Alabama Football: A deep dive into CFB’s top 25 for 2020

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

830. . 2019 Record: 11-3. Previous: . Bearcats . 20. team

Cincinnati was very good in 2019. By all indications, they will be just as good or better in 2020. The strength of Cincinnati last season was the defense. They will return 9 starters on defense in 2020. They also return their starting QB Desmond Ridder. The running game was a staple for the Bearcats in 2019 and the big question for 2020 will be RB. The good news is, they return three starters on the O-line. If they can find the running game again, then 2020 will be another successful year for Luke Fickell and Co.

team. 842. . 2019 Record: 9-4. Previous: . Tigers . 19

There are pundits across the nation that are very high on the Auburn Tigers in 2020. I simply don’t buy it. There is too much turnover in key spots on a team that was already streaky at times. Auburn now has to replace almost their entire starting O-line, find a replacement for JaTarvious Whitlow at RB, and break in new OC and play-caller Chad Morris. Oh, and by the way, Auburn’s defense loses nearly every impact player it had in 2019. Namely, Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown. There are others across the defense, but Davidson and Brown are the two biggest losses. I don’t see Auburn being in the national title picture next season and may even take a big jump back with Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and a rising North Carolina all on Auburn’s 2020 schedule. Those are all teams on the rise while Auburn appears to be taking a step back at least on defense.

819. . 2019 Record: 11-2. Previous: . Fighting Irish . 18. team

Notre Dame is just so difficult to predict. Coming off their first playoff appearance in 2018 most people thought they would take a step back in 2019. Instead, they had another great season with 11 wins. They hung in the game with Georgia and had an opportunity to take a late 4th quarter lead, but couldn’t capitalize. The only head-scratcher was a blowout loss to Michigan in October. Many people (myself included) will point to Notre Dame’s perpetually weak schedule as the reason for their success. It seems every time Notre Dame matches up with a top tier team they get run off the field. Evidenced by their 1-19 record in the last 20 games versus top-5 opponents. This season might be the year the Irish get exposed. The schedule is much tougher than usual and they have to break in almost an entirely new offense and secondary. After a season opener against an always scrappy Navy, the Irish get three winnable games against Arkansas, Western Michigan, and Wake Forest before things start getting rough. They get Wisconsin, Stanford, and Clemson in three of their next five games. They then close the season against a rising USC squad. 2020 will be a true test for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff.

2019 Record: 8-5. Previous: . Cowboys . 17. team. 856.

Oklahoma State is poised to have a monster season in 2020. Part of this is their weak non-conference schedule, but mostly because they return almost everyone. Oklahoma State had a relatively young squad in 2019. Now they return with a year of experience. The team chemistry aspect cannot be understated. The key for Oklahoma State will be the return of their Heisman candidate RB, Chuba Hubbard. If Hubbard can improve upon his stats from last season the Cowboys will be a tough team to beat. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Oklahoma State at 6-0 heading into their game with in-state rival Oklahoma. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see them at 10-1 or 11-0 when Texas comes to town in November. Watch out for the Cowboys in 2020.

2019 Record: 10-3. Previous: . Knights . 16. team. 886.

I know it is rare to see more than one Group of 5 team ranked in pre-season polls, much less two Group of 5 teams from the same conference. Simply put though, UCF and Cincinnati deserve to be there. UCF returns 16 total starters from 2019’s squad that won 10 games. The 2020 schedule is roughly about the same difficulty as it was in 2019. They open the season against North Carolina. Georgia Tech is their only other Power 5 opponent. Memphis is going to take a step back. Houston isn’t quite ready to take the next step forward after losing D’Eriq King to transfer and dismissing former 5-star prospect and member of Alabama football, Eyabi Anoma. The best team UCF will face outside of North Carolina is likely Cincinnati. Even Georgia Tech is still trying to recruit players for their new offensive scheme and isn’t prepared to take the next step yet. UCF appears to be in line for another 10+ win season and a potential NY6 Bowl invitation.