Miami, meanwhile, is a dark horse ACC title contender with its sights set on finally dethroning Clemson. The 'Canes have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country with dual-threat dynamo D'Eriq King. They return 19 starters, including 10 on offense, and they feature the most experienced offensive line in college football, a welcome sight for King. Their defense, which was a pedestrian 67th in total yards allowed last season, will look for an improvement as it returns nine starters of its own.
ESPN's FPI gives Miami a 10 percent chance to win the ACC outright, and there's no better barometer for what this team can do than a matchup with Nick Saban's squad in primetime.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Miami 21