With the 2019 college football season is behind us, the attention now slowly shifts to the 2020 campaign. We already know that LSU will have a lot of work to do to overcome their losses while the Clemson Tigers are the team to beat. Let’s take a quick tour around the conferences and see who’s the early favorite to win each:
The ACC was always going to be Clemson’s conference in 2019 and it is very hard to say that anything will be different in 2020. The news that running back Travis Etienne will come back for one more season means that Clemson will get another year with Etienne and Trevor Lawrence in the same backfield. That will easily be the best running back-quarterback combination in the ACC – if not the entire nation. The Clemson offense also has a strong offensive line and elite wide receivers and the unit – as a whole – will have very few weaknesses.
The defense was very good throughout the 2019 season and should be similarly strong in 2020. Only LSU and Joe Burrow – one of the great offenses of all time led by one of the great college football quarterbacks of all time – outplayed Clemson’s defense. They were able to handle everyone else.
We’re not exactly sure if Clemson will win another National Championship but there’s surely nobody that’s going to beat them to the ACC Championship.
One shrewd move that the Ducks already made was hiring Joe Moorhead as the offensive coordinator for head coach Mario Cristobal. Moorhead was the guy who led Penn State’s offense to the Rose Bowl and a Big Ten championship, plus a Fiesta Bowl victory. He should enable Oregon to do very well on offense in 2020, even without quarterback Justin Herbert, who is heading to the NFL Draft. Utah and USC might provide competition in the Pac-12 South Division but if Utah or USC plays Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Ducks’ emphatic win over Utah last season should convince a lot of people that they would be much more likely to win the league championship.
Big Ten: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten until proven otherwise. They have won the conference championship three years in a row and will have Justin Fields coming back in 2020, which should enable the Buckeyes to retain the best offense in the Big Ten. It will be very hard for anyone to stop them.
Penn State did the best job of anyone in the Big Ten of containing and slowing down Ohio State’s offense this past season, and yet Ohio State still scored 28 points. Fields fumbled at the 1-yard line and Ohio State left a lot of points on the field.
If Ohio State doesn’t commit a large number of turnovers, it should easily be able to handle Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the other foremost contenders in the Big Ten in 2020.
The Crimson Tide will have to go to LSU, but LSU won’t have Joe Burrow, the player who clearly made all the difference for the Tigers this past season. Alabama is in a better position to win the SEC than LSU, which lost so many of its best and most important players (not just Burrow alone) to the NFL Draft. LSU also lost passing game coordinator Joe Brady to the NFL and the Carolina Panthers.
Alabama’s foremost challenge might come from Georgia in the SEC Championship Game or possibly Florida if quarterback Kyle Trask can take that next step. However, Georgia’s offense was average last season. Alabama should be able to outscore Georgia if the two teams meet next season.
Big 12: Oklahoma
The Sooners have won five straight Big 12 championships and at this point, it’s not wise to bet against them. There is some mild competition from other teams but nobody that really looks ready to take over.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule left for the NFL and the Carolina Panthers while the Texas Longhorns continue to show that they’re simply not on the same level yet. Beyond that, Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State are all a cut below. This is Oklahoma’s conference to lose.