Week 0 is in the books, and college football will begin in full this weekend. Things should feel a lot closer to normal than last year, and we’ll immediately be treated to fantastic Week 1 matchups. Let’s get right to the first 2021 college football power rankings.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
College football feels relatively wide-open this season, but there’s little doubt which team deserves to start No. 1 in the power rankings. Nick Saban has basically built a machine, and they’ve won two of the past four national championships. The Tide lost a record-breaking quarterback and a Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver, but the offense remains stacked as highly touted quarterback Bryce Young takes over.
Next game: vs. 14 Miami (FL); Sat, 9/4 at 3:30 PM ET
2. Clemson Tigers
If there’s a school that’s come close to matching what Alabama has done, it’s Clemson. Dabo Swinney’s squad has the yearly consistency that gets them the nod in the No. 2 spot in the preseason power rankings. It’ll be really nice—and certainly very emotional for him—to see star receiver Justyn Ross back on the field after a spine issue forced him to miss all of last season. The Tigers get a top-five matchup right away in the must-see game of the opening weekend.
Next game: vs. 5 Georgia; Sat, 9/4 at 7:30 PM ET
3. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma is led by preseason Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler, but keep an eye on the defense stepping up to help the Sooners take the next step and get into the CFP National Championship Game.
Next game: vs. Tulane; Sat, 9/4 at 12:00 PM ET
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes lost key players including quarterback Justin Fields and running back Trey Sermon to the NFL, but the program boasts arguably the best receiving corps in the country—and first-year quarterbacks have had little trouble playing extremely well under Ryan Day. The Buckeyes are squarely among the “big four” of perennial playoff contenders.
Next game: at Minnesota; Thu, 9/2 at 8:00 PM ET
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is looking to make a statement and show they belong back in that mix of top-tier teams, and they’ll quickly get a chance to do just that this Saturday night against Clemson. You can expect Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs to play great defense, and the offense caught fire with J.T. Daniels under center at the end of 2020.
Next game: vs. 3 Clemson; Sat, 9/4 at 7:30 PM ET
6. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies lost one of the most underrated players in the country at quarterback in four-year starter Kellen Mond, and the offensive line is dealing with a revamped group. But Jimbo Fisher is one of the best coaches in the country, and perhaps they can strike this year in the SEC West.
Next game: vs. Kent State; Sat, 9/4 at 8:00 PM ET
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina begins its season tomorrow night, and they must come ready to play on the road at Virginia Tech. Looking ahead, there’s major upside for a team led by championship head coach Mack Brown and one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Sam Howell. The Tar Heels should be exciting.
Next game: at Virginia Tech; Fri, 9/3 at 6:00 PM ET
8. Iowa State Cyclones
If there’s a team that can go toe-to-toe with Oklahoma in the Big 12, it’s probably Iowa State. On paper, the early-season schedule does not look very daunting aside from a showdown with No. 19 Iowa next week, but Matt Campbell will have his players ready to go, starting Saturday against Northern Iowa.
Next game: vs. Northern Iowa; Sat, 9/4 at 4:30 PM ET
9. Oregon Ducks
First order of business for the Ducks is taking care of Fresno State this Saturday, but their Playoff hopes could quickly come down to the game against Ohio State in two Saturdays. Oregon will be powered by the running back duo of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, and it’ll be important for them to control the game each week.
Next game: vs. Fresno State; Sat, 9/4 at 2:00 PM ET
10. Florida Gators
Florida lost Kyle Trask, Kadarius Toney, and others from last season, but they are flying under the radar a bit entering 2021. Emory Jones has had some playing time over the past couple of seasons, which will help as he takes over as the starting quarterback. We’ll see if the Gators defense has a chip on its shoulder after underperforming last year. Notre Dame and Cincinnati (both top ten in the AP poll) get an honorable mention here.
Next game: vs. FAU; Sat, 9/4 at 7:30 PM ET
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One to watch: 16 LSU vs. UCLA
A bonus for Week 1, No. 16 LSU going to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA (8:30 PM ET, FOX) is an under-the-radar game to watch this weekend. The Bruins defense was flying around the field last Saturday against Hawaii, and we know that Chip Kelly offenses can explode for big points. The competition level steps up mightily when UCLA faces LSU, but the Tigers better be ready to play because it looks like the Bruins will be based off last week. An upset wouldn’t be a surprise, and the Pac-12 would rejoice if it were to happen.