Oh, what might have been.
The preseason Associated Press Top 25 rankings were released on Monday, and it includes teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 that will not play this fall. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, those conferences — along with the Mid-American and Mountain West — have postponed football to the spring.
Nonetheless, AP voters were instructed to consider all Division I teams when compiling their preseason ballots, giving a glimpse at what the 2020 college football season may have looked like with all 130 FBS teams participating.
While fixtures like Clemson and Alabama came in at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, the most notable teams not playing in the fall that had prominent placing in the preseason poll are Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State. The Buckeyes, on the heels of a Big Ten title and a heartbreaking College Football Playoff semifinal loss, are ranked No. 2. The Buckeyes received 21 first-place votes, and finished just 16 points (1,504) behind No. 1 Clemson (1,520), which received 38 first-place votes.
Penn State, OSU’s Big Ten East counterparts, is ranked No. 7. Oregon, the defending Pac-12 champion, came in at No. 9.
Georgia and Oklahoma, two teams that will feature new starting quarterbacks in 2020, round out the top five at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
LSU, the defending national champion, is ranked sixth. The Tigers lost a slew of top performers to the NFL, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. LSU is the first defending champion to be ranked outside the top five since Auburn in 2011.
Six other teams we won’t get to see in the fall made the preseason Top 25: No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan, No. 17 USC, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 22 Utah and No. 24 Iowa.
In terms of conference breakdown, the SEC led the way with seven ranked teams. The Big Ten was next with six, while the Big 12 had four and the ACC (with Notre Dame included) and Pac-12 had three apiece. The AAC led the Group of Five conferences with two ranked teams: No. 20 Cincinnati and No. 21 UCF. The Bearcats are ranked in the preseason poll for the first time.
The AP will publish its preseason All-America team on Tuesday. Players who have decided to opt out of the season are eligible for inclusion.
Here is the full preseason Top 25:
Others receiving votes:
Memphis 86, Virginia Tech 85, Boise State 68, Arizona State 66, Miami (FL) 42, Louisville 32, Appalachian State 26, Washington 21, Kentucky 20, Indiana 19, Baylor 15, California 11, TCU 9, Virginia 7, Navy 6, Florida State 6, SMU 3, Mississippi State 3, Air Force 3, Northwestern 1, UAB 1
What happens during the season?
If the season begins in the coming weeks as anticipated, only teams that are “scheduled to play” will be considered for the weekly AP poll. The target date for the Week 1 poll is Monday, Sept. 14.
If college football is played in the spring, the AP said it will consider ranking teams at that point as well.
“The AP and our voters have no idea what a spring football season will look like. But we are open to adapting and finding a way for our Top 25 voters to be involved in ranking teams if real games are played in the spring of 2021,” AP global sports editor Michael Giarrusso said earlier this month.
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