Sports247 takes a different approach to preseason team rankings here, by ordering programs in terms of their likelihood of making and winning the CFP.
Who is going to win the national championship? It’s the discussion at the forefront of every preseason college football conversation, at least at the macro level. Part of the beauty of the sport is micro-level races are wide open every year – the ACC Coastal, for example. But when you’re talking about the biggest prize of them all, a national title, only a handful of teams realistically fit into that conversation.
Even among those contenders there is a stark departure from likely College Football Playoff teams and those fringe programs hoping to crash the conversation.
Today, we’re going to sort the 2020 national title contenders by tiers. All 15 teams included in 2020 Blue-Chip Ratio made the cutoff as did several potential spoilers. Remember, every champion in the internet era hit that blue-chip ratio threshold – a roster made up of at least 50 percent four and five-star recruits – so those 15 programs are the most likely teams to emerge as a champion.
The top tier is inhabited by the usual suspects: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State. Nipping at their heels in a tier of its own is Georgia.
Georgia is a weird team to place. The Bulldogs’ talent stacks up player-to-player with Alabama and Ohio State. Its history, three straight seasons with at least 11 wins, does too. But there are a few big-picture reservations with Georgia that the programs above it lack.
The first is experience. Elite rosters will always turn over. But Georgia is introducing a new quarterback (grad transfer Jamie Newman), a new-look offensive line (the team’s top three tackles all departed) and is dealing with an inexperienced wide receiver group. The second reservation, continuity, works hand-and-hand with the former note. Bringing in Todd Monken as offensive coordinator is a boon in the long run. But given that this offseason is constricted, Georgia needs to get a lot of pieces moving in the same direction quickly to have a shot at contention. That’s easier said than done with a trip to Alabama scheduled for Week 3. The third issue is a defense that’s struggled to generate pressure. Georgia’s defense is elite in almost every way. Fact remains, however, that every national champion of the last decade ranked at least 29th nationally in tackles for loss. Georgia’s average finish in that category is 78th the last two seasons. Kirby Smart has long stressed tackles for loss as a key measure of defensive success. The defense must create additional havoc, especially when you consider the unit finished just 84th nationally in turnovers created.
Pointing out these deficiencies isn’t meant to dismiss Georgia as a contender. Far from it. There’s a reason the Bulldogs sit fourth on this list of possible playoff teams. Instead, it’s meant to illustrate there is a slight but critical gap between Georgia and the teams above it on this list.
That’s not unfair. Quarterback is a legitimate separator from Clemson and Ohio State and the Dawgs have to travel to Tuscaloosa. (That being said, with regard to tackles for loss, Georgia finished 60th last season, averaging 5.43 per game, while ‘Bama finished… wait for it… 55th.)
By the way, Florida is down in Tier 3. But you knew that.
There’s an argument for Florida to fit in a lower tier, but this team feels like it’s about to break through. Back-to-back 10-win seasons have given Dan Mullen momentum early in his tenure, and a roster with plenty of returning production puts the Gators in contention to challenge Georgia in the SEC East. That matchup is the key. Mullen mocked Georgia last offseason, and Georgia came out and hit the Gators in the mouth. There is no advancement for Florida without a win in that game. The schedule sets up well for Florida. LSU and Georgia seem as vulnerable as they’ll be for half a decade, and nobody outside of those two can put a legitimate scare into the Gators from a talent perspective. What needs to improve for Florida? An offensive line that was efficient but far from elite. Quarterback Kyle Trask could also use somebody to throw to outside of tight end Kyle Pitts.
“Mullen mocked Georgia last offseason, and Georgia came out and hit the Gators in the mouth.” Let’s hope 2020 can say, “hold my beer”.