5 college football predictions for 2021
Alabama and Ohio State are still yet to meet for the College Football Playoff National Championship, but it's never too early to look ahead and predict what we'll see in 2021.
Here's what we expect next season.
Georgia will field the SEC's best offense
Georgia's offense was transformed once JT Daniels entered the starting lineup this season, and that will continue with him under center for a full campaign in 2021. The USC transfer took over as the team's starting passer following the Bulldogs' loss to Florida, and he changed the entire look of Georgia's attack.
Offense with Daniels: 37 points, 307 passing yards per game
Offense without Daniels: 28 points, 209 passing yards per game
A wealth of talent will be around Daniels, especially if running backs James Cook and Zamir White don't enter the NFL draft. Star wideout George Pickens leads a talented group of pass-catchers that will also be back in Athens. Pickens surged at the end of the season with Daniels starting, averaging 5.5 catches, 93 yards, and one touchdown per game.
The SEC's top three offensive units this past season - Alabama, Florida, and Ole Miss - all suffered major personnel losses, including three of the four Heisman finalists departing. That leaves the door open for Georgia.
Texas wins the Big 12
It's been a joke for years that "Texas is back," but that will come true now with Steve Sarkisian at the helm in 2021.
The former Washington and USC head coach comes to the Longhorns to replace Tom Herman after a brilliant spell as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Sarkisian's Crimson Tide offense averaged an absurd 47.5 points per contest over the past two seasons, with star quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones leading the way.
He inherits a unit that scored over 40 points per contest in 2020, but the Longhorns will lose talented signal-caller Sam Ehlinger to the NFL. While that will be a blow, sophomore Casey Thompson's 170-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Alamo Bowl showed he's plenty capable of replacing Ehlinger. Knocking Oklahoma off its perch as Big 12 champions will require video-game-like numbers, and Sarkisian is the coach needed to accomplish that for Texas.
Clemson doesn't make the College Football Playoff
After their performance versus Ohio State, some may argue Clemson didn't actually show up to this year's College Football Playoff.
The Tigers have been a staple in the semis since the format began, only missing out in 2014-15. There's certainly star potential in prized freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, but he's not Trevor Lawrence. Uiagalelei also won't get the support of Travis Etienne, Amari Rodgers, or Cornell Powell at the skill positions.
The Tigers' schedule isn't easy, beginning with a blockbuster nonconference matchup versus Georgia. Losing that contest and an ACC upset at some point would likely be enough to keep Clemson from the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State once again rules the Big Ten
There's no question Ohio State operates on a different level than the rest of the Big Ten, and that will continue in 2021 despite losing star quarterback Justin Fields to the NFL.
C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller may be the front-runners to take over for Fields, but head coach Ryan Day is very high on incoming freshman Kyle McCord. Regardless of who is under center, Day is brilliant offensively and can easily find opportunities for his attack.
Perhaps most importantly, there's nothing we saw in 2020 to suggest any other Big Ten program is ready to make the leap to Ohio State's level. Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin all experienced down seasons, and it's tough to see those schools closing the gap when the Buckeyes' recruiting class will be among the country's best.
Tennessee fires Jeremy Pruitt
This one could still happen before the 2021 season begins. There have been flashes of positivity during the Jeremy Pruitt experience at Tennessee, but overall it's been a very disappointing tenure.
The Volunteers posted six straight double-digit losses this season, the first such streak in the program's storied history. Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze has been rumored as the man set to take over, and it won't be the biggest shock if that move happens sooner rather than later.
The most significant issue facing Pruitt is the team's continued lack of quarterback production. The Volunteers have ranked near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense the last three seasons. Harrison Bailey showed he has the potential to produce at the SEC level this past season, but Pruitt will likely be done at Tennessee if the freshman doesn't take a major step forward in Year 2.
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