College News & Analysis

College Football: Creating the best roster out of the four 2020 College Football Playoff teams

There is no shortage of talent in this year’s College Football Playoff, and with less than a week away from the first round, we have decided to play a bit of fantasy football.

Using PFF play-by-play grades and analysis, we aim to build the greatest team from the units of teams participating in the 2020 College Football Playoff. From the talent-laden rosters of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame, we choose the best group for each position to create our roster. In order to decide between the position groups, we considered prior play, depth and all-out star power.

Without further ado, here is our 2020 CFP super team.

QUARTERBACK

Clemson

Justin Fields has really struggled in his last three games, and Ian Book is not nearly as good as the rest of the group as a pure passer. So, we were left with Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson’s signal-caller ultimately gets the nod here. First, Lawrence has rushing ability and athleticism that Jones simply does not bring to the table. Lawrence’s 7.4 yards per carry and 43.3% conversion rate (percentage of rushes that result in a first down or touchdown) both rank first among Power Five QBs who have recorded at least 100 attempts over the past two seasons. Second, the Tigers quarterback is elite throwing the ball deep, evidenced by a CFB-leading 56.6% accurate-pass rate on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield this season.

Jones has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over for Tua Tagovailoa in 2019. Still, Lawrence’s natural ability, experience and progression at 21 years old make him a truly generational talent.

RUNNING BACK

Alabama

There is a reason Najee Harris came in fifth in the recent Heisman voting. His 24 rushing touchdowns are five more than any other player this season, and he has three receiving scores to boot. Forty of Harris’ carries have gone for 10 or more yards (third), and he has forced 61 missed tackles (second), both top-three figures at the position.

As mentioned before, depth is taken into consideration for this list, and Brian Robinson Jr. has been solid when called upon. Robinson is averaging 3.9 yards after contact per carry and owns the 15th-highest rushing grade among running backs in 2020 (87.3).

WIDE RECEIVERS

Nov 28, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) breaks free for a touchdown against Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the Iron Bowl. Credit: Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports
Alabama

There was no real debate here, as the Crimson Tide possess the best receiving corps in college football, despite the early loss of Jaylen Waddle. Nearly all of Alabama's production from the position stems from lead man DeVonta Smith. The Heisman finalist leads the FBS in targets (123), receptions (98), receiving yards (1,511) and is second in touchdowns (17). Smith’s 93.7 PFF grade is the highest by a receiver since we began collecting college data in 2014.

Smith alone was enough for Alabama to take the wide receiver unit, but true sophomore John Metchie III has been a stellar second option. His 17.8 yards per reception is tied for eighth, while his 147.1 passer rating when targeted is third — one spot behind Smith’s 150.7 — among WRs who have seen at least 50 targets.

TIGHT ENDS

Notre Dame

Tommy Tremble and Michael Mayer form the nation’s most complete tight end duo, as both are threats in the receiving game and can pave the way for their backs in the running game.

Tremble holds the highest run-blocking grade among tight ends (83.6), while Mayer comes in at 13th (73.1) in the same metric. Tremble has yet to record a receiving touchdown but has gained 12 first downs on 19 receptions this season. Mayer has forced a position-best 11 missed tackles after the catch and has moved the chains (25) or scored (2) on 27 of his 35 receptions.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Notre Dame

With players such as Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hainsey, Jarrett Patterson, Aaron Banks and Tommy Kraemer, it is no surprise Notre Dame’s offensive line is the third-highest-graded unit in the country at 92.5, behind only Buffalo (97.0) and BYU (93.0).

The unit is the only one in the playoff that boasts a top-10 pass-blocking grade (84.2) as well as a top-10 run-blocking grade (94.3). Eichenberg, Patterson and Banks have yet to allow a sack this season, with the entire group allowing just four on the year, fifth-fewest among FBS O-lines with over 300 pass-blocking snaps. They are no slouch in the running game either, allowing their running backs to gain 1,052 rushing yards before contact, third-most in the Power Five this season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Ohio State

The Buckeyes may not have Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa or Chase Young on the roster, but they have still fielded the highest-graded defensive line in 2020 (91.1). Ohio State's 50% pressure rate is the highest in the nation, as they have pressured opposing quarterbacks on 124 of 257 pass-rush snaps. A key reason for the front four's dominance is Haskell Garrett’s emergence — he burst onto the scene this season and joined Louisiana Tech’s Milton Williams as the only interior defenders with 85.0-plus grades in run defense and pass rush.

LINEBACKERS

Notre Dame

It was a close decision between the Tigers and the Fighting Irish for best linebacker group, but ultimately we gave the edge to Notre Dame for one reason: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. However, the true senior does not play a typical off-ball linebacker role as Notre Dame deploys JOK all over the field.

Owusu-Koramoah's snaps by position in 2020:
Defensive line In the box In the slot
80 182 313

He has forced three fumbles, intercepted one pass and had not allowed a touchdown on 255 coverage snaps before the conference championship against Clemson. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Virginia native owns the 15th-best coverage grade among linebackers, which is far more impressive when you realize he is facing legitimate receivers from the slot rather than tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He has exceptional speed and change-of-direction ability — Owusu-Koramoah will be one of the most desired linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

SECONDARY

Oct 3, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) breaks up a pass intended for Texas A&M tight end Ryan Renick (46) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated A&M 52-24. Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports
Alabama

Alabama’s secondary is not only the best among the four playoff teams, but it is also one of the best in all of college football. Their 91.9 PFF grade is tied with Louisiana Lafayette for third, as Cincinnati and West Virginia take the second and first place spots, respectively.

The Crimson Tide secondary has forced the most incompletions in the FBS (51) and is top 15 in passer rating (75.2) and yards per reception allowed (11.6). The safety room is solidified, but the cornerback unit is where Alabama is second to none: Patrick Surtain II is the highest-graded Power Five defensive back, Josh Jobe has not allowed a reception 20-plus yards downfield and Malachi Moore is the highest-graded slot corner in the FBS.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Alabama

The Crimson Tide showcased their discipline this season, as they are the only team with 200 or more special teams snaps to miss just one or fewer tackles.

DeVonta Smith is a threat to take any punt for a big gain, too. He has already returned one for a score and has averaged 24.9 yards per attempt on eight returns.

Charlie Scott has punted just 17 times this season due to Alabama’s potent offense, with only two being returned for 17 yards. Meanwhile, Will Reichard has played his way into a finalist spot for the Lou Groza award and will likely walk away with it. He has made all 73 of his extra-point attempts this season — 13 more than any other player — as well as all 12 of his field-goal attempts.

This was simply a fun exercise, but if it were to be taken seriously, Alabama comes out ahead with four position groups, Notre Dame nets two, and Clemson and Ohio State each garnered one. We may not know exactly how the playoff will shake out, but there is one thing that is for certain: it will be an exciting showcase of elite talent that all college football fans should be ready to feast on.

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