It’s early. We’re not even sure who will play and how many games each team will play in 2020. That said, it’s time to look ahead to the college football season. Using the PFF Elo system that is the base power metric for our NCAA simulation — with allowances for recruiting rankings, returning players and market information — we are happy to provide our all-too-early top 25. (We previously built an early set of 2020 NFL power rankings — find that here.) Enjoy!
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1. Clemson (+300 to win the College Football Playoff)
Trevor Lawrence (1.4 win shares in 2019), Travis Etienne (0.810), Justyn Ross (0.29) and company are overwhelming favorites to win the ACC again, and Lawrence improves after a relatively down 2019. The Tigers should vie for their third national championship in the last five years.
2. Ohio State (+400)
After an impressive first year in Columbus, Justin Fields might be the best player in college football this season (he’s the favorite at +400 to win the Heisman).
3. Alabama (+600)
Jaylen Waddle (0.59 win shares in 2019), Najee Harris (0.53) and DeVonta Smith (0.41) represent an embarrassment of riches for the post-Tua Crimson Tide on the offensive side of the ball.
4. LSU (+2000)
LSU does not fall as far in this ranking as it might in others, due in large part to the strength of the program, led by Ed Orgeron.
5. Georgia (+1000)
Georgia has to replace its two starting tackles (both first-round picks in 2020) and quarterback Jake Fromm, but does boast impressive sophomore receiver George Pickens (0.44 win shares in 2019).
6. Florida (+1600)
Kyle Trask was one of the surprises of the 2019 season, but the player to watch for the Gators in 2020 is tight end Kyle Pitts.
7. Oklahoma (+2000)
Starting quarterback Spencer Rattler has just 23 total snaps to his name. Can he be the next in a line of great quarterbacks for Lincoln Riley?
8. Notre Dame (+2500)
After earning the 40th-highest PFF passing grade in the country in 2019 (minimum 350 dropbacks), Ian Book returns to see if the Irish can get in the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years.
9. Penn State (+2500)
Micah Parsons (0.47 win shares in 2019) is one of the best returning defensive players in college football.
10. Auburn (+3300)
Bo Nix was only the 70th-highest-graded quarterback in college football a season ago, failing to complete 57 percent of his passes or earn more than seven yards per pass attempt.
11. Michigan (+3300)
Cornerback Ambry Thomas (0.30 win shares in 2019) is the most valuable returning player for the Wolverines.
12. Oregon (+2500)
The Pac-12’s highest-ranking team going into 2020, we give the favored Ducks a 27 percent chance to win the conference.
13. Wisconsin (+5000)
The Big Ten’s runner up in 2019, the Badgers lose some pretty valuable players in Jonathan Taylor (0.54 win shares in 2019), Zack Baun (0.47) and Quintez Cephus (0.37) to the NFL.
14. Texas A&M (+2500)
Kellen Mond, while relatively highly regarded, struggled a bit last season, earning our 48th-highest passing grade and failing to eclipse seven yards per pass attempt in 2019.
15. Utah (+10000)
The Utes lost Tyler Huntley, one of the better quarterbacks in the draft class, but remain strong, with roughly a one-in-four chance to win the Pac-12 in 2020 by our simulation.
16. Texas (+3300)
The second Big 12 team in this ranking, the Longhorns will look to Sam Ehlinger (1.3 win shares in 2019) to guide an offense that lost Devin Duvernay (0.57) to the Ravens and Collin Johnson (0.09) to the Jaguars last month.
17. Iowa (+15000)
Nate Stanley (0.78 win shares in 2019), Michael Ojemudia (0.36), A.J. Epenesa (0.26), Geno Stone (0.25) and Tristan Wirfs (0.20) leave, putting a decent amount of strain on Kirk Ferentz and his coaching staff in 2020.
18. Washington (+8000)
For the first time since 2014, the Washington Huskies will break in a new coach in 2020. As such, they are currently lined as +400 to win the conference.
19. Tennessee (+5000)
Jarrett Guarantano (0.07 win shares in 2019) returns. Will he finally hit on the promise he has shown at times during his career and propel Tennessee forward in 2020?
20. Kentucky (+10000)
After a really strange season in 2019, the Wildcats return a decent amount of talent in 2020 and should be competitive again in the SEC.
21. Baylor (+25000)
After finishing second in the Big 12 in 2019, Charlie Brewer (0.69 win shares in 2019) returns in 2020 without his head coach, Matt Ruhle, and top target, Denzel Mims (0.36).
22. Minnesota (+8000)
Tyler Johnson (0.61 win shares in 2019) leaves for Tampa Bay, but Tanner Morgan (0.86) and Rashod Bateman (0.48) return to an offense that was very good in 2019.
23. Memphis (+50000)
The highest-ranking Group-of-5 team in the country makes an appearance here at 23. With a head coaching change staring them down the barrel, Memphis is currently lined as a +275 favorite to repeat as conference champion.
24. USC (+6600)
We’re a little little lower on USC than some, but if Kedon Slovis (0.44 win shares in 2019) can do what some other Pac-12 quarterbacks failed to do over the last few years (improve), then the Trojans will have a chance in a weak conference.
25. Mississippi State (+150000)
Kylin Hill (0.16 win shares in 2019) is the best returning player for Bulldogs, who lost Chauncey Rivers (0.14), Cameron Dantzler (0.13) and Tyre Phillips (0.12) to the NFL last month.