College football preseason power rankings: Alabama -- who else? -- starts at No. 1

In 2021, the college football season will be quite different. What are the college football power rankings? Not quite as much. These three perennial powerhouses, Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State have new quarterbacks, but they are still in the top 5. Georgia and Oklahoma are also in the top five, with both returning quarterbacks hoping to win their first playoff championships.There are also teams such as Texas A&M and North Carolina, and Iowa State. These teams make the top 10, and they are hoping to win a CFP bid. The Group of 5 includes Louisiana, Coastal Carolina, and Cincinnati.Which team is your favorite?Methodology: This consensus list was compiled by thirty-three ESPN college football experts.2020 record: 13-0 national champions2021 Preseason FPI: 1Key September games: Sept. 4 vs. Miami; Sept. 18 at FloridaSeason outlook: Another year, another title, another rebuild. It won't be simple to replace DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris on offense. It will also be difficult to replicate the genius of Steve Sarkisian calling plays. Nick Saban hired Bill O'Brien, a former college and professional coach, to be his offensive coordinator. John Metchie, a veteran running back, is back at receiver. Bryce Young will be the projected starting quarterback. This former five-star recruit is a dynamic player who was Jones' understudy last year and has the tools to become an all-conference quarterback. His handling of the college football learning curve will determine whether Alabama is able to reload and compete for another championship. Alex Scarborough2020 record: 9-2, Big 12 championsPreseason FPI for 2021: 3Key September game: Sept. 18 vs. NebraskaSeason outlook: While the Sooners have increased the excitement this offseason, with plans to join the SEC in future, they also have an opportunity to push for a national title run this season. This year's schedule is well-planned. TCU and Iowa State can push the Sooners to Norman, while Nebraska will be hosting a Game of the Century celebration. While the Texas game is always a crucial test, FPI gives the Sooners 68% chance of winning the conference. Dave Wilson2020 record: 10-2, ACC championsFPI preseason 2021: 2Key September game: Sept. 4 vs. GeorgiaSeason outlook: Trevor Lawrence has left. Travis Etienne has been ejected. This would be a huge reset for most programs. Clemson is, however, a place where there is surprisingly little concern. QB D.J. Uiagalelei was able to replace Lawrence in two games last season, and looked like a future star. Clemson's backfield is filled with talent, including five-star recruit Will Shipley. Add in a healthy Justyn Ros, a loaded defensive front, and a veteran secondary, and the Tigers are once again the favorites to win the ACC. Clemson fans might wonder how big they can dream. Clemson's story will not be about winning the conference, but how fast the Tigers can win the national championship trophy. It has lost two consecutive seasons to blowout losses in playoffs. -- David M. HaleD.J. Trevor Lawrence was out of town last season, so Uiagalelei gained valuable experience. Josh Morgan/USA TODAY Sports2020 record: 7-22021 Preseason FPI: 5Key September game: Sept. 4 vs. ClemsonSeason outlook: The Bulldogs are a favorite to win the College Football Playoff. With JT Daniels as the quarterback, Georgia's offense seemed to be reaching its full potential towards the end 2020. In 2021, Georgia will return eight starters. The Dawgs will need to reload defensively. However, Tykee Smith and Georgia’s ability to reload year after year could see them return to the playoff. From a scheduling perspective, the Bulldogs are able to avoid Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. Harry Lyles Jr.2020 record: 7-1Preseason FPI for 2021: 4Key September game: Sept. 11 vs. OregonSeason outlook: After Justin Fields' departure for the NFL, the Buckeyes have hired a new quarterback. All indications point to C.J. Stroud will be the first to start, despite having to battle with Jack Miller or Kyle McCord. Good news for the offense: The unit has returning receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. They also have tight end Jeremy Ruckert who led the team's receiving touchdowns in 2020. Coaches are adding talented newcomers to the offense, including running back TreVeyon, and receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. on defense. The Buckeyes must see improvement in their secondary, which ranked 122 among all FBS programs for pass yards allowed per match. The Buckeyes are still in the College Football Playoff conversation, but they will need to see improvement from their secondary, which ranked 122 among all FBS programs in pass yards allowed per game.-- Tom VanHaaren2020 record: 8-1Preseason FPI for 2021: 6Key September game: Sept. 11 vs. ColoradoSeason outlook: The Aggies just finished a season that saw them succeed on defense, and this season is no different. Although they will need to rebuild their offensive line with four new starters and a new quarterback, Jimbo Fisher is positive about these positions. A&M has a better than 80% chance of winning in five of its first five games. Alabama, which dealt the Aggies their only loss last year, visits College Station on November 9. Wilson2020 record: 9-3Preseason FPI for 2021: 9September 11 vs. Iowa is the key September gameSeason outlook: Iowa State's feat of having its best school year since 1900 during a pandemic was one of the most remarkable achievements from the 2020 college football season. Matt Campbell will be able to count on much of the same team for 2021. This will be the most anticipated season of Iowa State's history. However, the biggest obstacle to the team achieving a Big 12 title or a playoff spot will likely be the same one that put an end to the team in 2020: Spencer Rattler (and the Sooners). The Cyclones won two games against the Sooners and, with Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Breece Hill leading the charge, Ames residents can't help but feel hopeful, since the Cyclones are legitimate playoff contenders. Lyles2020 record: 4-3 Pac-12 championPreseason FPI for 2021: 12Key September game: Sept. 11 vs. Ohio StateSeason outlook: Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux enters his junior year as the best player in college football after an impressive first season and a short sophomore one. He's so good. The Ducks are more than just that. Under Mario Cristobal, Oregon has been a strong recruiting force over the last few years and has built a talented roster that is comparable to the best college football players. After Tyler Shough transferred from Oregon to Texas Tech, there will be a new quarterback. However, it seemed likely that Anthony Brown would win the job regardless of his playing time last season. As the team enters its second season under Joe Moorhead, he is expected to improve. Kyle Bonagura2020 record: 10-2FPI for 2021: 8September 5 at Florida State and Sept. 25 at Wisconsin are key September gamesSeason outlook: Although the Irish beat Clemson last season and advanced to the College Football Playoff, there's a lot to replace the team from last year. Quarterback Ian Book has been fired, and the offensive line will be reorganized. Head coach Brian Kelly also has Marcus Freeman as the defensive coordinator. Staff brought in Wisconsin quarterback transfer Jack Coan who will have a chance to start for Notre Dame this year while battling Drew Pyne or Tyler Buchner. While tight end Michael Mayer will be a huge target, there are still big gaps to fill. Jeremiah Owusu–Koramoah, the linebacker, has been replaced by Kyle Hamilton, the unit's star safety. This season, Notre Dame's team will look like the story of how the new faces take on key roles and provide support early on. -- VanHaaren2020 record: 8-4Preseason FPI for 2021: 14September 3 at Virginia Tech: Key September gameSeason outlook: For the past five years, the ACC's state of play has been pretty much set in stone: Clemson and everybody else. Perhaps 2021 will be the year that a legitimate contender for the throne emerges out of the "everyone else", and North Carolina is better placed to do so. UNC's offense returns Sam Howell, the nation's top QB, and all five O-line starters. Defense, which was in dire need of talent infusion two decades ago, now has legitimate blue-chip players ready to help, including Tony Grimes, five-star corner, and Keeshawn Silber, five-star end. Even the talent that has left seems to have some replacements. Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler is expected to take over from Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, while slot receiver Josh Downs looks poised to be the next Tar Heels star. UNC suffered humiliating losses to FSU, Virginia and other teams last year. The next step for the Heels may be to find some consistency. -- HaleSam Howell from North Carolina will be in contention for the 2022 NFL Draft's top pick. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports2020 record: 9-1 AAC championsFPI preseason 2021: 22Key September game: Sept. 18 at IndianaSeason outlook: The most significant storyline in Cincinnati's offseason was Marcus Freeman, the defensive coordinator. Freeman's defense was instrumental in the Bearcats winning an American Athletic Conference title. Luke Fickell, the coach of the Bearcats, will be hoping that Mike Tressel, the long-serving Michigan State assistant, can maintain the intensity with which the defense played against Georgia in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Bearcats are expected to have another great season if Desmond Ridder returns at quarterback with a new offense line. Lyles2020 record: 8-2FPI for 2021: 11Key September game: Sept. 18 vs. AlabamaSeason outlook: The Gators face two major questions as they enter the new season. How will Emory do as the presumed starter at quarterback and what will the defense do after last year's heavily criticised performance? Let's begin with Jones, who waited three years to get the chance to start. Jones is a completely different player than Kyle Trask. Mullen said that Jones was "dynamic with his feet" and had a strong arm. The offense will be different. What about defense? The Gators are able to create a more consistent performance with veterans such as Kaiir Elam, Brenton Cox Jr., and Zachary Carter. -- Andrea Adelson2020 record: 5-1FPI 21 for the preseason 2021: 21Key September game: Sept. 11 vs. StanfordSeason outlook: Although the Trojans didn't always look like the real thing last year, they won the regular season despite being cut short by a pandemic and lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Expectations are high this year with a more traditional offseason. This doesn't mean much, but it is clear that Los Angeles feels that Helton won't be able to break through this season and make a national impact. Although QB Kedon Slovis is a star, the receiver Drake London, who could be an All-American, is the one to watch going into the season. Bonagura2020 record: 5-5Preseason FPI for 2021: 18Key September game: Sept. 4 at UCLASeason outlook: Last season was a disappointment. It was too late to get the wheels moving, and it took a rally late in the game and a strange penalty for throwing a shoe to reach.500. Ed Orgeron went to work and almost completely remade his staff. Daronte Jones was brought in to lead the defense, while Jake Peetz was hired to run the offense. This was an obvious move to try and recreate the excitement of Joe Brady's 2019 offense. Peetz has two options for quarterback: Myles Brennan (who threw for 11 touchdowns over three games before an injury ended the season) and Max Johnson (the freshman who led LSU in back-to-back wins that saved a season otherwise lost. Scarborough2020 record: 8-3FPI for 2021: 10Key September game: Sept. 4 vs. AlabamaSeason outlook: Quarterback D'Eriq King is making progress from a second knee injury. His return has raised expectations for a program that is still struggling under Manny Diaz. The Hurricanes will also face Alabama in the first game of the season, which could be the turning point for the season. King's return is good news for the defense. There are nine starters back and Diaz is calling plays again. Adelson2020: 4-3FPI preseason 2021: 17Key September games: Sept. 4 vs. Penn State; Sept. 25 vs. Notre DameSeason outlook: The Badgers had a strange 2020 season, with lots of disruptions from COVID-19. On Oct. 31, the team faced Illinois in its first game. The next two games were canceled, and it didn't play again until November 14 at Michigan. Graham Mertz, the quarterback, was unable to make it through the season. He completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards with 5 touchdowns against Illinois, but ended the season with 4 touchdowns in six games. Mertz and his offense will need to find some normalcy and consistency. It will be crucial for Mertz to step into a leadership position. The Badgers must start the season in a similar manner to 2020, with Penn State as the first team on the schedule in 2021. -- VanHaaren2020 record: 6-2FPI for 2021: 27September 4th at Iowa, Sept. 18 at CincinnatiSeason outlook: Indiana is a basketball school. But, last year, no one could ignore the football Hoosiers. The story of Tom Allen's team is one of the most memorable in a challenging 2020 season in college football. The Hoosiers were 6-1 during the regular season. Their only loss was a 42-35 game against Ohio State in Columbus. The rule change would have allowed the Hoosiers to play in the Big Ten title match. The 2020 campaign was a success and the Hoosiers will look to prove it again in 2021 with the return of 18 of their 22 starters. This season, Indiana sets high expectations for its football program. LylesAfter suffering an ACL tear in the 2020 season, Indiana's Michael Penix Jr. will return to action. Marc Lebryk/USA Today Sports2020 record: 6-2FPI preseason 2021: 23September 4 vs. Indiana and Sept. 11 at Iowa State are the key September gamesSeason outlook: Iowa will be returning two key players on offense in running back Tyler Goodson, and quarterback Spencer Petras. This should ensure some consistency. After starting the season with two losses, the Hawkeyes went on to win six of their remaining games. Petras did not start the season as he wanted, with only four touchdowns and five interceptions in his first five games. The team will need him to improve on the two previous games, which he finished with five touchdowns but no interceptions. He will be able rely on Goodson who had 762 yards rushing in eight games and seven touchdowns running. Goodson will be behind Tyler Linderbaum (one of the top offensive linemen in Big Ten) and should be one the conference's best backs. To carry the load in the running back room, someone else will be needed. Iowa opens this season with Indiana and Iowa State. -- VanHaaren2020 record: 3-1FPI for 2021: 25September 11th at Michigan: Key September gameSeason outlook: Few teams had their seasons disrupted by the pandemic like Washington. The Huskies didn't leave Seattle after winning the Pac-12 North, but they were unable to participate in the conference title match. Both left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, tight end Cade Otton, were left wanting more and put the NFL on hold to give them a chance at something better. Watch out for cornerback Trent McDuffie who has already looked like a future NFL star since he stepped in to a prominent position as a true freshman. Bonagura2020 Record: 4-5Preseason FPI for 2021: 13Key September games: Sept. 4 at Wisconsin, Sept. 18 vs. AuburnSeason outlook: Penn State's run back was an exciting one. There were injuries and some bad luck, but it brought down the depth. Devyn Ford and Noah Cain are both healthy this season. John Lovett, a Baylor native, was added to the team along with Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes. Mike Yurcich's new offensive coordinator should have a strong offense if everyone is healthy. Running back Jahan Dotson and wide receiver Jahan Dotson are expected to contribute as much as they can to quarterback Sean Clifford's up-and-down college career. The defense is being replaced by Odafe Oweh, Micah Parsons and Shaka Toney who have all been transferred to the NFL. Two of the biggest questions going into fall camp are who will step up as a leader or in terms of production. -- VanHaaren2020 record: 7-3FPI for 2021: 7September 4 vs. Louisiana is the key September gameSeason outlook: Steve Sarkisian, no pressure. The Horns brought Sark from Alabama to Austin to bring some SEC ball. They then declared that they will return to Austin in as many years as it takes. The Longhorns will have to deal with a loaded Sooners team and hostile Big 12 fans at each stop. They'll also need to make tough road trips to TCU (7-2 vs Texas since joining the conference), and Iowa State. Arkansas is another bitter rival. The Louisiana team in Week one has the highest returning production in the country, beating Iowa State in Ames last year in the season opener. Wilson2020 record: 11-1FPI for 2021: 60Key September game: Sept. 18 at BuffaloSeason outlook: The Chanticleers were perhaps the most entertaining college football team last season. They had it all: From the teal field to their fast-paced offense, they were great. Every starter, except for defensive end Emmanuel Johnson or running back CJMarable, is back. Grayson McCall, the quarterback, is back. He was a sophomore who scored 33 touchdowns and threw only three interceptions in his first season. Coastal will be the talk of college football once more thanks to its manageable schedule. Kansas is the Power 5 opponent in Week 2. Scarborough