The first edition of the 2021 preseason AP Top 25 poll will be released on Monday. Like it or not, this is a huge part of the fabric of college football.
Thanks to the BCS and now the College Football Playoff, this beautiful sport no longer leans on voters to name a national championship. However, this poll still holds a lot of weight as it can be used as a historical reference point for the sport throughout history, and can give programs watermarks for great seasons. These rankings matter and part of the deal is having a preseason poll before the party gets started in just a few weeks.
In preparation for this, KSR has decided to come up with our own top 25. However, the way these teams were selected was done a bit differently. I have run through all the schedules in college football and picked winners and losers for each game. Using those final regular-season records, I then went through and ranked the teams. This top 25 is a projection of what the season will look like. In a perfect world, we would just rank the best teams but we all know that does not happen throughout the season. Wins and losses carry a bunch of weight and the AP Poll is heavily based on that.
Anyway, let’s get down to business.
2.) Ohio State
The Buckeyes and the Tigers will be the only two teams to run the table in the regular season. Thanks to a projected neutral site win over Georgia, Dabo Swinney’s club gets the top spot. Clemson has the best defense in college football while Ohio State could have the best offense. This budding rivalry could have another meeting in the College Football Playoff coming this winter.
After losing to Clemson, Georgia will run the table and finish undefeated in SEC play. Meanwhile, Alabama will win the SEC West again and make the trip to Atlanta. Can Kirby Smart finally knock off his mentor? We’ll find out on the first Saturday in December.
The Sooners lose one regular-season game again, but Lincoln Riley returns to the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in five seasons as a head coach. Could Spencer Rattler be his third Heisman Trophy quarterback? Does Alex Grinch’s defense have enough juice to make the Sooners true national championship contenders?
6.) Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies continue to climb the ladder in the SEC, but the inexperience at quarterback keeps the Aggies from dethroning Alabama.
7.) Iowa State
Matt Campbell and Iowa State go 10-2 and will get another crack at Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.
With D’Eriq King dragging them throughout the season, the Hurricanes take home the ACC Coastal division title for just the second time. As long as King’s knee stays healthy, The U will have a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback.
Year two for Jimmy Lake has arrived out in Seattle, but it certainly feels like more of a year one. The Huskies have a very good schedule this season avoiding USC out of the Pac-12 South and getting Oregon at home in November. Win at Michigan in week two and the Dawgs could make a playoff push.
11.) North Carolina
13.) Notre Dame
Once again, Cincinnati is the favorite to represent the Group of Five in the New Year’s Six with Desmond Ridder back at quarterback along with a pair of defensive stars — cornerback Sauce Gardner and edge Myjai Sanders. Non-conference road games against Indiana and Notre Dame create a huge opportunity for Luke Fickell’s club.
Keep an eye on Pitt this season. Pat Narduzzi has a super senior at quarterback and a star sophomore receiver. Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison give the offense a chance to have a breakthrough while the defense will be salty. If someone knocks off Clemson in the ACC, it could be the Panthers when Dabo Swinney’s club makes the trip to Heinz Field.
Billy Napier wins double-digit games for the third year in a row and this could inadvertently put pressure on Ed Orgeron. If Cincinnati slips up, the Ragin’ Cajuns could be the first Sun Belt team to crack the New Year’s Six and LSU could be pressured to bring back the former Alabama staffer to the SEC.
21.) Oklahoma State
22.) Boston College
Jeff Hafley is a dude and the 42-year-old is on his way to coaching stardom. The Eagles have Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec at quarterback who is a future draft pick while the offensive line has a couple of pros on it. The non-conference is manageable and there are a ton of winning opportunities in ACC play. Hafley could emerge as the top candidate for Michigan if the Wolverines decide to move on from Jim Harbaugh.
24.) Ole Miss
Next Five: Coastal Carolina, Arizona State, Penn State, Wyoming, Kentucky
The schedule sets up very well Kentucky in year nine under Mark Stoops as an 8-4 regular season is absolutely in the cards. Get to that record and a trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl could be this year’s New Year’s trip for Big Blue Nation.