Sometimes the top 25 just isn't big enough. With the last season in the books and attention being turned towards recruiting and spring practice ahead of the 2021 college football campaign, everyone wants to know which teams may be able to make the proverbial jump in the upcoming season. What follows are 10 teams outside of those way-too-early rankings that may do just that.
You'll see teams that barely played enough games to be noticed, a Conference USA power and two teams each from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC chasing the superpowers in those conferences. Two of those aforementioned teams have new coaches, while three have recently played for conference championships.
What's for sure is few of these 10 are going away. Half of them were ranked for at least one week last season in the AP Top 25. In alphabetical order, here are 10 teams that should be on the cusp of the top 25 once the 2021 season begins eight months from now.
|The sample size wasn't great in 2020 (four games), but the Sun Devils continue trending upward. Quarterback Jayden Daniels potentially has three more years of eligibility having led the Pac-12's best offense. Again, small sample size, but the 40.3 points per game were the program's most since 1996. The top 16 tacklers return on defense. In a full season, Arizona State was supposed to contend for the Pac-12. Back to a full season in '21, the Sun Devils should be an eight-win team. |
|The Tigers offense will be more productive. Bank on it. New coach Bryan Harsin is a quarterback maker. He will coach up Bo Nix or go out to the transfer portal to get a new signal caller. The quality of the SEC demands it. Alabama and Georgia come to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The swing game may Sept 18 at Penn State. |
|The quick addition of Andy Avalos adds hope that the Boise State run will continue. The Oregon defensive coordinator who replaced Harsin is a first-time head coach but a former All-WAC linebacker for the Broncos knows the territory. He also has an experienced quarterback, Hank Bachmeier. The Broncos have a nonconference schedule tough enough to make a New Year's Six run … if Boise can beat Oklahoma State and win at BYU and UCF.|
|Jeff Hafley won six games in his rookie season as coach. Phil Jurkovec will be one of the top ACC quarterbacks. He'll have Zay Flowers (892 yards receiving, nine touchdowns) as a main target. The defense went from the ACC basement to middle of the pack cutting off more than 60 yards per game. Hafley has already hit the transfer portal for Florida State defensive back Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, a one-time freshman All-American, and Temple linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley.|
|Like Boise, Nevada as a schedule good enough to get the Wolf Pack to a New Year's Six bowl with games against Cal and Kansas State. There are Mountain West trips to Boise and San Diego State. That's a lot to ask but there's also a lot of upside in winning those games. Coach Jay Norvell has put himself in position for a Power Five job winning 10 of his last 14 (7-2 in 2020). Carson Strong led the league in passing yards (2,858) and touchdown tosses (27).|
|Pat Fitzgerald got a huge boost landing South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski. The veteran quarterback on his third school walks into a program that has played for the Big Ten title in two of the last three seasons. The defense lost longtime coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who retired. The future is bright with CBS Sports All-America freshman defensive back Brandon Joseph tying for the national lead with six interceptions in 2020.|
|The Rebels are Alabama Jr. Make that really junior in that they can outscore teams. Sometimes. Lane Kiffin proved he had the offense in 2020 with his unit averaging almost 40 points. The core of that unit returns: quarterback Matt Corral and running back Jerrion Ealy. Ole Miss tied for the most points scored on Bama (48) since the 2019 national title game. Meanwhile, the defense was dreadful. Ole Miss is going to have to win a lot of shootouts. It might win enough to squeeze into the top 25. |
|The 2021 season will decide whether 2020 is a hiccup or a trend. For the first time since 2015, the Nittany Lions did not win nine games. Not even close. The good: Penn State won its last four. The bad: It started 0-5. The defense gave up 28 sacks and there was a -8 turnover margin. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich replaced Kirk Ciarrocca after the offense slumped, too. Here's hoping QB Sean Clifford gets more protection and high-upside RB Noah Cain returns from a season-ending injury.|
|Bill Clark's amazing story continues. The Blazers have played for the last three Conference USA championships, winning two. They're loaded again opening new Progressive Stadium this fall with 17 returning starters. Four of those are returning all-conference performers. The Blazers are well rested for a 2021 run. They went 42 days without playing before the CUSA Championship Game.|
|Jimmy Lake had an impressive rookie season as a coach. Too bad it was hard to notice. The Huskies finished 3-1 after COVID-19 ended their season prior to the Pac-12 Championship Game. The secondary has to be reconfigured after the loss of starters Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor. An interesting quarterback battle begins in the spring with five-star freshman Sam Huard going against Colorado State transfer Patrick O'Brien.|