Thoughts of the Day: August 7, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:

As we wait with bated breath for the SEC to release its schedule for all 14 teams in the SEC, the Amway Coaches preseason top 25 poll was released Thursday. Even though no one knows who will play whom in the SEC, the league still nailed down three of the top five spots, four of the top eight and six of the top 13. To no one’s surprise Clemson got the top ranking with Ohio State ranked second. The SEC came in at third, fourth and fifth with Alabama, Georgia and LSU. Florida was ranked eighth, Auburn 11th and Texas A&M 13th. The Big Ten tied the SEC with six top 25 teams while the ACC and Big 12 landed four each, the Pac-12 three and the American Athletic Conference two.

The top 25: (1) Clemson; (2) Ohio State; (3) Alabama; (4) Georgia; (5) LSU; (6) Oklahoma; (7) Penn State; (8) FLORIDA; (9) Oregon; (10) Oregon

(11) Auburn; (12) Wisconsin; (13) Texas A&M; (14) Texas; (15) Michigan; (16) Oklahoma State; (17) Southern California; (18) Minnesota; (19) North Carolina; (20) Utah

(21) UCF; (22) Cincinnati; (23) Iowa; (24) Virginia Tech; (25) Iowa State

TOO HIGH, TOO LOW, JUST RIGHT: Now that we have a top 25 here is an opinion on the rankings. Who is ranked too high? Too low? Which ones did the coaches get just right?

(1) Clemson: In his two years as Clemson’s starting QB, Trevor Lawrence has lost only one game and that was against LSU for the national championship back in January. He beat Alabama for the national championship as a true freshman and beat Ohio State in the semifinals last year before losing his first collegiate game against LSU. All-Interplanetary running back Travis Etienne is back (4,038 yards, 56 touchdowns, 7.8 yards per carry) and the defense returns eight starters. JUST RIGHT

(2) Ohio State: Justin Fields (41 TDPs, 3,273 yards; 10 rushing TDs) is back from a team that took Clemson to the wire in a CFP semifinal and while there is no shortage of talent in Columbus, Ryan Day has to replace running back J.K. Dobbins, stud DE Chase Young and three of four starters in the secondary. Despite losing 11 starters, the Buckeyes are really, really good, but can they beat Penn State in Happy Valley? A LITTLE TOO HIGH

(3) Alabama: Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian just got a raise to $2.6 million and why not? There are four starting offensive linemen returning including the best pass blocker in the league in Alex Leatherwood. They will be blocking for the league’s best running back (Najee Harris) and giving quarterback Mac Jones all the time in the world to throw to Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. There are studs on the defense like MLB Dylan Moses and CB Patrick Surtain II, but if the unit doesn’t get significantly better coordinator Pete Golding will be looking for gainful employment in January. JUST RIGHT

(4) Georgia: The folks in Poodlesville rejoiced when Jamie Newman transferred in from Wake Forest to take over for the departed Jake Fromm (State Farm). They got downright giddy when JT Daniels transferred in from Southern Cal and won a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately. Sounds good, right? Well, neither one of them got any spring practice reps and they’ll both be learning an offensive scheme on the fly from a brand new coordinator (Todd Monken). Four starters from the O-line have to be replaced. The defense could be elite but good enough to take the Poodles to the promised land if the offense doesn’t ever gel? TOO HIGH

(5) LSU: Heisman QB Joe Burrow will be playing on Sundays this fall along with 13 other players from a team that ran the table and won the national championship. Joe Brady, the guy who designed that Star Wars offense is now an OC in the pros. The new QB is Myles Brennan, who has thrown two touchdown passes in three years in Baton Rouge. The nation’s best wide receiver (Ja’Marr Chase: 84-1,790 yards, 20 touchdowns) is back but there will be five new O-linemen. On defense there will be six new starters. LSU will be good, but not that good. TOO HIGH

(6) OKLAHOMA: In three years on the job, HBC Lincoln Riley has produced two Heisman Trophy QBs and a Heisman runner-up. All three were transfers from St. Somewhere Else. This year his QB is expected to be redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler, who will be operating behind the best O-line in the country (all five starters return). Sixteen starters return from a team that made the CFP semifinals. If the defense improves and Rattler comes up big, the Sooners could make the national championship game. TOO LOW

(7) PENN STATE: Stud linebacker Micah Parsons (109 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles) has opted out of 2020 due to concerns about the virus. Penn State’s defense won’t be nearly as good without him. Is the offense good enough to carry the load? The Nittany Lions get the Buckeyes at home but play Michigan on the road. TOO HIGH

(8) FLORIDA: This is the year Dan Mullen has been pointing to since he arrived on the Florida campus in December of 2017. Two seasons and 21 wins later, the Gators have an SEC roster, the best returning QB in the league (Kyle Trask, 25 TDPs), the best tight end in the SEC and maybe the country (Kyle Pitts, 54-649, 5 TDs), four returning starters on the offensive line and a defense that is going to be both nasty and elite. Remember the name Brenton Cox Jr. and get ready for beastly off the edge. TOO LOW

(9) OREGON: Former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead is charged with turning Tyler Slough into a championship level QB. If Slough can throw the ball well enough to back the safeties off the line of scrimmage, CJ Verdell could (1,225 yards, 8 TDs) light up the Pac-12. The defense needs some help for stud edge rusher Kavon Thibodeaux (9 sacks). TOO HIGH

(10) NOTRE DAME: The Irish are playing an ACC schedule and competing for a conference championship for the first time in school history. The schedule will definitely be easier. They have an experienced starter at QB in Ian Book (3,034 yards, 34 TDPs) and all five starters returning on the offensive line. The Irish get Clemson in South Bend in what should be a prelude for the ACC Championship Game. TOO LOW

(11) AUBURN: Bo Nix turned heads as a freshman when he passed for 2,542 yards (16 TDPs) and ran for another 7. The Tigers return all their skill people but only two starters on the offensive line. The defense will miss Derrick Brown but should still be one of the better units in the SEC. JUST RIGHT

(12) Wisconsin: The offense loses Jonathan Taylor and his more than 6,000 career rushing yards, WR Quintez Cephus and three starters on the O-line. The replacements aren’t exactly overwhelming. The defense will be really good and it better be since it will have to carry the Badgers. TOO HIGH

(13) Texas A&M: This is the year Jimbo Fisher has been building toward since he took the job in Aggieland. He has 18 returning starters including a three-year guy at QB in Kellen Mond (7,379 yards, 52 TDPs; 1,315 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and 10 defensive starters. The schedule is brutal because it includes games with Alabama, LSU and Auburn and might include the Gators but the Aggies will be very, very good and a threat to make the SEC Championship Game with a little luck. TOO LOW

(14) Texas: Tom Herman was supposed to be the guy that took the Longhorns to the promised land but he’s 25-15 in three years. With 18 returning starters, if Herman can’t win the Big 12 this year, the boosters aren’t going to be happy. They got a break when LSU was dropped from the schedule. ABOUT RIGHT

(15) Michigan: The offense was pretty average last year and that was with a two-year starter at QB. There will be a newbie taking the snaps this year for an offense that has to replace eight starters. The defense will be pretty good, but not great. TOO HIGH

(16) Oklahoma State: The offense will be spectacular if QB Spencer Sanders remembers to throw it to the guys wearing the same color shirt he’s wearing. Chuba Hubbard (2,094 rushing yards, 21 TDs) will be the Heisman chatter and WR Tylan Wallace (53-903, 8 TDs) will contend for the Biletnikoff Award. The defense returns 10 starters. That might not be good news. ABOUT RIGHT

(17) Southern Cal: The pundits think Clay Helton is in over his head. Alums would like him gone. Wonder what they will say if the Trojans win the Pac-12, which they should with Kedon Slovis (3,502 yards, 30 TDPs) at QB for what should be a record-setting sophomore year. Seventeen starters return, nine from a defense that was underwhelming last year. Expect serious improvement on that side of the ball and for USC to crack the top 10 in the final polls. TOO LOW

(18) Minnesota: Tanner Morgan (3,253 yards, 30 TDPs) might be the best QB you’ve never heard of. He will be throwing behind an O-line that returns all five starters. The Gophers will have to win shootouts. The defense wasn’t very good last year and it won’t be any better this year. ABOUT RIGHT

(19) North Carolina: Mack Brown has 10 returning starters on offense, the most important of which is QB Sam Howell (3,641 yards, 38 TDPs), who will throw to a pair of gifted wide receivers in Dyami Brown (81-1,034, 12 TDs) and Dazz Newsome (72-1,018, 10 TDs). The defense needs a lot of work. The Tar Heels will have to win shootouts but they will be exciting. ABOUT RIGHT

(20) Utah: The Utes are going to have problems replacing QB Tyler Huntley and stud RB Zack Moss. The new QB is former South Carolina starter Jake Bentley, who will operate behind four returning starters. Last year’s outstanding defense was gutted by graduation. TOO HIGH

(21) UCF: The Knights will continue to light up scoreboards wherever they play. Sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel threw for 3,663 yards and 29 TDs as a true freshman. He will be throwing to one of the fastest set of wide receivers in the country. If DC Randy Shannon can get some improvement out of that unit, the Knights could very well run the table. This is a team nobody should want to play. TOO LOW

(22) Cincinnati: The Bearcats return 11 starters, the most important of which is junior QB Desmond Ridder (2,164 passing yards 18 TDPs; 650 rushing, 5 TDs). The offense has to replace running back Michael Warren II and none of the replacements are anywhere close. The defense has issues with the pass. Cincy has to play UCF in Orlando. TOO HIGH

(23) Iowa: Before all these revelations about racial issues, Iowa might have been considered top 15 material. We’ll have to see if the Hawkeyes can put all the turmoil behind them. It’s not going to be easy. TOO HIGH

(24) Virginia Tech: For the first time since the Clinton administration, there is a new defensive coordinator in Blacksburg. Justin Hamilton takes over a defense that Bud Foster piloted to 109thnationally in scoring defense, 102nd overall and he’ll have to do it without stud corner Caleb Farley, who has opted out for 2020. TOO HIGH

(25) Iowa State: HBC Matt Campbell has a lot of holes to fill but he’s got a nice centerpiece in QB Brock Purdy (3,982 yards, 27 TDPs; 8 rushing TDs). The Cyclones have to come up with a running game and figure out how to stop the run to move much higher. ABOUT RIGHT

SHOULD HAVE BEEN RANKED: Boise State; Arizona State; Kentucky; Memphis

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