Overrated, underrated teams in early CFB Top 25

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Coming off one of the most impressive seasons in the college football history, LSU will take the field in September — barring a coronavirus assault on our sport — without much public backing nationally for a team in defense of a championship.

In fact, several publications have placed Ed Orgeron’s outside of the Top 5 in their way-too-early rankings, a byproduct of massive personnel losses across the board and noticeable coaching staff changes.

But Coach O is used to these narratives. For three straight years now, his team has been undersold during the preseason as a darkhorse challenger in the SEC, but no real threat to win it all due in large part to the program’s lengthy losing skid to Alabama prior to last fall. Despite the exorcism of those demons, it still feels like the Tigers may not be getting enough respect ahead of a new campaign.

LSU is one of several teams we’re putting under the microscope this week in gauging overall values for Top 25 teams across college football and whether or not they deserve to be throw in the underrated — or overrated — heap of competitors.

Texas A&M Aggies

Preseason ranking: No. 11

2020 schedule: vs. Abilene Christian, vs. North Texas, vs. Colorado, vs. Arkansas (Arlington), at Mississippi State, vs. Fresno State, at Auburn, at South Carolina, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Vanderbilt, at Alabama, vs. LSU

Slightly overrated — “Look, I’m a believer in Texas A&M as a potential contender in the SEC West this season. But I think a spot just outside the Top 10 to begin the campaign is a bit high. I’d have the Aggies in the Nos. 13-15 range, possibly behind Auburn as the SEC’s sixth-best team to start. If Texas A&M wins that game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in October, an 8-0 start is not out of the question.”

ESPN’s preseason ranking: No. 12

2020 schedule: vs. Oregon State, vs. Tulsa, vs. Western Carolina, at TCU, vs. Iowa State, at Kansas, at Oklahoma, vs. Texas Tech, at Baylor, vs. West Virginia, at Kansas State, vs. Texas

Overrated — “This would be quite a jump since the Cowboys were not a top-25 caliber team in 2019. But they do return quite a bit and should be pretty good early in the season. But I would feel more comfortable ranking OSU in the 15-25 range.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 22

2020 schedule: at UCF, vs. Auburn (Atlanta), vs. James Madison, vs. Georgia Tech, at Virginia, vs. Virginia Tech, at Duke, at Miami, vs. UConn, vs. Pitt, at Boston College, vs. NC State

Just right — “I have no problem with this ranking, even though it feels slightly low. Anywhere in the 15-25 range seems fine for a team that should score a lot of points again but doesn’t have a ton of talent on defense.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 21

2020 schedule: vs. Alabama (Arlington), vs. New Mexico, at Stanford, vs. Arizona State, at Utah, vs. California, at Arizona, vs. Colorado, at Oregon, vs. Washington, at UCLA, vs. Notre Dame

Slightly underrated — “USC will have a talent advantage in most of its games this year. And the Trojans were already better than public perception in 2019. So I’ll say this is an underranking. I wouldn’t argue with the Trojans in the 10-20 range.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 5

2020 schedule: vs. Kent State, at Virginia Tech, vs. San Jose State, vs. Northwestern, at Michigan, vs. Iowa, vs. Ohio State, at Indiana, at Nebraska, vs. Michigan State, vs. Maryland, at Rutgers

Slightly overrated — “At No. 5, this is high end for the Nittany Lions. I won’t discredit the job James Franklin has done whatsoever and I truly believe Penn State will have one of the nation’s top defenses this fall, but slotting this team here means they’ll be the “last team out” so to speak on the Playoff bubble and I’m not sure I’m ready to hold that level of stock in the Nittany Lions for 2020.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 7

2020 schedule: vs. Eastern Washington, vs. Kentucky, vs. South Alabama, at Tennessee, vs. South Carolina, vs. LSU, at Ole Miss, vs. Georgia (Jacksonville), at Vanderbilt, vs. Missouri, vs. New Mexico State, at Florida State

Just right — “I’m higher than most on Florida this season, picking the Gators to reach the College Football Playoff in my way-too-early bowl projections. The schedule, at least to me, sets up for success if this team splits games vs. LSU and Georgia. They’ll be favored in the rest of them.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 8

2020 schedule: vs. UTSA, vs. Texas, vs. Rice (Houston), vs. Ole Miss, vs. Nicholls, at Florida, at Arkansas, vs. Mississippi State, vs. Alabama, vs. South Carolina, at Auburn, at Texas A&M

Overrated — “Replacing key coaching pieces on both sides of the football, QB Joe Burrow, and 16 other starters, LSU could have really used spring practice. I would have the Tigers in the 10-20 range.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 6

2020 schedule: vs. North Dakota State, vs. Ohio State, vs. Hawaii, at Colorado, vs. Washington, at Cal, vs. Stanford, at Arizona, vs. USC, vs. Arizona State, at Washington State, at Oregon State

Overrated — “If this ranking was a projection of where teams will finish in the final rankings, I wouldn’t necessarily hate this that much, since that takes into account the number of wins and losses likely to occur due to a team’s schedule. However, if this is intended to be a measure of team quality, like a power ranking, it’s hard to see the Ducks this high. Oregon’s offense likely won’t improve in 2020 and its defense will have a hard time replicating 2019.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 23

2020 schedule: vs. USF, at LSU, vs. UTEP, at Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma (Dallas), vs. West Virginia, at Texas Tech, vs. Baylor, at Kansas, vs. TCU, vs. Iowa State, at Oklahoma State

Underrated — “This feels like an overreaction to a disappointing 2019 season for which bloated expectations was fueled by narrative more than reason. But this Texas team has a ton of talent and a lot of returning experience. This is the season for which the 2019 expectations belong. Texas should be ranked in the 10-20 range.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 4

2020 schedule: vs. Virginia (Atlanta), vs. ETSU, at Alabama, vs. Louisiana-Monroe, vs. Vanderbilt, vs. Auburn, at Missouri, vs. Florida (Jacksonville), at South Carolina, vs. Tennessee, at Kentucky, vs. Georgia Tech

Slightly overrated — “I’m not picking the Bulldogs to reach the College Football Playoff this season, however, I do believe they’re worthy of a Top 10 ranking now as we enter April despite having little to no knowledge of their new-look offense. On defense alone, Georgia is going to hit double-digit victories as long as Jamie Newman is above serviceable at quarterback.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 2

2020 schedule: vs. Bowling Green, at Oregon, vs. Buffalo, vs. Rutgers, vs. Iowa, at Michigan State, at Penn State, vs. Nebraska, vs. Indiana, at Maryland, at Illinois, vs. Michigan

Just right — “The nucleus of a team that finished one completion shy of a national championship game berth is back for the Buckeyes, sans their two best defensive players. How big of a loss is that? Not cataclysmic for a program with Ohio State’s wealth of talent. There are two road games that are worrisome, but Ohio State has been there, done that in big games and should get back to the final four.”

ESPN preseason ranking: No. 3

2020 schedule: vs. USC (Arlington), vs. Georgia State, vs. Georgia, vs. Kent State, at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, vs. Mississippi State, at Tennessee, at LSU, vs. UT Martin, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Auburn

Just right — “Alabama has as much talent as any team in college football and the best coach of all time. A top-five ranking is entirely justified despite the loss of QB Tua Tagovailoa.”

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