The Top 5
These are the five best teams in college football entering the 2021 college football season.
5) Texas A&M Aggies
All told, the Texas A&M Aggies have one of the most talented returning rosters in college football. Offensively, Jimbo Fisher’s team features a cast that includes Isaiah Spiller, Devon Achane, Ainias Smith, Demond Demas, Caleb Chapman, and Jalen Wydermyer. They also return Kenyon Green, who’ll move to left tackle and enter the season as a potential first-round selection.
Defensively, the Aggies have more than enough to get by. DeMarvin Leal is the star of the unit, but Michael Clemons and Aaron Hansford are expected to contribute as well. Going further, the secondary with Myles Jones, Jaylon Jones, Antonio Johnson, Leon O’Neal, and Demani Richardson has astronomical upside.
It all depends on Haynes King, who has the necessary talent. He was once a highly-rated dual-threat recruit with visible arm talent and athleticism.
4) Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes saw a bit more turnover than the other top teams on our Top 25 College Football Rankings, which is why they fall to fourth. The biggest departure is undoubtedly that of quarterback Justin Fields, who now plays for the Chicago Bears. CJ Stroud is a worthy successor, but he may need some time to acclimate to a full-time starting role. Nevertheless, he has the weapons to help speed up the process.
Chief among Ohio State’s strengths is the team’s receiving duo. No team in college football has a better one-two punch than Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. And the scary part is, that’s not all they have. There’s also Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, as well as freshman Marvin Harrison Jr. The weapons are numerous, and the offensive line, which features a stellar tackle duo in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere, will help keep Stroud upright.
The losses of Pete Werner and Baron Browning will sting on defense, but this group was young even in 2020. Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith are still developing, as are Sevyn Banks, Marcus Williamson, and Marcus Hooker. This group will have to mesh, but as long as the pieces settle on offense for Ryan Day, the defense won’t have as much pressure on its shoulders.
3) Oklahoma Sooners
Even with Iowa State surging, Oklahoma should be considered the heavy favorite in the Big 12. We’ve been through this cycle too many times with Lincoln Riley. He finds quarterbacks, he develops quarterbacks, and these quarterbacks win for him. Spencer Rattler appears next in line.
Rattler has great arm talent, and he showed visible progression over the course of last season. Spring game aside (which was overblown a bit), he’s trending up heading into 2021, with a lot of weapons to work with.
Tennessee transfer Eric Gray can be a versatile threat at running back, while Marvin Mims and Jadon Haselwood make up a strong starting duo at receiver. There’s also Austin Stogner at tight end, who provides utility in contested situations. And if it comes as any surprise, the offensive line is still good.
Defense is often where the questions lie for Oklahoma, but Alex Grinch’s unit looks promising heading into September. Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas, and Nik Bonitto make up a robust pass-rushing corps. Behind them, there’s a great core of linebacker talent with Brian Asamoah, David Ugwoegbu, and DaShaun White. The secondary will miss Tre Brown and Tre Norwood, but Delarrin Turner-Yell provides some veteran stability.
2) Clemson Tigers
We know the drill at this point. It’s Alabama, then Clemson, then everyone else. The Tigers do have a change at quarterback coming up, but by now, D.J. Uiagalelei should be ready for his starting opportunity. Beyond him, the Tigers have an excellent offensive cast and a defense that should remain one of the best under defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
The Tigers’ offense lost Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell to the draft, but it gained back two receivers in one with the return of Justyn Ross. If Ross stays healthy, he can be one of the top playmakers not just in the ACC but in the nation as a whole. Behind Ross, Clemson has a lot of size in their pass-catching group. That should help Uiagalelei adjust.
The Clemson offense is exciting, but its defense might be the best in the NCAA. If it’s not, it’s close. Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, Tyler Davis, and Xavier Thomas make up an absolutely fearsome front, while Baylon Spector and James Skalski return as dependable starters at the second level. In the secondary, hyper-athletic CB Andrew Booth Jr. has the tools to dominate, and he’s joined by Sheridan Jones and veteran safety Nolan Turner.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide
As if there was ever any doubt, the Alabama Crimson Tide are the top team in our Top 25 College Football Rankings. Nick Saban has a constant pipeline of elite talent in Tuscaloosa, and he develops that talent with a kind of consistency unheard of beyond Alabama’s borders. Former five-star recruit Bryce Young will be heavily anticipated in his first year as the starter, but he’ll have a lot of help from the roster around him.
There’s currently some uncertainty surrounding Jahleel Billingsley, but even without him, Alabama’s offense is formidable. John Metchie III is the top successor to first-round receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. True freshman Agiye Hall has generated a ton of buzz. On the line, the left-side duo of Evan Neal and Emil Ekiyor will continue to dominate while the rest of the line is filled out by former four-star talents.
Defensively, Alabama is expectedly stout. They have an abundance of experience on the interior line, and edge rushers Will Anderson and Christopher Allen are primed to dominate opposing tackles with their athleticism. Christian Harris and Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o will bolster the linebacker group. Meanwhile, Josh Jobe, Jordan Battle, Malachi Moore, and Kool-Aid McKinstry are expected to dominate opposing offenses in the secondary.