1. LSU (15-0; SEC Champion; National Champions)
The most dominant team in recent memory capped off their memorable season with a national championship win over Clemson. This team had an improbable run to a perfect record, in which the Tigers beat 7 teams that were ranked inside the Top-10 at some point of the season. This team became the first in CFB history to beat the top four teams in the preseason AP poll and to make it even more impressive beat these teams by an average of 21 points. Burrow led these Tigers to one of the most impressive seasons in CFB history and I do not think this ranking can be debated.
LSU celebrates their 4th National Championship. (Source: New York Times)
2. Clemson (14-1; ACC Champion)
Life comes at you fast; even if you are the defending national champions on a 29-game win streak. Clemson was outplayed and outschemed the entire game against LSU, but let’s not forget the legendary streak this team has been on the past two seasons. Five straight ACC championships and pure dominance has been this team’s norm recently. Honestly, Clemson will be here next year unless Mack Brown can turn North Carolina around overnight. This team clinched the #2 spot with a huge 29-23 win over Ohio State and has had an amazing season.
3. Ohio State (13-1; BIG-10 Champion)
Oh, what could have been for the Buckeyes. A missed fumble call away from being in New Orleans last night, but I do not think anyone was knocking off LSU this season. Justin Fields and the Buckeyes put together an outstanding season and won another BIG-10 championship in the progress. I think this team has a great chance to find itself in the playoffs again next year and Ryan Day should be commended on the performance of his team throughout this season.
4. Oregon (12-2; PAC-12 Champion)
Another team that has lived through some “what-if” moments this season. What if the Oregon offense doesn’t stall in Dallas, allowing Bo Nix and Auburn to storm back for a 27-21 victory in Week 1? What if the wheels do not fall off in Tempe, AZ and the Ducks get throttled by Arizona State? This team was the true #4 team in the country, but inconsistency killed this season. A huge win in the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin (28-27) sealed another impressive season in Eugene. A PAC-12 championship does not hurt the Ducks either.
Justin Herbert breaks away during the Rose Bowl. (Source: 93.7 The Fan)
5. Georgia (12-2)
Injuries and Jake Fromm’s inconsistency will define the Bulldogs’ season. The offense never seemed to find its rhythm and a 3 interception performance led to one of the upsets of the year in Athens to South Carolina (20-17). The Bulldogs flipped the script and dominated the Sugar Bowl over Baylor (26-14) and got rid of any demons left over from the embarrassing performance last year. Kirby Smart will have to reload for next season, since 10 of 11 starters from the offense are now gone. Overall the Bulldogs had an impressive season, but Kirby Smart has to get over the national championship hump.
6. Florida (11-2)
This team was most likely the most underrated team in the country. After losing their starting QB (Felipe Franks) to injury, Kyle Trask was introduced to the world and balled out. Back to back New Year’s Six bowl wins for Dan Mullen and the Gators. The only 2 losses were to LSU & Georgia, which are probably the two best losses a team can have for a season. Kyle Trask and a lot of other players will be back for the Gators next year. Watch out for this team next year.
7. Alabama (11-2)
Tua Tagovailoa is gone and the Mac Jones era will begin in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide capped off a great year with a big win in the Citrus Bowl over Michigan (35-16). I know Alabama has a national championship standard, but for losing Tua, Dylan Moses, and multiple players throughout the season, I think Alabama had an amazing year. Losses to LSU and Auburn, both by single digits, were not bad losses by any stretch. A lot of talent returns for this team and Saban is going to be motivated as ever to prove that his time on the throne is not over.
Tua Tagovailoa celebrates a touchdown pass. (Source: Newsweek)
8. Oklahoma (12-2)
Yes, I know #8 is pretty low for a team that made the CFB playoffs, but giving up 7 TDs and 63 points to LSU in the semifinals showed the true colors of this team. Jalen Hurts did not deserve to go out like he did, but everybody had a feeling it was not going to be pretty in Atlanta. The Sooners padded their stats and racked up wins over mediocre teams. Maybe we should have paid more attention to what happened in Manhattan, KS against Kansas State (48-45). The Sooners will have a new QB and a lot of new weapons next year and it may be the most important year for Lincoln Riley in Norman.
9. Minnesota (11-2)
PJ Fleck may have done the best job in the country with this Minnesota team. The Gophers capped off their season with a huge win over Auburn (31-24) in the Outback Bowl. One play away from beating Iowa on the road separated this team from the BIG-10 championship and a shot at Ohio State. This team should be able to reload and should be a dark horse candidate to steal the BIG-10 away from Ohio State next year.
Minnesota players celebrate a touchdown against Penn State. (Source: Bleacher Report)
10. Penn State (11-2)
James Franklin has turned Penn State back into a contender year in and year out. A close loss to Minnesota (31-26) could have had this team in the discussion for the playoffs, but the offense seemed to be stagnant at points in the season. The Nittany Lions defense was elite and easily was one of the best in the country. An impressive win over Memphis (53-39) in the Cotton Bowl ended the season on a high note for this team and may propel the Nittany Lions to challenge Ohio State next season.
11. Notre Dame (11-2)
I have this team higher than most, which has seemed to be a consistent theme throughout the year. Losses to Georgia (23-17) and Michigan (45-14) will probably haunt the Fighting Irish for years to come, but both these losses were to good teams on the road. Ian Book had another outstanding year and the Fighting Irish reload with more talent and an opportunity to face Clemson eae. Brian Kelly has done an outstanding job in his time in South Bend, but a national championship has to be the end goal at Notre Dame.
12. Wisconsin (10-4)
Jonathan Taylor carried this team about as far as he could, but it was not enough to keep the Badgers from losing 4 games this year. A tough Rose Bowl loss to Oregon (28-27) will be on the minds of all Badger fans across the country. The biggest what-if of the season came in the BIG-10 championship when Ohio State stormed back from 14-points down to steal the championship from the Badgers. Replacing Jonathan Taylor will be the biggest need for this team, but the Badgers should still compete for the BIG-10 come next season.
Jonathan Taylor breaks away from Michigan for a touchdown. (Source: LA Times)
13. Iowa (10-3)
A highly underrated team in the BIG-10 was this Iowa Hawkeyes team. Three losses to top 20 teams (Margin of 14 points) was the difference in a 3rd place finish in the BIG-10 West and heading to Indianapolis to compete for the BIG-10. This team had one of the best bowl performances of the year and beat USC in the Holiday Bowl (49-24). Iowa did not catch the breaks or make enough plays this year, but next year this team could be scary.
14. Memphis (12-2; AAC Champion)
The first group of 5 team finally appears in these rankings and this team deserves some recognition. All year this Memphis team seemed to answer the bell and never seemed to get the respect they rightly garnered. Wins over Ole Miss, Navy, SMU, and Cincinnati (2X) were all impressive and should be respected. A tough loss to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl (53-39), in which the rushing defense finally gave out, ended the season on a sour note. This team will have a new coach in Ryan Silverfield, but he will inherit a lot of talent and Memphis should be one of the best teams in the AAC next year.
15. Auburn (9-4)
The first team with less than 10 wins finally appears in the rankings. The Auburn Tigers had a lot of what-if moments this year, but nothing will top the close 3-point loss to LSU in Death Valley. Bo Nix went through his freshman growing pains, especially in Gainesville against the Florida Gators (24-13) where Nix threw 3 INTs. The Tigers had one of the worst bowl performances against Minnesota in the Outback Bowl (31-24) and Gus Malzahn’s seat got a bit hotter. Nix and most of the offense returns next season and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris will try to make this offense more consistent and explosive.
Seth Williams makes the game-winning catch against Oregon. (Source: LA Times)
16. Appalachian State (13-1; Sun Belt Champions)
This Mountaineers team had one of the most impressive years in all of the country. A slip up on Thursday night against Georgia Southern (24-21) kept this team from reaching a perfect season. This team ended the season with an impressive win in the New Orleans Bowl against UAB (31-17), which makes this team an excellent candidate to get the Group of 5 bid to the New Year’s 6 bowls next year. New coach Shawn Clark has a lot of experience within this program and nobody should be surprised when this team is in a similar position next year.
17. Navy (11-2)
What an amazing season for the Midshipmen, which capped their 11-win season over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl (20-17). Malcolm Perry set a record with his 2,000 yard rushing season and the Midshipmen were one loss away from the AAC championship. Navy seems to be on the rise, but the loss of Perry is going to sting. Expect Navy to be at the top of the AAC again and be there for the next few years.
18. Cincinnati (11-3)
Another team that did not receive the respect they earned. The Bearcats went into the last week of the season with one loss, but fell to Memphis in back to back games. A win in the Birmingham Bowl over Boston College (38-6) helped gain some momentum going into the offseason. This team returns a lot of talent and should be the favorites in the AAC next year. Look out for Desmond Ridder to have a breakout year after his sophomore slump this season.
Cincinnati players celebrate a touchdown against UCF. (Source: USA Today)
19. Baylor (11-3)
I think I am much more skeptical of this Baylor team than most other media members. I have the Bears much lower than the AP Poll (#13) and I was not impressed throughout the year with this team. Multiple losses to Oklahoma, especially the first matchup where Baylor had a 28-3 lead and allowed the Sooners to storm back and steal the game in Waco. An embarrassing loss to a depleted Georgia team (26-14) in the Sugar Bowl was not the ending Matt Rhule wanted in his last game as the Baylor head coach. An announcement is pending on the head coach opening and this decision will set the path for this team moving forward, but whoever takes this Baylor head coaching gig will have big shoes to fill.
20. Utah (11-3)
Another team that had a strong year, but an embarrassing bowl performance. Entering the PAC-12 championship at 11-1; the Utes put up no fight against Oregon (37-15) and got run out of Santa Clara. To make matters worse, Texas outclassed this team in the Alamo Bowl (38-10) and embarrassed this defense, which was one of the most impressive defenses throughout the season. Look for the Utes to compete for the PAC-12 next year, since the PAC-12 South has almost no competition.
21. Michigan (9-4)
Whether you agree with me or not; I have said all year that Jim Harbaugh is on the hot seat and it will be at its highest temperature next year. Another year losing to Ohio State (56-27) is not going to make fans or boosters very happy. He was brought to Michigan to do two things: Beat Ohio State & Win a National Championship. He has done neither of these things and if in November 2020 Michigan loses to Ohio State expect Harbaugh to be gone.
22. Boise State (12-2; Mountain West Champions)
The lowest ranked conference champion is found here. The Broncos had an impressive regular season with only one loss and another Mountain West title. A strong defense led this team to a great season and when the offense was healthy, it was deadly. The season ended on an embarrassing note as Washington dominated the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl (38-7). To make matters worse, Chris Petersen (HC @ Boise State from 2006-2013) was coaching on the other side in his last game of his career. The Broncos have been a model of consistency, which means this team will probably win the Mountain West again.
Boise State celebrates their 4th Mountain West title. (Source: Deseret News)
23. UCF (10-3)
Everybody celebrated when the Black Knights lost their first game to Pitt (35-34) and further celebrated as this team lost two more games. The streak may be over, but the Black Knights should not hang their head because their performance the last few years was one of the iconic moments of the decade. The season ended with some momentum with a big win over Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl (48-25). UCF will reload next year and I expect a revenge tour and the Black Knights will be dangerous in the AAC.
24. Washington (8-5)
This team was not ranked in the AP Poll, but I completely disagree with that. The Huskies dominated Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl (38-7) and sent Chris Petersen out on a high note. This team did underperform when compared to their preseason expectations, but their schedule was not a cupcake lineup. Losses to Oregon and Utah really hurt the momentum of this team, but both of those games were in reach. Jacob Eason and Chris Petersen is gone to the NFL and Washington starts a new era under Jimmy Lake, which is the most underrated hire of the season.
Chris Peterson & players celebrate a victory over Boise State. (Source: Las Vegas Review)
25. Texas A&M (8-5)
I know a lot of people will take a double look at this team, but this team has been disrespected by fans and media. All five losses were to teams that were in the Top 8 of the AP Poll at some point this season. The Georgia and Auburn games were competitive and A&M could have stolen those games with a break here or there. The season ended on a high note against a top BIG-12 team in Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl and A&M pulled out a huge win (24-21). Jimbo Fisher is building a culture in College Station and the Aggies will be a dark horse in the loaded SEC next year.