Thomas And Cimino Preview The Big 10: Power Rankings and Championship Picks

Quick, catch up. Before we unveil our full Big 10 Power Rankings and Predictions, be sure to check out our Offense and Defense previews, so you can get the full experience. 

With that being said, myself and resident Big 10 analyst Chris Cimino will be wrapping up our 3-story saga previewing the conference today with final predictions. First off – power rankings. 

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Ohio StateOhio State
Penn StatePenn State
MichiganMinnesota
WisconsinWisconsin
Michigan StateMichigan
NebraskaIowa
MinnesotaIndiana
PurdueNebraska
IndianaNorthwestern
IowaPurdue
NorthwesternMichigan State
IllinoisMaryland
RutgersIllinois
MarylandRutgers

The top of our power rankings should come as no surprise. Ohio State is the clear favorite to win the conference, with Penn State being probably their only legitimate challenger. I actually almost leaned towards the Nittany Lions before recent events steered me away from that pick. Had Penn State had Micah Parsons, and fans in their stadium to produce their annual white-out game, I may have liked James Franklin’s squad to take home the head-to-head clash with the Buckeyes. However, in a fanless stadium with their best defender gone, Penn State doesn’t quite match up with Ryan Day, Justin Fields, and Co. Master Teague takes over as the primary workhorse in the backfield, and if he equals or comes close to the production of J.K. Dobbins, the Buckeyes will roll to another undefeated season. 

However, as the rankings progress, our lists begin to differ. Cimino is high on Minnesota, who returns Tanner Morgan, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and has a great head coach in P.J. Fleck. However, for me, the loss of Rashod Bateman leaves me with slightly more questions about the offense, and I’m not sure they have enough to compensate for significant losses on the defensive side of the ball. I slotted perennial Big 10 West favorite Wisconsin in at #4, as well as Nebraska at #6 before putting Minnesota into the seventh spot. 

Our other major difference is in Michigan State. Cimino has the Spartans crashing to eleventh on his list, barely above the traditional cellar-dwellers of the conference. In doing so, he makes some intriguing bets, including banking on a rebound season from a Northwestern team with a strong defense, and a better season than I expect from Indiana. I have the Spartans cracking my top-5 which may be high, but also reflects my belief that this a very top heavy conference. I don’t think there’s very many teams I would consider nationally relevant after Ohio State, Penn State, and maybe Michigan. Wisconsin has a case. But that’s about as far as I’ll go. Michigan State at 5 or 11? I’m not sure it makes a huge difference for me, but I think the Spartans can pull off 5-6 wins in Big 10 play. 

Conference Championship Predictions

Thomas: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Cimino: Ohio State over Minnesota

This is Ohio State’s conference to lose, and neither myself nor Cimino see that happening. Ohio State’s stranglehold over the Big 10 continues. Their trickiest game is undoubtedly their clash with Penn State, and I really don’t see a team out of the West challenging the Buckeyes significantly in the conference championship. Cimino sticks with his Golden Gophers to make the title game, while I go with a repeat of last year’s championship. I think the West division is wide open, so I went with the consistent Badgers, who haven’t had a losing season since 2001. However, Tanner Morgan alone makes Minnesota a contender at least for the division crown, so the Gophers are a worthy pick here as well. 

Coach of the Year predictions

Thomas: James Franklin, Penn State

Cimino: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Although I picked Ohio State to win the conference, I’m not going with Day for Coach of the Year honors. Quite simply because 10-0 is the expectation in Columbus, so to give him COY for meeting the standard seems underwhelming. Rather, I’m going with Franklin. Although I don’t quite see him breaking through into the CFP, I think a 9-1 season in which they lose a large portion of their significant homefield advantage and have already seen one of their best players opt out would be excellent work by Franklin. Cimino goes with the likely safer pick in Ryan Day, who impressed greatly in his first season replacing Urban Meyer, and he’s an instant favorite for the award. 

Thomas and Cimino Preview The Big 10: Top Defenses, DPOY Predictions

After releasing our Big 10 offensive player of the year predictions a day ago, myself and Chris Cimino have returned to offer up our predictions for the best defenses in the Big 10, along with DPOY picks. Our offensive previews were very similar, as we both agreed that Ohio State and Penn State are the offenses to watch, while the Tanner Morgan-led Minnesota squad is an intriguing third team to keep an eye on. Does the same story ring true on the defensive side of the ball? Let’s check it out. 

Top Defenses

Thomas

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Michigan

Cimino 

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Wisconsin

Once again, both Cimino and I come up with extremely similar rankings when looking at Big 10 defenses. Ohio State is just a beast on the defensive side of the ball, and although I was a little hesitant about placing them over a Penn State defense that returns a lot more production, the recent opt-out of stud linebacker Micah Persons convinced me to slide the Nittany Lions to #2. Shaun Wade is the latest in a series of elite cornerbacks to come out of Ohio State, and he leads the Buckeyes into action in 2020. 

Cimino agrees with me at 1-2, but we do differ with our third team. I initially slotted Wisconsin in here, and they are undoubtedly a solid pick. The Badgers boast a stout defense year-in and year-out, and they return a lot of production – headlined by Jack Sanborn, who recorded 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in 2019. I went with the Michigan Wolverines for my third best defense, but it was a really tight call. The ultimate deciding factor for me was Michigan’s starpower, as I believe they have two of the best players in the conference in defensive lineman Kwity Paye and cornerback Ambry Thomas. Michigan will be strong on defense, but it may not be enough for them to tip the scales in the Big 10. 

Top Defensive Players  

DPOY Prediction

Thomas: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Cimino: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio StateShaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Kwity Paye, DL, MichiganKwity Paye, DL, Michigan
Ambry Thomas, CB, MichiganGeorge Karlaftis, DL, Purdue
George Karlaftis, DL, PurduePaddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
Jack Sanborn, LB, WisconsinCam McGrone, LB, Michigan


This list has at least a little bit of variation after we appeared to agree on much of our initial sets of rankings. We both like Wade to take home DPOY honors. The Ohio State corner broke up eight passes and intercepted one last season, while playing in a secondary that had two first round picks. He also forced a fumble and had two sacks, and his numbers should explode as the star of Ohio State’s defense in 2020. Paye was the consensus #2 player, returning after a breakout 6.5 sack season. He also recorded 50 tackles and recovered a fumble, and he will be a key cog in Michigan’s defensive gameplan, responsible for causing disruption along the defensive line. 

After our top-2, our lists vary slightly. Purdue defensive lineman finds his way into both of our top-5 rankings, sliding in at #3 in Cimino’s list and #4 in my own. I have Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas checking in as the third best defensive player in the conference, while aforementioned Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn rounds out my list. Cimino goes for a player that may be a slight surprise to some, ranking Paddy Fisher fourth. The Northwestern linebacker will be the anchor of a unit that doesn’t quite look ready for Big 10 contention after a 1-7 record in Big 10 play last season. Cimino also goes with a second Michigan player, opting for linebacker Cam McGrone to fill out his top 5.

Thomas and Cimino Preview The Big 10: Top Offenses, and OPOY Predictions

After releasing our SEC predictions just a few days ago, we brought in Big 10 analyst Chris Cimino to work with lead writer Aidan Thomas and unveil our B1G predictions for this season. To start it off, let’s talk offense. 

Top Big 10 Offenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Penn State
  2. Ohio State
  3. Minneosta

Chris Cimino

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Minnesota

Ultimately, both of our rankings here regarding the Big 10 offenses are very similar, with a flip of our top two teams marking the only difference. I made the somewhat unpopular choice to go with Penn State, simply because I believe the Nittany Lions have a loaded backfield, headlined by Journey Brown, who I believe is one of the top offensive players in the conference. Throw in promising 2nd-year dual-threat quarterback Sean Clifford and Pat Freiermuth – arguably the best tight end in the country –  and Penn State boasts a lethal offense.

 Cimino went with Ohio State, and there’s every reason to go with the Buckeyes here as well. Heisman favorite Justin Fields quarterbacks an offense that will likely see talented players step up to replace production lost to the draft. Minnesota rounds out both of our lists, even with the recent opt-out of Rashod Bateman. Both Cimino and I placed Tanner Morgan inside our top 5 quarterbacks heading into 2020, and that confidence in the Minnesota signal-caller is reflected in our rankings. 

Top Offensive Players

Offensive Player Of the Year

Thomas: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State

Cimino: Justin Fields, Quarterback Ohio State

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio StateJustin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Journey Brown, RB, Penn StateRondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Tanner Morgan, QB, MinnesotaTanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota
Rondale Moore, WR, PurdueJourney Brown, RB, Penn State
Sean Clifford, QB, Penn StatePat Friermuth, TE, Penn State

Once more, our analysis of the offensive scene in the Big 10 produces a near-identical set of rankings. Both Cimino and I take the only returning Heisman finalist – Justin Fields – as our offensive player of the year, with Journey Brown, Tanner Morgan, and Rondale Moore rounding out our top four. Cimino elects to place Moore 2nd on his list, which may reflect Moore’s talent better than my own list. A little hesitant about his prior injury, and the fact that he plays for a much less competitive Purdue team, I slipped Moore to fourth. Instead I elevated Brown, who looks posed for a breakout season, to #2. 

We both ranked Tanner Morgan at #3 as the 2nd-best quarterback in the conference. While the Golden Gophers’ conference title hopes took a massive hit with the loss of Bateman, Morgan remains a premier signal-caller in college football and deserves his spot within our top 3. At #5, Cimino and I differ slightly, although we both target Penn State players. I go with quarterback Sean Clifford, who I believe was underrated last season and posed to take a large step forward. Cimino goes with the more proven Pat Friermuth, who averaged 11.8 yards per catch in 2019 and returns as Clifford’s top target in 2020. 

From our extremely similar rankings, a quick conclusion can be drawn – this is Ohio State and Penn State’s conference – and everyone else is just living in it.

CFB Greatest OF All Time Bracket: 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson Clash in Quarterfinals

It’s been one heck of a ride so far, but by the time our initial field of 32 college football teams boiled down to 6, we have ourselves some of the greatest squads to ever step onto the gridiron left. Starting it off is a modern-day classic featuring the last two national champions – 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson – battling for the right to face 2012 Alabama in the Bracket A final. In Bracket B, 2013 Florida State has slogged their way through the loser’s bracket, winning two straight overtime clashes, to set up a battle with 2009 Alabama. The winner of that will face the daunting task of having to defeat 2001 Miami – who has only trailed for a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds in four games so far. Twice. They have to defeat them twice. It’s a tough road ahead, but let’s see what happens in our final pre-championship round.

Bracket A Semifinals
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 34 LSU 33
This one lived up to the hype. LSU took the early edge, 23-21 at halftime, but Clemson rallied in front by a 31-30 margin at the end of the third quarter. Joe Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase for a 39-yard gain, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire broke off a 15-yard run, as LSU snuck into the red zone near the halfway mark of the final quarter. However, Clemson’s defense stiffened, and Burrow’s 6-yard scramble on 3rd and 8 left the Tigers two yards short at the Clemson 8-yard line. Cade York drilled a 25-yard field goal, but with 4:49 to play, Clemson only trailed by two. 

Clemson’s drive looked destined to stall, but an 18-yard scramble from Lawrence extended the drive on 3rd down, and Etienne ripped off a 41-yard run to bring Clemson to the red zone with 1:53 to play. LSU had just one timeout, which was burned on an Etienne run, and Clemson worked the clock down under a minute before kicking a field goal to take the lead. Burrow was left with 47 seconds and no timeouts and couldn’t make any magic happen, getting to the Clemson 49 before heaving up a Hail Mary that fell to the ground. And with that Hail Mary ended the infallible 2019 season of LSU, who dropped two straight games after dancing dangerously through three one-score victories. 

Bracket A Championship

7. 2012 Alabama vs. 2. 2018 Clemson 
Alabama 23 Clemson 21 
Another great game, but 2012 Alabama stays undefeated. The 7th-seeded darkhorse Crimson Tide have rolled their way through bracket A and into the championship, behind the strength of their ferocious backfield, headlinged by Eddie Lacy, Kenny Drake, and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy did the damage in this one, leading the way with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown, while quarterback A.J. McCarron was his usually efficient himself, limiting mistakes and throwing for 174 yards and a score. Clemson got 105 rushing yards from Travis Etienne, but they rarely had the ball, holding possession for just 21 minutes and 35 seconds of game time. 

Bracket B Semifinals

3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Alabama 37 Florida State 28
After crawling past two consecutive opponents in overtime, Florida State’s magic ran out. The Seminoles jumped out to a halftime lead, but they quite simply ran out of gas. In typical Nick Saban and Alabama fashion, the Crimson Tide controlled the contest with a ground-and-pound attack, racking up over 350 yards, led by 180 from Mark Ingram, who also found the end zone three times. Trent Richardson chipped in with 92 yards and a touchdown for the Tide, who trailed 28-27 entering the fourth quarter before completing their comeback. 

Bracket B Championship

1. 2001 Miami vs. 3. 2009 Alabama
Miami 24 Alabama 23 
This was an excruciating loss for the Crimson Tide. Not only because of their elimination, but because of how it went down. Miami trailed 23-17 with 2:17 to play, but Ken Dorsey connected with Ethenic Sands for 28 yards on the opening play of their drive, bringing them to the Alabama 47. However, Dorsey was hit hard on the play and was unable to return. The Hurricanes summoned backup quarterback Brock Berlin in, who proceeded to dice the Crimson Tide defense, going 5-5 for 31 yards. With 17 seconds to play and a timeout to burn, Berlin handed off to Clinton Portis from the 5-yard line, and the legendary Miami running back did the rest, breaking a tackle at the 2 and extending the ball over the line for a game-winning touchdown. The Hurricanes are 5-0 and into the championship round, where they will have to take down another Alabama team – the 2012 version – in a best-of-three series.

Heisman Watchlist Feature: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

Next up on our Heisman Watchlist Feature is the type of player that has been the latest craze when it comes to winners of this award – transfer quarterbacks. Three straight transfers have won the Heisman, and each of the top three in the final Heisman voting last season was a transfer quarterback. So, it’s natural to include one of the biggest transfers from this past offseason  on our Heisman Watchlist, so today, we are featuring Jamie Newman of the Georiga Bulldogs. Newman dominated the ACC with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons last season, and he will look to replace Jake Fromm – an early departure and 5th-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. To do so, he first has to fend off fellow transfer – J.T. Daniels of USC – but Newman is considered the early favorite in that quarterback battle. 

Newman may immediately become the best quarterback in the SEC due to his dual-threat abilities. He threw for 2,868 yards last season, and he ran for an additional 574. He scored six times on the ground and found the end zone 26 times through the air. Newman led the Demon Deacons to a 5-0 start before fading to 7-4 and a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Michigan State. Newman was very good during that 5-0 stretch, posting a 21-27 effort against Rice, tossing 312 yards and three touchdowns to no picks in the 41-21 victory. He also ran for 78 yards and 2 TDs against UNC and churned out 102 rushing yards versus BC one game later. 

The second half of his season was inconsistent, but Newman continued to flash his talent on several occasions. Against North Carolina State, coming off Wake’s first loss of the year, Newman rallied the Demon Deacons to victory with a mistake-free 287-yard, 3 TD performance. His 94.8 QB rating that day was the highest of the season for Newman. Three weeks later, facing Duke on Wake Forest’s senior day, Newman broke off 144 rushing yards and a touchdown, to go with 284 yards and a TD through the air. Possibly his most complete effort of the season, Newman helped Wake snap a two-game skid and win their senior day clash. 

Playing in the SEC for the first time, Newman should have no issues with gaining opportunities for Heisman moments. As the SEC schedule currently sits, the transfer signal-caller is slated to be truly thrown into the fire, as Georgia faces Alabama in the SEC opener. He’ll also have a chance for a big game against Florida, a clash which may decide the SEC East. Big games in either of those contests could prove crucial in a Heisman push for Newman. 

However, playing in the SEC East makes things tricky as well for Newman. For one, he’s in a situation in which anything short of a division title will be considered a disappointment in the eyes of Heisman voters. He faces some tricky games, including a clash with the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky had one of the best pass defenses in the country last year and returns a lot of production. They are not likely to be a division contender, but they could definitely push Georgia to the limit. The Bulldogs have suffered surprising losses before (What’s up South Carolina), and Newman will absolutely need to avoid that and keep his numbers looking appealing to voters at the end of the season.

Thomas And Lapoint Preview The SEC: Top Defenses, DPOY Picks

To finish up our SEC season preview, lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Which teams will bring the most fearsome defenses into 2020, and which players will spend all season terrorizing opposing offenses? Let’s take a look at the picks. Also check out the top offenses as well as the power rankings and predictions portion of our SEC preview. 

Top Defenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Georgia
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama

Nathaniel Lapoint

  1. Georgia
  2. Auburn
  3. Kentucky

There’s a fair amount of disagreement in our rankings of the top defenses. We both have Georgia atop the rankings, but beyond that, there are no similarities. I’m riding Derek Stingley’s talent as a major factor in this decision, taking LSU as the second best defense in the conference, as Georgia’s always-strong defense is a clear choice for #1. Alabama is a bit of a riskier pick, having lost a majority of their game-changing talent, with three of their four players who recorded multiple interceptions in 2020 off to the NFL, as well as their top two leaders in sacks. However, the Tide always have a strong line and seemingly just reload defensively every season, so I put Alabama third. 

In Lapoint’s list, he goes with Georgia at #1, which is certainly a safe pick given their history, returning production, and star power in Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice, and others. After that, he goes with a bit of a darkhorse in the Auburn defense. Many consider Auburn a top-5 unit, although I’m not even that high on the Tigers, but Lapoint is elevating Gus Malzahn’s unit to the second slot of his rankings, after Auburn made defensive coordinator Kevin Steele the highest paid assistant coach with 2.5 million dollars per year. And, sliding in third, Lapoint goes with his trusty Wildcats. He’s remained high on Kentucky throughout the preview process, and he doesn’t waver in going with a Kentucky defense that has been projected anywhere from a top-three unit in the SEC to not even a top-5 defense. Kentucky is really a complete unknown this year, but Lapoint goes with the SEC East squad as his third-best defense in the conference. 

Top Defensive Players

Defensive Player Of The Year

Thomas: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

Lapoint: Dylan Moss, LB, Alabama 

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
Derek Stingley, CB, LSUDylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Richard LeCounte, S, GeorgiaDerek Stingley, CB, LSU
Shane Lee, LB, AlabamaRichard LeCounte, S, Georgia
Israel Mukuamu, CB, South CarolinaNick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Dylan Moses, LB, AlabamaMonty Rice, LB, Georgia

The top three players in our defensive rankings are almost the exact same – with both of us being high on LSU cornerback Derek Stingley and Georgia safety Richard LeCounte. We also each rank an Alabama linebacker in our top three – I went with rising sophomore Shane Lee while Lapoint opted for Dylan Moses, who missed his junior season due to injury. Moses was Lapoint’s pick for SEC defensive Player of the Year, whereas Stingley topped my rankings. If Moses returns to his pre-injury form, then he does become an instant contender for the DPOY award, as he recorded 86 tackles – 10 for loss – and 3.5 sacks two years ago.

After those top three, I opted for more secondary talent, going with Israel Mukuamu from South Carolina before rounding my list out with Moses. I neglected to add a popular pick in Nick Bolton of Missouri, who notched 107 tackles and broke up 8 passes while serving as the rock of a quietly impressive Missouri defense. Lapoint slots Bolton fourth, and polishes off his rankings with Monty Rice, the Georgia linebacker who recorded 89 tackles and 14 QB pressures in 2019.

Thomas and Lapoint Preview The SEC: Top Offensive, OPOY Predictions

It used to be defenses win championships…but after LSU went through and torched everyone last year with their world-beating offense, can we say that with any degree of confidence? As college football evolves towards the spread offense, leading to higher-scoring games, impact offensive players can make a huge difference. Who are the best offensive teams and players gracing the SEC with their presence in 2020? Let’s take a look at what lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint think on the subject. Check out our Power Rankings and Season Predictions, as well as our Top Defenses preview pieces.

Top Team Offenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida

Nathaniel Lapoint

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. LSU

We agree on Alabama being the top offense in 2020. That should be almost a no-brainer. They have possibly the best running back in the country, two elite returning receivers leading a deep depth chart at the position, and a QB battle that will see either a strong returning senior QB or 5-star freshman win the job. Maintaining unity through that QB battle may be the biggest problem this offense faces.
After Alabama, we differ significantly in our predictions. I remain high on the Aggies and what Kellen Mond and Co. will bring to the table. I also think Kyle Trask is the best quarterback in the conference entering the 2020 season. He was extremely impressive when jumping into the role in the middle of last season, and with an offseason to prepare, I think he will lead Florida’s offense to big things in 2020. Meanwhile, Lapoint goes with Georgia and LSU to round out his top-three. They are high-risk, high-reward selections, no doubt about that. Georgia must reload at running back and navigate a QB battle between two transfers and then help one of those transfers adjust quickly to their system. However, there’s no doubting the talent in both Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels, so if the transition goes well, and Georgia gets production out of the backfield, they could absolutely be a lethal offense in 2020.
Lapoint also puts trust in Myles Brennan and the LSU Tigers. The argument this offseason is whether LSU was a one-hit wonder that benefited from Joe Burrow, or whether Joe Burrow’s legendary season was a cherry-on-top of a revitalized offense. I’m high on LSU and think they’ll be near the top of the SEC, but Lapoint is confident enough in Brennan taking the reins to slot the Tigers into the third spot of his top offenses. Smoking hot take coming in here from Nathaniel Lapoint. 

Top Offensive Players

Offensive Player of the Year

Thomas: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Lapoint: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
Najee Harris, RB, AlabamaMac Jones, QB, Alabama
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSUJa’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Kyle Trask, QB, FloridaNajee Harris, RB, Alabama
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&MBo Nix, QB, Auburn
John Rhys Plumlee, QB, Ole MissKylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State 

Najee Harris and Ja’Marr Chase were consensus top-three SEC offensive players in our rankings here. Harris was my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, while Lapoint stayed with the Tide, but gave the nod to Mac Jones, sliding Harris to #3. My uncertainty regarding the QB battle in Tuscaloosa prevented me from including Jones in my top 5, but there’s no doubting the talent of the signal-caller. Chase is likely the best receiver in the country and maybe a top-10 player in the country. A darkhorse Heisman contender, Chase comes in at #2 in both sets of rankings. Kyle Trask, who I’m very high on entering the 2020 season, slotted in at #3 in my rankings. 

Bo Nix and Kellen Mond both make appearances on the list, with Nix just missing my list, while Plumlee, the intriguing dual-threat QB from Ole Miss, and Kylin Hill, who should challenge Harris as the top running back in the SEC round out our respective lists. 

Thomas and Lapoint Preview the SEC: Power Rankings, Predictions, Coach of the Year

Even with the delayed start to the season, college football is – hopefully – creeping closer. To start our preview of the 2020 season, we’re taking a look at the SEC. Lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint previewed the conference. You can find our power rankings and predictions below. Check out our Top Offensive Players and Teams and Top Defensive Players and Teams in the SEC as well. 

Power Rankings

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
AlabamaAlabama
LSUGeorgia
Texas A&MAuburn
GeorgiaLSU
FloridaKentucky
AuburnFlorida
Ole MissTexas A&M
South CarolinaMississippi State
TennesseeOle Miss
Mississippi StateTennessee
ArkansasSouth Carolina
KentuckyArkansas
MissouriMissouri
VanderbiltVanderbilt

Where We Agree

Alabama is the team to beat. Ranked at the top of both sets of our power rankings, we believe the Crimson Tide will be out for blood in 2020. We also slotted Missouri and Vanderbilt, in that order, in the bottom of our rankings, with neither of us seeing much potential for the Tigers or Commodores this coming season. 

Where We Disagree

While we have a lot of agreement regarding the middle portion of the SEC power rankings, two major teams cause some differences – Kentucky and Texas A&M. In my season preview of the Wildcats, I was pretty low on Kentucky, and I may be underestimating the effect of Terry Wilson’s return and how much their defense can compensate for a lackluster offense. I remain low on Kentucky here, slotting the Wildcats 12th overall and 5th in the SEC East. On the flip side, Lapoint has Kentucky in his top 5, ranked as the 2nd best team in the SEC East over Florida, who’s considered a Playoff darkhorse entering 2020. This glaring 7-spot difference in our placement of Kentucky was easily the biggest difference in our rankings. 

Meanwhile, the placement of the Aggies was also a cause for disagreement. I remain high on the Aggies, putting Texas A&M third in my SEC power rankings, while Lapoint has the Aggies sliding to 7th. I don’t think A&M pulls out a conference championship, but I believe that Mond does some big things in his senior year, and Texas A&M wins a couple of big games for once. Lapoint is fully off the Aggies’ hype wagon, however, squaring them away directly in the middle of his power rankings. Who has the more accurate power rankings may come down to the performance of these two teams. 

SEC Championship Predictions

Thomas: Alabama over Georgia

Lapoint: Alabama over Georgia

We are in complete agreement on our championship pick. Alabama has not gone back-to-back years without a division title since 2010-2011…and they won the national championship in 2011 anyways. With Mac Jones – or possibly 5-star recruit Bryce Young – under center, as well as Najee Harris in the backfield and Jaylen Waddle and Devontae Smith leading the receiver corps, it seems like a no-brainer to pick the Crimson Tide in the West. In the East, Georgia will remain the favorite. We disagree on the 2nd best team (Florida vs. Kentucky), and that alone shows that there may not be a clear favorite to disrupt Kirby Smart’s run atop the division. Two games are yet to be announced to the SEC schedule, which could factor into this decision, but as of now, give us Georgia in the title game, where they lose to Bama once more. 

Coach of the Year Predictions

Thomas: Nick Saban, Alabama
Lapoint: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Stoops is most definitely a popular pick for Coach of the Year, and Lapoint rides his Kentucky train into the award predictions. If Stoops does indeed have this Kentucky team contending for the SEC East title, then he should be a no-brainer for the award. Stoops also won the award in 2018.

I went with a pick that may be mainstream and boring in Nick Saban. Saban has not won the Coach of the Year award since 2016, but I believe if he guides Alabama to the title this year, he should be heavily considered. Winning the gauntlet that is the SEC West is always impressive, and doing so with a 10-game schedule will be even more impressive. Saban is also faced with a QB battle to navigate, as well as a defense that lost their top three leaders in interceptions and their top two pass rushers. If he can reload that defense on the fly against a division of lethal offenses, then Saban should absolutely earn this award.

CFB Greatest Of All Time Tournament – Round 5 and 6: 2014 National Championship Rematch?

We’re into Round 5 and 6 of our Greatest of all time College Football simulation, and by the end of this article, we will be down to our final six teams. A few teams will play twice in this piece, as we narrow it down to the final three teams from each bracket. As a reminder of where we stand currently: 2012 Alabama (Bracket A) and 2001 Miami (Bracket B) are the only remaining undefeated teams and must be defeated twice in the bracket championship. 2019 LSU and 2009 Alabama fell victim to each of those teams respectively and have earned their spot in the final six participants. Four teams in each bracket are left to duke it out for the final two entries into the seventh round. In Bracket A, 2018 Clemson, 2008 Florida, 2008 Oklahoma, and 2000 Miami fight for survival. On the other side of things, 2013 Florida State, 2003 LSU, 2014 Ohio State, and 2014 Oregon will clash for that sixth and final spot. Let’s get into it. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket

6. 2008 Florida vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 37 Florida 27
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers are moving on, as Travis Etienne ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, while Lawrence tossed a pair of scores on 24-36 passing and 293 yards. Clemson opened up a touchdown lead at halftime and never trailed, as Tim Tebow and his 2008 Gators could not seal the deal against Dabo Swinney’s 15-0 championship team. 

13. 2000 Miami vs. 9. 2008 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 45 Miami 27
Miami’s hopes now lie in their unbeaten ‘01 squad, after the 2008 Sooners torched the Hurricanes through the air and on the ground, dominating start to finish in a 45-27 victory. Chris Brown ran for 104 yards on 21 carries while finding the end zone twice. Bradford threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, as Oklahoma led by double digits by the end of the first quarter and never let Miami come within a touchdown. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

2018 Clemson vs. 2008 Oklahoma
Clemson 52 Oklahoma 31
This one was never close from the start. Trevor Lawrence threw two first half touchdowns to open up a 14-point halftime lead, while Travis Etienne racked up 186 yard and three touchdowns on just 20 carries, as 2018 Clemson cruised to a 52-31 victory, moving on to the final three in Bracket A and earning a much anticipated clash with 2019 LSU. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 5

7. 2003 LSU vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Florida State 41 LSU 38 OT
In a game largely dominated by running backs, Florida State’s Jameis Winston came in clutch down the stretch, rescuing the Seminoles from a 7-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Karlos Williams ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns to keep Florida State in it, and Winston threw for 325 yards – coming up with 132 in the fourth quarter and a pair of touchdown passes to force overtime. There, FSU got the ball second after an LSU field goal. Williams ran for eight yards, Winston scrambled for one, and on 3rd and short, Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 16-yard, game-winning touchdown to secure the victory in an instant classic.

12. 2014 Oregon vs. 9. Ohio State
Ohio State 54 Oregon 27
In a rematch of the 2014 national championship, Ohio State beat down Oregon once more, doubling up the ducks on the strength of an efficient performance from J.T. Barrett and a fearsome rushing attack. Ezekiel Elliot ran 25 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns, Barrett went 20 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for another 293 yards and a score. The Buckeyes only led 23-20 at halftime, but they absolutely dominated the Ducks in the final two quarters to seal the deal. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 9. 2014 Ohio State
Florida State 37 Ohio State 34 2OT
In a clash of the final BCS champion and the first ever CFP champion, the 2013 BCS-winning Florida State Seminoles won their second straight overtime battle over the Buckeyes. A blocked punt and pick-6 were major factors in FSU engineering another comeback. While Jameis Winston did throw for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, it was Lamarcus Joyne’s interception return for a touchdown that tied the game at 28 points apiece with 5:54 to play in the game. After trading off field goals in overtime, Florida State got the ball down three, needing a touchdown to win. Winston scrambled right for 7 yards and then hit Devonta Freeman for a 9-yard gain and a first down. There, the redshirt freshman Heisman winner once again found Kelvin Benjamin open in the end zone, firing a 9-yard dart for a game-sealing touchdown. 

Round 7 and 8 Schedule

Bracket A
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson

Winner vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Bracket B
3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State

Winner vs. 1. 2001 Miami

SEC Previews: Alabama Crimson Tide

The last time Alabama went two consecutive seasons without winning th SEC West was 2010-2011. It’s a period of remarkable consistency from the Tide in the country’s best division, so to say this quickly and efficiently – Alabama is my early-season pick to win the SEC once more. They’ve got a QB battle between Mac Jones and Bryce Young, and regardless of who wins, they could have a Heisman contender and one of the best signal-callers in the conference. They’ve got possibly the best running back in the country in Najee Harris, and they’ve reloaded at wide receiver again, all while bringing along their usual fantastic defense. Let’s delve into this Alabama team. 

Top Returners: Najee Harris, Shane Lee

Harris is a clear choice here, after a 20-touchdown season that saw him operate as the lead back in Nick Saban’s offense, piling up 1224 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry, rushing for 13 scores. He was an impact contributor in the passing game, collecting 27 passes for 304 yards and 7 more touchdowns, leading all non-QBs with his twenty TDs. He will be a massive part of this Alabama offense once more in 2020. 

As for defense, I’m going with Shane Lee as the top returning player on this defense. In his true freshman season, Lee recorded 86 tackles, 6.5 for loss, to go with 4.5 sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. After posting a workout video, Lee seems to be committed to the process of dropping weight and adding some speed, one of the biggest criticisms he received despite his outstanding production. If his freshman year was Lee not in prime physical form…nobody in the SEC wants to see him fully unleashed. 

Biggest Concerns: Replacing their elite secondary

The Alabama secondary was hit with some tough-to-swallow losses, with top talents Xavier McKinney, Trevon Diggs, and Jared Mayden all departing for the NFL. That trio had 11 of Alabama’s 18 interceptions in 2019, so replacing that production and lockdown ability in their secondary will be absolutely crucial. A pass rush can only do so much when receivers are open, so getting some players to step up and be impact formers at defensive back is a big talking point for the Crimson Tide. 

X-Factors: Patrick Surtain II

One of the aforementioned players that will need to step up in 2020, Surtain is the only Alabama returner who had more than one interception, after notching a pair of picks in 2019. A former consensus five-star prospect, Surtain attained honorable mention All-American honors last year, but he will need to be the leader of the Crimson Tide secondary this season. To do that, Surtain must rise from an above-average contributor on a deep defense to an instant game changer for a defense that lost a lot of talent. 

SEC Record Prediction: 7-1

I’ve hinted at this in my prior team previews of LSU and Texas A&M, but I see the Tide, Tigers, and Aggies locked in a 3-way battle for SEC supremacy. I think Alabama will fall at LSU at Death Valley, but they’ll notch the victory over the Aggies at home, opening the door for them to claim the regular season division title when Texas A&M beats LSU on the season’s final weekend. All in on the Tide in 2020.