It's never too early to throw out some big-time college football predictions! The 2019 season may have just ended Monday night, but this is a year-round game. As we pivot toward the end of the recruiting cycle and the dawn of spring practices, let's take an early look at the top 10 teams in college football heading into the 2020 season.
10. Notre Dame
Notre Dame will be authentically dominant one of these years right? Right? It always seems to be the same old story for Brian Kelly's Irish, who have made a habit of getting exposed when the lights are shining the brightest.
Auburn didn't finish off the year as they had hoped, but true freshman Bo Nix was impressive in his first year under center for the Tigers. He faced arguably the hardest schedule in the country, so everything is looking up from this point forward. Throw in a consistently staunch defense and some key returning studs on offense, and Auburn could find themselves in the SEC title discussion.
The loss of Justin Herbert will be felt, but Oregon is always in contention in a wide open Pac-12 race. Mario Cristobal's Ducks will be ready, especially now that Utah is losing top players and USC continues to struggle.
If Alabama didn't beat Michigan, the Tide were not making this list at all. Even then, will Nick Saban be able to deal with the loss of Tua Tagovailoa over a full season? Fortunately, a surprising number of key contributors, like DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, resisted the allure of the draft and decided to come back.
6. Penn State
Penn State is a powerful program again, but they're missing that special something to put them over the top. Losses to Minnesota and Ohio State derailed a possible Playoff campaign in 2019 -- will another key loss doom them again? This is a top-10 team, just not a CFP one.
Yes, the loss of Matt Rhule is huge, but this team will still be contention next year, and will relish the opportunity to take another crack at Oklahoma after blowing leads against them two different times in 2019.
The loss of Jake Fromm, DeAndre Swift and some offensive lineman won't help, but Kirby Smart once again notched one of the best recruiting classes in the country, so there's little doubt the Bulldogs will be back and out for blood in 2020.
The loss of Joe Burrow to the NFL will be a big one, and extremely tough to replace. But LSU still has Coach O, and the culture he has built to surround the tremendous talent of this roster will challenge the SEC's best for years to come.
2. Ohio State
Yes, Ohio State will lose some key players in Chase Young and JK Dobbins, but they have yet to face a significant challenge for the Big Ten title these last few years -- and that doesn't appear due for a change for 2020. The returns of Justin Fields and Chris Olave will be a boost for a Buckeye team that will feel it has unfinished business after its rough CFP exit.
Before you get up in arms about the ACC and how the level of competition Clemson faces is a joke, just remember that the Tigers were disrespected and overlooked (somehow) all season, yet still made the championship game. Again. Trevor Lawrence will return with a vengeance after his first collegiate loss in 26 games, and this team will be back in the title game next year barring something truly strange.