The start of the new college football season is nearly upon us, with games set to kick off from August 28. It’s expected that this year will be a very interesting year for the discipline given the hardships brought on by the pandemic in 2020. That said, we take a look at some of the top divisions in the nation as they prepare to head into the upcoming term.
Clemson lost Trevor Lawrence to the NFL – the quarterback was drafted as the No.1 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars this year – and they will hope D.J. Uiagalelei could fill the void following 59-for-85 for 781 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions in his two starts last year. The run defense was pretty solid last year, which is more than can be said for a pass defense that was 35th in passer rating allowed and 18th in passing success rate.
Apart from Georgia, there’s probably not another team that can hurt Clemson’s secondary. While there are several top passing programs in the Atlantic, only one of them came close to doing some real damage last year and fans who kept up to date with NCAAF scores were well aware of their prowess.
Notre Dame joined a dvisionless ACC for the 2020 season after each of the ACC Coastal’s seven teams won a division title over the course of 20 years. They would make the conference championship at the first time of asking and it’s sort of like eight champions winning in eight years in a seven-team division.
We just might see a repeat champion in the Coastal next season, unless there’s some surprise expansion or a division is binned altogether. Miami and North Carolina are the top favorites to achieve this. There are still questions over whether either of these schools can play at the level they’ve been tipped to, as well as whether they could really pose a challenge to Clemson in the conference title game.
It will also be interesting to see if Virginia Tech could snap out of the funk they experienced last year and make a run at the title.
The big 12 has seen plenty of changes over as of late and its future is actually in doubt as Oklahoma and Texas have agreed to move to the SEC in 2025. The moves aren’t expected to affect next season but things could still turn out to be quite intriguing.
Oklahoma has won six consecutive conference titles and they’re likely to make it seven this year. However, Iowa State is totally able to fashion another top-10 campaign. Meanwhile, Texas has brought in Steve Sarkisian, with the former Alabama offensive coordinator considered to be the best play-caller in the game. The Sooners will have to navigate through the Big 12’s grind successfully to keep national title hopes alive.
The division has become one of the stronger and more balanced ones around. And bottom-half teams can see fortunes crash as quickly as they rise, and vice versa. Baylor reached the 2019 Big 12 Championship a mere two campaigns after finishing with a dismal 1-11 record and then went 2-7 the year after. Texas was the runner up in 2018, two years after finishing with a 5-7 record. The TCU Horned Frogs went to the title game in 2017, a year after a 6-7 record. They’ve gone 18-17 since then.
Big Ten East
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Penn State and Michigan have both made themselves into top-level programs in the last few years while Indiana just deployed its best team in the last 30 years. Michigan State isn’t that far from its most successful run since the 1960s and they have all helped to make the Big Ten East college football’s second-best division.
The Buckeyes have gone unbeaten against the East since losing to Penn State in 2016. While there have been scares here and there, Ohio State has dominated the division these last few years, a solid one at that, and they’re enjoying their most fruitful period in terms of quality. There’s also no end in sight for this period considering the way the school has continued to recruit.
Justin Fields and Trey Sermon aren’t around anymore and the team has also lost seven regulars on defense. Though they aren’t lacking in talent, a bit of inconsistency could see the likes of Penn State, Michigan, and Indiana look to usurp.