Welcome to the annual crapshoot. This year it’s an even bigger crapshoot than usual, given the state of flux regarding extra years of eligibility and the sudden halting of progress on the one-time transfer legislation by the NCAA. We have only a sketchy idea who is going to be where.

So when in doubt, go with the sure things. College football has gotten itself into a rut in terms of the usual suspects winning everything, and we will predict it continues until proven otherwise.

One big question: which 2020 seasons were pandemic outliers and which will carry over to 2021? Specifically, will Penn State, LSU and Michigan return to winning ways? Were the breakthrough seasons from Coastal Carolina, San Jose State, Ball State and others a blip or a trend? In January, nobody knows—but we’ll pretend we do anyway.

1. Alabama

Predicted 2020 finish last January: 4th
Actual final AP ranking: 1st

Assuming quarterback Mac Jones joins DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood in the offensive exodus into the draft, there are massive holes to replace. And guess what? The Crimson Tide always have the personnel to do it. Bryce Young is the five-star heir apparent at QB, a big talent who probably benefited from a season watching Jones work. John Metchie III is the next marquee receiver. There is plenty of ability at running back. The defense could return the vast majority of its top 2020 performers. Biggest question is whether the next offensive coordinator (Bill O’Brien?) has the magic tough that Steve Sarkisian displayed the past couple of seasons.

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