After an unprecedented year, the 2020-2021 college football season ended last night. Alabama ended up taking home the crown. However, coaches and analysts are already moving ahead to next season. Here are our Top 25 College Football Rankings for 2021.
There’s still plenty of time to see how the offseason unfolds for these teams. The 2021 NFL Draft deadline has yet to pass, and the transfer portal is more active than ever. As it stands right now, however, we can offer our projections of the top 25 teams for 2021.
These Top 25 College Football Rankings are projection-based on how these teams will look next year, not how they finished off the season.
2021 Top 25 College Football Rankings 1-6
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama is set to lose several players to the draft, including Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, but there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue to be excellent next season. Alabama enters the 2021 season with the #1 recruiting class in the country and has 5-star QB Bryce Young ready to take over the spotlight. As long as Saban is still discussing rat poison, the Tide will be dangerous and competitive.
2. Clemson Tigers
Clemson has to get back to their dominant defense upfront under Brent Venables. With 5-stars Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy continuing to develop, that can happen. Combined with 5-star QB D.J. Uiagalelei and returning stars like Justyn Ross, Joseph Ngata, E.J. Williams, and Frank Ladson on offense, Clemson likely keeps on humming next season.
3. Oklahoma Sooners
This might be too low for the Sooners, who ended the season with a blowout victory over the Florida Gators. With Heisman favorite QB Spencer Rattler at the helm of a Lincoln Riley offense, Oklahoma will once again be explosive on offense. The scary part? They’re continuing to grow and improve on defense. With Nik Bonitto returning to lead a dominant defensive front, Oklahoma looks poised to make the Playoffs once again.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes will have some growing pains to go through. There’s likely to be immense turnover on both sides of the ball. QB Justin Fields is off to the NFL. Players like Chris Olave, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, Baron Browning, and Pete Werner will likely follow too. On the bright side for Ohio State? Two back-to-back top-five recruiting classes, including one that features 5-star QB Kyle McCord. Ohio State likely reloads and continues to dominate the Big 10.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia began to look like a more complete team towards the end of the season once J.T. Daniels stepped into the starting quarterback spot. While Georgia will have plenty of turnover on defense, Kirby Smart is one of the best defensive minds in CFB and will have back-to-back top-three recruiting classes to retool with. With Daniels throwing to George Pickens, Georgia should be among the best in CFB next year. With the potential to challenge hard again in 2021, the fifth spot in our college football rankings fits perfectly.
6. Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State has virtually their entire team returning for another season, and Matt Campbell does not appear to be heading to the NFL. With star RB Breece Hall leading the team again and another strong defense, Iowa State will once again try to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. All-American TE Charlie Kolar recently deciding to return for another season will help QB Brock Purdy and the Cyclones’ passing game.
Cincinnati surprised plenty with the amount of talent they have returning. QB Desmond Ridder announced his return to school, along with other studs on the defensive side of the ball for the Bearcats. While DC Marcus Freeman is off to Notre Dame, head coach Luke Fickell is an outstanding motivator and should have Cincinnati competing at the top once more.
8. Texas A&M Aggies
A&M will have to figure out some turnover on both sides of the ball, most notably their next QB after Kellen Mond. However, the offensive line should remain stacked, and the Aggies’ offense has plenty of playmakers to turn to. DC Mike Elko has that team playing competitive, and the addition of 5-star DE Shemar Turner will only help them in that area.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has to mentally recover from facing Alabama and will have plenty of turnover to deal with in the offseason. The offensive line will need to be rebuilt, and they will lose playmakers like Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on defense. However, QB Jack Coan comes in through the transfer portal, and the Irish return RB Kyren Williams and star safety Kyle Hamilton. With the hire of Marcus Freeman, the defense should also remain among the best in the country. They hang on to their top 10 spot by a thread in our 2021 college football rankings.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels
While the Tar Heels will have QB Sam Howell returning, they have to figure out the rest of the offense. Both RBs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter are NFL-bound. WRs Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome are leaving as well. That’s 85% of their rushing yards and 65% of their receiving yards gone already. While Mack Brown has done a great job recruiting, this season will figure to be a challenge. Luckily, North Carolina has two top-15 recruiting classes to lean into, especially one containing 5-star CB Tony Grimes. They round out the top 10 of our college football rankings.
11. Indiana Hoosiers
The job Tom Allen has done with Indiana is remarkable. Indiana was one of the most surprising teams in CFB this season. Indiana finished 6-2 in this shortened season. The team will have QB Michael Penix return, as well as WR Ty Fryfogle. With the coaching staff remaining mostly intact and plenty of returning talent, Indiana looks poised to be competitive once more.
12. Florida Gators
Florida’s in a tough position to project right now. The offense loses a ton of playmakers, including Heisman finalist QB Kyle Trask and Mackey Award winner Kyle Pitts. The defense was abysmal last season, and DC Todd Grantham is still in place. HC Dan Mullen is getting NFL buzz right now on top of all of this. Two top-15 recruiting classes give Florida enough talent to compete, but the team has plenty of question marks right now.
2021 Top 25 College Football Rankings 13-19
13. Oregon Ducks
The Pac-12 had a weirder season than most. Oregon wasn’t slated to play in the Pac-12 Championship, but due to medical issues, they replaced Washington. Oregon beat USC to win their second-consecutive Pac-12 title. However, they were pretty well dominated by Iowa State in their bowl game 34-17. DC Andy Avalos will be the next HC at Boise State.
However, there are plenty of bright spots for the Ducks. Almost 74% of their team was made up of underclassmen last year. Oregon will add in the #6 overall recruiting class in 2021. Kayvon Thibodeaux will be back. Pac-12 Freshman of the year Noah Sewell will also be back. If the Ducks can get their QB situation settled out, they’re poised to win the Pac-12 once more.
14. USC Trojans
The Trojans had a confusing 2020 season. They oftentimes had to come back to win, with several thrillers. That proved to be a little too unsustainable, as USC lost in the Pac-12 title game and didn’t get invited to a bowl game. However, USC will return talented QB Kedon Slovis and plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. If they can iron out the consistency issues, USC can contend for the Pac-12 championship.
15. Texas Longhorns
Texas has plenty of reason to be excited about the future, but plenty of things to be concerned about for next season. Steve Sarkisian is building a talented staff in Austin, but the Longhorns lose plenty of talent in the offseason, including potential first-round pick OT Sam Cosmi. The offensive line will take time to build for the Longhorns to contend with Oklahoma, but the returning talent is exciting with Sarkisian at the helm. They sit an intriguing 15th in our 2021 college football rankings.
16. Iowa Hawkeyes
QB Spencer Petras and RB Tyler Goodson return for the Hawkeyes, providing the Hawkeyes with their two offensive leaders. OTs Alaric Jackson and Coy Cronk are coming back, as well as Rimington Trophy finalist Tyler Linderbaum to anchor the OL. DT Daviyon Nixon declared for the draft, but Zach VanValkenburg is coming back to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. Plenty of talent returns on both sides, and Iowa is ready to win the Big 10 West.
17. Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes got a significant boost for 2021, with QB D’Eriq King and RB Cam’Ron Harris electing to return. Safety Bubba Bolden will also return to lead the Hurricanes’ defense that figures to have some turnover. Manny Diaz has the program heading in the right direction, and they can certainly contend for the ACC Coastal in 2021.
18. Penn State Nittany Lions
The season started poorly for Penn State, but the team finished on a four-game winning streak. Senior receiver Jahan Dotson elected to return, and QB Sean Clifford played better as the season went on. Mike Yurcich comes in as OC to boost the offensive performance of the Nittany Lions. Joey Porter Jr., Tariq Castro-Fields, and Jaquan Brisker return in the secondary to help keep the defense afloat. Star RB Noah Cain looks to return and give Penn State their next talented back.
19. Oklahoma State Cowboys
QB Spencer Sanders returns, as well as guard Josh Sills. Both sides of the ball feature a lot of turnover, but Mike Gundy keeps his squad competitive year-in and year-out. DE Trace Ford returns to disrupt opposing offenses, and DC Jim Knowles has had the defense playing well as of late. While the turnover is significant enough to drop Oklahoma State behind Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Texas, Oklahoma State should still be one of the better teams in CFB.
2021 Top 25 College Football Rankings 20-25
20. LSU Tigers
The defending national champions hit rock-bottom this season but finished with an upset over Florida to provide some momentum. They hired Jake Peetz, a Joe Brady-tree coach, to take over as their offensive coordinator. They haven’t announced their next defensive coordinator yet, but Bo Pelini’s stubbornness often cost the team, and he’s now gone. With QB Myles Brennan returning from injury and plenty of talent returning like Derek Stingley, Eli Ricks, Ed Ingram, John Emery, and Kayshon Boutte, LSU should return to form among the SEC’s best. Even so, they arrive at the tail end of our top 20 in our 2021 college football rankings.
21. Arizona State Sun Devils
The 21st team in our Top 25 College Football Rankings are the Sun Devils. Herm Edwards is building something out west. QB Jayden Daniels returns to lead another Arizona State offense that has plenty of talent, including transfer TE Jalin Conyers. CBs Jack Jones and Chase Lucas are coming back to lead the secondary again. They only played four games in 2020, but the team’s talent was evident. Herm Edwards has a quality coaching staff building up in Tempe.
22. Boston College Eagles
Boston College under Jeff Hafley has quietly become a nice sleeper team. The Eagles return QB Phil Jurkovic and plenty of talent on offense. The defense should take a step forward with another year under Hafley and talent added in the transfer portal, like DL Khris Banks. With a well-coached offensive line and a great culture being built, BC can be a quality team in 2021.
23. Liberty Flames
With Malik Willis back at QB, it’s hard to see Liberty dropping off. Hugh Freeze also likely stays at HC for this season, keeping Liberty’s exciting group together on offense. The offense likely returns most of their offensive line and skill position players, so Willis will have no shortage of targets. The team has some challenging games to play against Ole Miss and Army, but they should be able to put up points and be competitive.
24. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin was a little hit-or-miss with Graham Mertz at QB, but there’s no doubt that the team has the talent to succeed on both sides of the ball. The running game isn’t close to what it was last year with no Jonathan Taylor, but adding OTs like Nolan Rucci will help the OL improve. With defensive leaders like Jack Sanborn returning, Wisconsin looks to keep chugging along.
25. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
The last team in our Top 25 College Football Rankings are the Chanticleers. As long as Jamey Chadwell is the coach for Coastal Carolina, the team will be competitive. With QB Grayson McCall returning after an incredible season, the Chanticleers will still be competitive next year. Just how competitive will be determined by how well they can replace RB CJ Marable and DE Tarron Jackson.