NCAAF
August 29, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

Overrated: Top 25 College Football Teams That Are Ranked Way Too High

This year’s college football preseason AP Top 25 poll is a little different from past years. For starters, there are Big Ten and Pac-12 teams listed even though they won’t be playing this fall and have a chance to prove that they deserve their ranking.

One thing that never changes in college football is the thought that there are several teams ranked higher than they should be. Even when you take away teams from the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC, you’ll find plenty of teams that are ranked way too high and have a lot more to prove than the number next to their name would suggest.

Let’s take a look at our picks for the five most overrated teams in college football ahead of the 2020 season.

Here's our list of the most underrated teams in 2020

Oklahoma State Cowboys (No. 15)

For what it’s worth, Oklahoma State is an intriguing dark horse in the Big 12 this season. The Cowboys bring back close to 20 starters, including running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace. Both players were both good enough in 2019 to take a shot at the NFL. 

But No. 15 seems a little high for a program that has been solid but unspectacular throughout Mike Gundy’s tenure and has never been able to take that next-level step.

That being said, OSU’s defense has long been the weak link on the team. Even with an offense that has a chance to be as good as any in the Big 12, the Cowboys will be vulnerable as long as their defense remains untrustworthy. The Cowboys simply don't have the talent or consistency on defense to compete for a Big 12 championship. 

LSU Tigers (No. 6)

To be fair, it’d be weird for AP voters to vote LSU too low after winning last year's National Championship. Plus, the Bayou Bengals always seem to reload quickly and have a wealth of talent, especially on defense. However, the No. 6 ranking feels a little ambitious for a team that lost the Heisman winner and has to play in the loaded SEC West. It’s just hard not to see a substantial drop-off for LSU in 2020.

It starts with trying to replace Joe Burrow. The guy threw for over 5,600 yards and 60 touchdowns last season. It's hard to imagine that his replacement, Myles Brennan, will be able to come close to matching those numbers. Even with Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall back at wide receiver and a bottomless contingent of running backs, the Tigers have a new offensive coordinator and must replace most of their offensive line from a year ago. That puts too much pressure on a defense that took plenty of hits during the offseason.

Reigning champions or not, LSU doesn’t look anywhere close to a top 10 team on paper.

Oklahoma Sooners (No. 5)

Lincoln Riley has done an amazing job getting Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff every season since taking over as head coach. But the Sooners have to regress at some point, and it’s likely to happen in 2020. 

The voters have the Sooners ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll because they respect the job Riley has done. But those expectations feel a little too lofty given the state of the program.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler is getting a lot of love, as he’s considered one of the top Heisman candidates. But Oklahoma has produced two Heisman winners in the last three seasons. Can Rattler live up to those expectations? Then there’s the always enigmatic Oklahoma defense. Nobody will deny that there have been improvements over the past couple of years. But the OU defense has folded when the chips are down.

With several Big 12 teams noticeably better than they were last season, it’s not hard to envision the Sooners being tripped up multiple times and ending up well outside the top 10. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (No. 10)

It’s hard not to give Notre Dame the benefit of the doubt. Since that disastrous 4-8 season in 2016, Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish have won 33 of the last 39 games and put the Golden Domers back in the national spotlight. But this doesn’t appear to be a season in which all of the stars will align for Notre Dame, making their No. 10 ranking too high.

In theory, the offense should be in good shape with Ian Book returning for his senior season. He’s one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country. However, he’ll lose his three best receivers from 2019. Keep in mind the Irish weren’t exactly juggernauts on the ground last season, either. They were barely able to manufacture a rushing attack in 2019 and they’ll enter 2020 without firm answers in the backfield. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish lose most of their impact players on defense, which could create some holes, especially on the defensive line.

The good news is that Notre Dame’s toughest games come at home, although that doesn’t mean as much without fans in attendance. More importantly, they aren’t a lock to beat some of the ACC teams on their schedule on talent alone.

North Carolina Tar Heels (No. 18)

Mack Brown did an amazing job in his first year back at UNC rebuilding the program and taking the Tar Heels to a bowl game. But let’s pump the breaks on North Carolina being worthy of a No. 18 ranking. The Tar Heels are still a year away from being considered a top-20 program. Despite all of their six losses being competitive games against quality opponents, the Tar Heels only had one win over a bowl team (Miami) before beating Temple in the Military Bowl. In other words, this team has yet to learn how to win close games against quality teams.

That being said, the hype train for quarterback Sam Howell is moving full steam ahead. The kid is the real deal and will have a great supporting cast around him on the UNC offense. But there are still a few concerns on the defense, especially in the front-seven. The Tar Heels might not have the depth and star power on the defensive line to be a top-20 team. And while they avoid Clemson, UNC’s schedule includes five teams from the more competitive ACC Atlantic Division, as well as Notre Dame.

In other words, the Tar Heels still have a lot to prove in 2020.

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