USA TODAY Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon breaks down the path to Alabama’s dynamic national championship run.
The book has closed on the memorable 2020 season that saw highs and lows along with plenty of uncertainty.
Which brings us to what lies ahead in 2021 as the start of the season is less than eight months away.
Alabama and Clemson have each made six appearances in the seven seasons of the College Football Playoff. Ohio State and Oklahoma have made four. It won’t be surprising to see this quartet again contending, though the Sooners are the only team returning significant experience at quarterback with Spencer Rattler back for his second season as the starter. The Tigers don’t have a complete unknown as D.J. Uiagalelei led the team for two games when Trevor Lawrence was out.
The other usual playoff suspects should be in the mix with Georgia, Notre Dame and Florida benefiting from years of successful recruiting. There are also some non-traditional contenders inside the top 10.
What makes guessing what happens in the upcoming season so difficult is the unexpected results of NFL draft decisions, an expected and unprecedented amount of players in the transfer portal and uncertainty about what the health situation will be in the fall.
But here goes nothing. An early look at who will be the best teams next season:
Losing three of the top five finishers in the Heisman Trophy voting would send some programs into rebuilding mode. The Crimson Tide will simply reload. Bryce Young, one of the top recruits in the 2020 class, is expected to replace quarterback Mac Jones. There’s sure to be growing pains, but there are enough pieces behind him with John Metchie III poised to be another in the line of elite wide receivers. The defense should again be solid with Christian Harris and Malachi Moore leading the way. If there is something to trip Alabama, it is a road schedule that includes Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn.
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This might finally be the year to end the national title drought. JT Daniels gives the Bulldogs some stability at quarterback where most of the SEC’s top teams have inexperience. The receiving corps, led by George Pickens, has the makings of an excellent group and can bring balance to a run-dominated offense that returns elite ball carriers. Georgia again will have one of the better defenses in the country, helped by the return of defensive lineman Jordan Davis.