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National Champion Top Five Future Picks Preview Article

VirginiaCavs

Man Crush on Kyle Guy
College Football National Champion Future Picks


Here are my favorite picks to win the 2020-2021 national championship. I rank them from fifth-favorite to favorite and provide the current odds.


5. Penn State

Odds: +2500 to Win the National Championship at BetOnline



Penn State owns the personnel to achieve, for a second consecutive year, the nation’s best run defense in terms of opposing YPC.

PJ Mustipher, who broke out with 4.5 tackles for loss, returns alongside Antonio Shelton in the interior.

At defensive end, the high-IQ and speedy Shaka Toney opted against the NFL Draft to build on his career-best season in tackles for loss and sacks.

The linebacking corps is extremely talented and it’s headed by Micah Parsons, who accrued 109 sacks, five sacks, and four forced fumbles last season.

With an unproven cast of players complementing veteran All-Big Ten Honorable Mention at cornerback, Tariq Castro-Fields, the way to beat Penn State will arguably be through the air.

Penn State’s secondary still represents a step-up in quality from what Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker has had to navigate in the ACC with the help of a disappointing pass-catching crew.

Iowa will have growing pains at quarterback as it tries to replace departed three-year starter Nate Stanley. Plus Iowa, is not the same outside of Kinnick Stadium.

Michigan’s Dylan McCaffrey has been inefficient, barely completing over half his passes in his career.

Plus, Michigan’s pass protection will suffer with four offensive linemen having departed.

So, Iowa and Michigan have the quality at wide receiver to challenge Penn State’s secondary, but only at wide receiver.

James Franklin has also figured out how to win on the road — Penn State won at Iowa last year.

I think Ohio State will be the only team to overwhelm the Nittany Lion secondary.

So let’s grant that Ohio State wins.

Meanwhile, Penn State, with its wealth at running back and returners at offensive line, will exploit the holes in Iowa’s defensive line, which will miss its top two defensive tackles, as well as Michigan’s continued weakness in the interior.

With its respectable schedule, If Penn State only loses one game, it will make the playoffs.

At these amazing odds, that’s all we can really ask for because, if nothing else, we could hedge.

Still, Penn State has the returning experience on offense — I didn’t mention its balance with Sean Clifford returning at quarterback and its pass-catching weapons — and the defensive solidity to be a true title contender.


4. Florida

Odds: +1200 to Win the National Championship at BetOnline



Essentially, Florida lived and died with its passing attack.

It benefitted from having several high-quality receivers, from starting a stronger quarterback in the efficient Kyle Trask, and from having a very creative play-caller in Dan Mullen.

Trask completed 66.9 percent of his passes and 8.3 YPA in an offense that attempted the 12th-highest rate of passes.

One unique element was his comfort with a variety of different receivers.

So anybody who tries to devalue Florida for the number of receivers that it lost in the offseason is deceptively trying to sell Florida short.

Most notably, Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney return. Grimes was Florida’s third-leading receiver. Toney is literally a potential touchdown whenever he touches the ball.

Florida distinguishes itself from its toughest competition — namely Georgia and LSU — with its offensive aptitude.

The Gators play LSU at home, which will take a drastic step back without Heisman winner Joe Burrow and offensive magician Joe Brady.

They also have the offense that Georgia lacks without the efficient Gator-killer Jake Fromm, without a clear feature back, and with further regression at wide receiver.

Ranking 12th in opposing yards per game last year, Florida’s defense is still top-caliber.

Last year, the Gators had to endure plaguing injuries to its top pass-rushers, which has allowed other guys to step up.

So look out for Zachary Carter, who produced four sacks in October and November combined.

It also can’t be too hard to produce sacks with Todd Grantham at defensive coordinator.

Grantham, who flirted with the NFL but decided to return to Gainesville, is known for his creativity in dialing up pressure.

All-SEC cornerback Marco Wilson returns to lead the secondary.

With superb passing and play-calling on offense and an all-around stable defense, Florida can win it all.


3. Ohio State

Odds: +350 to Win the National Championship at BetOnline



Having averaged over 40 points per game in all three years since Ryan Day joined Ohio State in 2017, the Buckeyes have become a regular juggernaut on offense.

2020 will be no different with 2019 Heisman candidate Justin Fields returning at quarterback.

Fields produced an insane 41 touchdowns to three interceptions.

He’ll be able to produce similar numbers with leading receiver Chris Olave, among others like Garrett Wilson, returning.

The running back position wasn’t luxuriously occupied until former Oklahoma Sooner Trey Sermon joined the team as a graduate transfer.

Sermon averaged over six YPC as a Sooner and he’ll eventually be joined by Master Teague, who averaged 5.8 YPC as JK Dobbins’ primary backup last season.

Thanks to strong recruiting, Ohio State’s offensive line remains stacked enough to repeat, at worst, as a mere finalist for the Joe Moore Award.

While Ohio State’s insane offense separates it from Penn State and Florida, its question marks on defense place it behind second and first place on my list.

We have to qualify „question marks.“ Plenty of experienced personnel — Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Tyler Friday, Haskell Garrett and the super strong Tommy Togiai to name some — will step up on the defensive line.

While Chase Young is irreplaceable, Zach Harrison is a former five-star recruit and the fourth-highest recruit in the 2019 class. He promises to become a big name.

Third-year starters Tuf Borland and Pete Werner return to a greatly improved linebacking crew alongside senior Baron Browning.

It’s the secondary that will be most problematic beyond Shaun Wade. Wade, crucially, opted to return after passing on the NFL.

This is not a secondary that Michigan with its problems at quarterback and pass protection will come close to exploiting enough.

Nor does Penn State possess the star-power to outscore Ohio State, nor does Oregon, which has to replace Justin Herbert at quarterback.


2. Alabama

Odds: +550 to Win the National Championship at BetOnline


Continuity has been a rarity for head coach Nick Saban. So it’s both unique and special that Steve Sarkisian returns as offensive coordinator.

Sarkisian deserves credit for Alabama achieving the second-ranked scoring offense last season. It averaged 47.2 PPG.

While Tua is gone, his proneness to injury allowed Mac Jones to gain invaluable experience.

Jones completed 68.8 percent of his passes, accumulated 1,503 yards on 10.7 YPA, 14 touchdowns to three interceptions, and a 186.8 passer rating.

If former five-star recruit Bryce Young beats out Jones for the starting job, that would truly say a lot about Young’s ability.

Either quarterback will benefit from abundant wealth returning at wide receiver: DeVonta Smith, who led the team with 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns, opted against the NFL Draft. Jaylen Waddle will return to complement him.

Waddle, also a prolific returner, is dangerous whenever he gets the ball. The agility that underlies his ability to make men miss likewise formulates the driving force behind his ability to gain quick separation from defensive backs.

DeVonta Smith is also apt in the short passing-game. He still posses the deep-play and end-zone ability that enabled him to accumulate 14 touchdowns and average 18.5 YPC.

At running back, Najee Harris, who led the team with 5.9 YPC on 206 rush attempts, returns to punish defenders. Four offensive linemen return to block for him.

Last year, Alabama suffered absurd injury-related problems. Veterans had to sit on the sideline while young players tried to figure things out against an other-worldly LSU offense and other great minds.

Veteran linebacker Dylan Moses, a preseason All-American, returns along with veteran Josh McMillon, and a number of former high-ranking recruits who will benefit from the added experience that they gained last year.

With sundry experienced returners at the defensive line providing great depth with greater experience and three five-star true freshmen promising to make a punctual impact, this front seven will be top-notch.

I picked Alabama over Ohio State for three main reasons:

Alabama will have a stronger rush attack with Najee Harris and a clearly superior front seven that would be difference-making in a meeting between the two teams.

The Tide have a vaguely similar situation in the secondary, but won’t face the same quality of pass attacks in the SEC as Ohio State will in the Big Ten.


1. Clemson

Odds: +275 Odds to Win the National Championship at BetOnline


Clemson is so appealing because it has a massively appealing schedule in the soft ACC, which is what separates it from Alabama.

Its one noteworthy game is at Notre Dame. I already wrote about why I like Clemson to win that game by multiple scores: Game of the Year Five-Pick Preview Article

Clemson returns a viable Heisman candidate in Trevor Lawrence alongside last year’s second-and third-leading receivers.

After a sleepy start in September, Lawrence accumulated 28 touchdowns to three interceptions. Justyn Ross will lead the team in receptions again while Amari Rodgers flexes his big-play ability.

Crucially, Travis Etienne returns as arguably the nation’s top running back. He averaged 7.8 YPC and accumulated 19 rushing touchdowns last year.

One broadly descriptive thing that distinguishes Etienne is his physical skill set. He’ll show a strong motor in breaking through tacklers and he’ll flash the acceleration and speed to cement a long gain.

While Clemson’s offensive line will be relatively inexperienced, the Tigers still flash former high-level recruits that will have the time to keep developing against unthreatening competition.

After all, many of those guys — like Will Putnam in Clemson’s 300-yard rushing effort against Boston College — already have displayed success.

Significant experience will bolster all five positions, especially at left tackle with former five-star recruit Jackson Carman.

On defense, Clemson returns a top-caliber defensive line that will help ensure another top-12 finish in opposing YPC. 12 defensive linemen return, most notably All-ACC selection Nyles Pinckney.

James Skalski. Clemson’s second-leading tackler last season, returns to head an experienced linebacking corps.

All-ACC corner Derion Kendrick returns for his second year at the position while a bevy of talents will push to line up alongside him.

Arguably the nation’s top defensive coordinator in Brent Venables oversees the bunch.
 
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VirginiaCavs

Man Crush on Kyle Guy
I think we have a lot to discuss already! I imagine that national champion futures will be revisited as the Summer progresses...hopefully I would get the assignment again.
 

B.A.R.

CTG Partner
Staff member
Value wise, aside from the 3 football factories... Already have invested on Florida and at right number will be on PSU as well.
 

twinkie13

Over 1 Trillion Questions Served
Value wise, aside from the 3 football factories... Already have invested on Florida and at right number will be on PSU as well.
Don’t forget that lil school that plods along and wins the whole thing every now and again.
 

B.A.R.

CTG Partner
Staff member
In all honesty, a lot of value with LSU... Not having a spring practice hurts though to get a feel for them, for me. They have the best non QB offensive player in country ... That's for sure.
 

twinkie13

Over 1 Trillion Questions Served
In all honesty, a lot of value with LSU... Not having a spring practice hurts though to get a feel for them, for me. They have the best non QB offensive player in country ... That's for sure.
No doubt and you are right on practices
Like 1000 percent
 
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