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College football rankings: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State lead Sporting News’ preseason top 25

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College football rankings: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State lead Sporting News' preseason top 25

Talkin’ season is here.

The 2021 college football season is coming, and Sporting News loves to embrace the period between Memorial Day through July 4 where all we want to do is talk about football. 

SN released our Way Too Early Top 25 in January, and we’ve made some adjustments to account for the NFL Draft and transfer portal. Our top four did not change. Most preseason publications will have some combination of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma at the top. 

SN will update our list one more time when talkin’ season is over, and we’ll have more preseason content on the way, including top players, preseason All-Americans and bowl projections. 

In the meantime, let’s talk about our top 25 for the 2021 college football season: 

College football rankings 2021

1. Alabama

Alabama had six first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, but “The Process” continues with Nick Saban. Bryce Young takes over at quarterback, and it’s up to new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to make the pieces fit around him with running backs Trey Sanders and Jase McClellan, receivers John Metchie and Slade Bolden and tight end Jahleel Billingsley. Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams can contribute at receiver, too. The defense should improve, as well, especially at linebacker: Tennessee transfer Henry To’oto’o joins what could be the best linebacker corps in the nation alongside Will Anderson Jr., Christopher Allen and Christian Harris, who combined for 31.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 2020. The season opener against Miami in Atlanta should be fun, and there are road tests at Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn. Like we say every year, the season does not start until Alabama loses.

2. Clemson

The Tigers are 39-3 the last three seasons, but consecutive blowout losses in the Playoff against LSU and Ohio State offered a dose of humility to Dabo Swinney’s program. Trevor Lawrence is gone, but D.J. Uiagalelei offered an encouraging glimpse of the future in 2020. Lyn-J Dixon steps into a starting role at tailback. Justyn Ross’ return boosts a receiving corps that features E.J. Williams and Joseph Ngata. A young defense should be better, too, and that revolves around sophomores Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and Trenton Simpson. Linebacker James Skalski also returned. The Tigers won’t have to wait long for a test — not with the season-opening matchup against Georgia in Charlotte. The Tigers remain a strong bet to win a seventh straight ACC championship.

3. Ohio State

Ryan Day enters his third season as coach of the Buckeyes, who are again the favorite to win a fifth straight Big Ten championship. Justin Fields is gone, and C.J. Stroud is the favorite to emerge as the starting quarterback in a battle with Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord. Ohio State has what LSU and Alabama had the last two seasons, with the most depth at receiver in the FBS. That starts with future first-round picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Defensive end Zach Harrison and cornerback Sevyn Banks are All-American candidates on the defense, and freshman Jack Sawyer — who had four sacks in the spring game — should be an immediate contributor. The Buckeyes get Oregon and Penn State at home, too.

4. Oklahoma

Is this the year the Sooners break through for their first national championship since 2000? Oklahoma closed 2020 as one of the hottest teams in the FBS, and Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler will improve with another year with Lincoln Riley. The running back rotation is loaded with Kennedy Brooks, Marcus Major and Tennessee transfer Eric Gray. Marvin Mims and Theo Wease and Jadon Haselwood form an elite receiving trio. The defense is always a question, but defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey and Nik Bonitto return. The Sooners will be ranked No. 1 by some publications, and a fifth CFP appearance is within reach. Oklahoma still needs to prove it in the CFP.

5. Georgia

Kirby Smart is 52-14 the last five seasons, and the Bulldogs have finished no lower than second in the SEC East in that stretch. The expectations, however, are to bring the program its first national championship since 1980. After all, Mark Richt was 52-13 after his first five seasons, too. Smart has recruited at an elite level, and quarterback JT Daniels steadied the offense when he took over last season. Zamir White returns at running back, but the offense took a hit when receiver George Pickens suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. The defense is loaded with top two tacklers Nakobe Dean and Lewis Cine. The season opener against Clemson in Charlotte is the latest chance to prove it on the big stage.

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6. Notre Dame

The Irish — who return to independent status in 2021 — face heavy losses on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Ian Book. Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan has experience, but Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner could push for the job. With Brian Kelly, you never know. Running backs Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree return with tight end Michael Mayer. The offensive line and front seven will need to be rebuilt, but Kelly successfully retooled both sides of the ball each of the last three seasons. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea is gone, but Kelly managed to pull Marcus Freeman from Cincinnati. The matchup against Wisconsin at Soldier Field is an interesting test to see how the interior will hold up on both sides. Cincinnati, USC and North Carolina also are on the schedule.

7. Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher put the program in the Playoff conversation for the first time in 2020. Now, the challenge is to keep it there. The Aggies lose a loaded senior class, and either Zach Calzada or Haynes King taking over for veteran quarterback Kellen Mond. The good news is leading rusher Isaiah Spiller, top receiver Ainias Smith and All-American guard Kenyon Green return. The defense allowed just 21.7 points per game in 2019. The crossover schedule is friendly with Missouri and South Carolina, and Auburn and Alabama have to visit College Station. Can the Aggies take that next step?

8. Florida

The Gators flopped in a Sugar Bowl beatdown vs. Oklahoma, and key components of that potent passing attack — quarterback Kyle Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Kadarious Toney — are headed to the NFL. That said, Dan Mullen has led three consecutive runs to New Year’s Day 6 bowls, and the offense will change with Emory Jones under center. The other challenge is rebuilding the offensive line. The good news is the defense is loaded with Zachary Carter, Brenton Cox, Ventrell Miller and Kaiir Elam. This season will test whether Florida can reload and consistently compete for an SEC championship.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones likely will open the season with their highest preseason ranking in program history (the previous high was 20th in 1978, a year in which they finished unranked after an 8-4 season). Coach Matt Campbell has established a special culture in Ames, and quarterback Brock Purdy is among the senior leaders who opted to return, along with tight end Chase Allen, offensive lineman Sean Foster, tight end Charlie Kolar and linebacker Mike Rose. Add All-American running back Breece Hall, and you have the makings of the “it” team for 2021. The Sept. 11 matchup against in-state rival Iowa is huge. Despite its recent success, Iowa State is still 0-4 in that game under Campbell.

10. Cincinnati

The Bearcats showed they could compete in a New Year’s Day bowl loss to Georgia. The return of quarterback Desmond Ridder ensures the Bearcats will be right back in the mix for another American Athletic Conference championship. Jerome Ford will be the lead back in that run-heavy attack, and Luke Fickell continues to build with Ohio-centric recruiting classes. Cornerback Ahmad Gardner is a star of a defense that will have to rebuild the front seven. The Bearcats have road games at Indiana and Notre Dame, so the schedule should not be a question mark on the Bearcats’ 2021 College Football Playoff resume.

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(Getty Images)

11. LSU

LSU bottomed out after a national championship season in 2019, and Ed Orgeron responded by adding Daronte Jones as the new defensive coordinator. Max Johnson appears to be the favorite to start at quarterback, and leading receiver Kayshon Boutte (735 yards) returns. The late-season victory against Florida showed that talent, and Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks are tasked with rebuilding that defense. The Tigers are a bounce-back candidate, but the usual hurdles within the SEC won’t be easy.

12. USC

The Trojans won the Pac-12 South last season, and that took some heat off coach Clay Helton. Kedon Slovis, who has totaled 47 touchdowns to 16 interceptions the last two seasons, returns at quarterback. Drake London and Bru McCoy will be reliable targets in the passing game. Defensive end Korey Foreman, the top recruit in the class of 2021, should make an early impact, too. The standard remains a Pac-12 championship, which has eluded the program since 2017.

13. Texas

The Steve Sarkisian era in Austin begins. The Longhorns’ offense averaged 42.7 points per game last season, but Sam Ehlinger is gone. Casey Thompson and Hudson Card are battling for the starting job, and that should extend into fall camp. Running back Bijan Robinson and a talented group of receivers return, but as usual the questions are on the defensive side. What can Sarkisian do to improve that side of the ball? Texas lost three games by a total of 13 points last season. That’s the difference in the Big 12 race, which will be tight with Oklahoma and Iowa State.

14. North Carolina

Mack Brown led the Tar Heels to a New Year’s Day 6 Bowl in his second season — a testament to his near-instant rebuild in Chapel Hill. Junior Sam Howell could be the first quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, and that’s a good start for an offense that needs to rebuild the running game without Javonte Williams and Michael Carter and their combined 2,557 yards and 33 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2020. Senior British Brooks will be counted on early in the season. The secondary should be a strength too, though North Carolina still needs to be more consistent on a week-to-week basis. The Friday night opener at Virginia Tech is a tone-setter, but five of the next six are at home. A run to the ACC championship game is possible, where another shot at Clemson would be worth watching.

15. Indiana

The Hoosiers were the feel-good story of 2020, and Tom Allen has built a Big Ten contender in Bloomington. How will the program handle that success? Michael Penix Jr.’s return from a season-ending injury is the starting point for that return. Whop Philyor is gone, but Ty Fryfogle is back. The offense also added USC running back Stephen Carr. Junior linebacker Micah McFadden returns to a tough defense that allowed just 20.2 points per game. The Hoosiers play Iowa, Cincinnati and Penn State in the first five weeks. If Indiana can get through that undefeated, then the Oct. 23 matchup against Ohio State should decide the Big Ten East.

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(Getty Images)

16. Oregon 

Oregon has won back-to-back Pac-12 championships under Mario Cristobal, but last season was a missed opportunity after a pair of conference losses to Oregon State and Cal. Anthony Brown is up at quarterback after Tyler Shough opted to transfer to Texas Tech. CJ Verdell and Travis Dye are back at tailback, and the offense should be more fluid under second-year coordinator Joe Moorhead. Kayvon Thibodeaux, a potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, leads a defense that also features Noah Sewell and Isaac Slade-Matautia. The Ducks will get a chance to show what they’re made of on Sept. 11 at Ohio State.

17. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys remain a solid Big 12 team, and the offense should continue to produce around junior quarterback Spencer Sanders. Brennan Presley is the best bet among a young group of receivers, and offensive lineman Josh Sills returns. The Cowboys have always been able to score with Mike Gundy, and the defense improved from 26.8 points per game in 2019 to 23.5 ppg in 2020. Trace Ford and Tyler Lacy combined for 8.5 sacks in 2020. Can the Cowboys keep pace with Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State in the Big 12? That would certainly take some heat off Gundy: He is 14-13 in conference play the last three seasons.

18. Iowa

The Hawkeyes are our early favorite to win the Big Ten’s West division. Spencer Petras and Tyler Goodson return at quarterback and running back, respectively, and the offensive line is led by Rimington Trophy finalist Tyler Linderbaum, who bypassed the NFL Draft. Zach VanValkenburg’s return also is a boost for the defensive line. Crossover opponents Indiana and Penn State visit Kinnick Stadium. Kirk Ferentz has a team that resembles his 2015 and 2019 squads. They might get a shot at Ohio State in Indianapolis. 

19. Miami

D’Eriq King remains on the comeback trail after suffering a knee injury in the Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. If he returns, then the Hurricanes can build off an encouraging second season with Manny Diaz — but don’t discount freshman Jake Garcia, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the Hurricanes’ spring game. Miami also needs to reestablish a pass rush after losing Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche to the NFL Draft, and that starts with Bradley Jennings. Bubba Bolden brings All-American potential to the secondary. The ultimate measuring stick comes in the opener against Alabama in Atlanta.

20. Wisconsin

COVID-19 wrecked Wisconsin’s season after a promising opener in 2020, and the Badgers had trouble scoring. Graham Mertz returns at quarterback, and Jalen Berger must fill the lead-back position after averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Logan Bruss leads an offensive line that features three seniors. It won’t take long to figure out the Badgers. Penn State visits Camp Randall Stadium in the opener, and Wisconsin faces Notre Dame and Michigan in two of the next three games. The Badgers are always a safe bet to win the Big Ten West division, but it won’t be easy in 2021.

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(Getty Images)

21. Ole Miss

Behold the chaos teams of 2021. Lane Kiffin led Ole Miss to a 5-5 bowl victory in 2020 with an offense that averaged 39.2 points per game. Quarterback Matt Corral and running back Jerrion Early return to that high-powered offense. Ole Miss can score on anybody, but the defense ranked 118th among FBS teams after allowing 38.3 points per game. The Rebels will play in high-scoring thrillers, including the Labor Day opener against Louisville in Atlanta. October road trips at Alabama (Oct. 2), Tennessee (Oct. 16) and Auburn (Oct. 30) should generate a lot of reaction, but will Ole Miss win more than one of those games? 

22. Auburn

Auburn is the fifth SEC West school in our rankings, a nod to the incredible depth within the toughest division in the FBS. Coach Bryan Harsin takes over after seven seasons at Boise State. His challenge is to build a consistent, physical running game around the three-year starter Bo Nix. Sophomore running back Tank Bigsby averaged 6.0 yards per carry last season and should help with that. The schedule is rough, with a trip to Penn State on Sept. 18 and a conference slate that includes road dates at LSU and Texas A&M. Then, Harsin will get his first crack at the Iron Bowl. The Tigers won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons with Gus Malzahn. Can Harsin hit that mark?

23. Coastal Carolina

Jamey Chadwell won SN Coach of the Year honors in 2020 after a breakthrough season in the Sun Belt. It won’t be easy to maintain that status against conference contenders Louisiana and Appalachian State, which the Chanticleers beat by a combined 14 points last season. Coastal Carolina also visits the Mountaineers on a Wednesday night game on Oct. 20 that should be entertaining. Quarterback Grayson McCall returns after a fantastic freshman season in which he passed for 26 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Encores are never easy, but Coastal Carolina looks built to last with Chadwell. 

24. Army

Jeff Monken’s name continues to pop up in the coaching carousel, but a Power 5 program hasn’t been willing to bite yet. That’s good news for the Black Knights, who return their top five rushers from an offense that averaged 273.0 rushing yards per game. Monken has brought consistency to West Point. Army’s schedule is set up for a fast start, and October matchups against Wisconsin and Wake Forest will get attention. The Nov. 27 matchup at Liberty, another independent that could be ranked by then, will have interesting bowl implications.

25. Penn State

Penn State hit the reset button after a disastrous 2020, but James Franklin has more than enough talent on the roster to make a run at the Big Ten’s East division. Mike Yurcich takes over at offensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons at Ohio State and Texas, respectively. He’ll take over an offense with Sean Clifford returning at quarterback and Devyn Ford and Keyvone Lee forming an interesting 1-2 punch at running back. Jahan Dotston is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. But the offensive line needs to improve, as does the defense. which allowed 27.7 points per game in 2020. There is a lot to prove, and the gap with Ohio State continues to widen.

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USWNT legend Carli Lloyd defying Father Time in quest for soccer Olympics gold at age 39

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USWNT legend Carli Lloyd defying Father Time in quest for soccer Olympics gold at age 39

Had the Tokyo Olympics been contested in 2020, as scheduled, Carli Lloyd would have been a whole year younger. She’d have turned 38 immediately in advance of the Games, rather than 39 – which, to be frank, still is uncommonly old for a professional soccer player. So maybe those extra 12 months really don’t mean so much.

Or maybe they’ve made Lloyd even better at the sport in which she already is a legend.

“I actually feel better,” she told Sporting News, after the U.S. Women’s National team completed a 4-0 friendly victory Sunday night over Jamaica. “And I don’t think that, if it was played in 2020, a number of different things wouldn’t have happened.

“My family wouldn’t have been a part of it. I wouldn’t have had knee surgery. I changed up my strength program, started working with a guy back home. I have a new trainer that I do ball work with. So I feel like I went from thinking that I’m continuing to get better to just like a whole ‘nother level. I’ve never been this fit, fast, explosive.”

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If it seems unlikely there could be another level beyond excellence for an athlete encountering middle age, you have not been paying attention to the sporting world in 2021. Tom Brady, already the owner of six Super Bowl rings, won his seventh as a 43-year-old quarterback. Golfer Phil Mickelson earned a sixth major title with a PGA Championship triumph at age 50. Helio Castroneves, essentially discarded by his race team as he entered his mid-40s, won a fourth Indianapolis 500 at age 46.

Lloyd may not appear to belong in this age group at first glance, but understand the nature of the sport and the constant, year-round grind tends to age soccer players more rapidly. Mia Hamm played her last game for the USWNT at 32. Abby Wambach was done at 35. Landon Donovan, the greatest USMNT player, was cut from the 2014 World Cup team at age 32. Zinedine Zidane ended his career with a World Cup triumph shortly after turning 34.

Lloyd will reach her 39th birthday July 16, and it’ll be a full celebration if that occurs in Japan while preparing to open the Games five days later against nemesis Sweden. She has won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. She has earned 303 caps, third in world soccer history, and scored 125 international goals, which ranks sixth. Against Jamaica, she became the oldest player ever to score for the USWNT, and she bagged that goal 23 seconds into the match, as though it were essential to get it done before time caught up with her (video below).

It still might. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not postponed the Olympics into this summer, making the U.S. squad might have been a slightly less brutal challenge. Veteran striker Alex Morgan would have been only two months past the birth of her daughter, Charlie, and Lloyd had excelled in the position while Morgan was absent. Lynn Williams had only just returned to the national team, although she performed well and scored the game-winner in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final against Canada. Promising Midge Purce had barely a cap to her name.

Unlike the World Cup, which allows teams to bring 23 players to what can become a seven-game tournament for the winner and runner-up, the Olympics only accommodates 18 players per team for the six games required to claim a gold medal. For his first tournament as USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski will have to make some excruciating decisions because of the abundance of talented players. He must balance any desire to get essential international tournament experience for younger players with the understanding the primary goal is to field the team most likely to claim the gold medal.

“It is extremely difficult, but at the same time, the closer we get, I think, the easier it gets,” Andonovski told Sporting News. “It gets clearer with the analysis we’re able to do, and the evaluation. If we had 23, it was going to be difficult to cut players number 24, 25 and 26. It is always difficult.

“We have a very deep roster … regardless of what the number is, it will always be difficult.”

Perhaps because there was not a national team schedule to consume her, Lloyd took the opportunity to make some massive changes in her life during 2020. She parted ways with her longtime trainer, James Galanis, who had become a sort of personal “guru” for the player who scored the winning goals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and won the 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year award.

The work with Galanis had been a factor in Lloyd’s enduring rift with her family, which lasted more than a decade. Upon ending that affiliation, Lloyd called her parents and began working to repair that relationship.

She now hopes to win one last gold medal, insisting her desire to experience life beyond professional sports – not her advancing age – will end her career. The only concession to competing in such proximity to her 40th birthday has been the transition to center forward, a position that typically does not require covering as much ground as midfielder.

As is typical of Lloyd, though, she has worked ferociously to master the position, including film study of the game’s best strikers to learn their tricks and techniques. She had made the transition in advance of the USWNT’s triumph at the 2019 World Cup, appearing in all seven games and scoring three goals for coach Jill Ellis, but the arrival of Andonovski meant relearning how to play as a center forward.

“The way the No. 9 position was played was a bit different with Jill,” Lloyd said. “We didn’t high press, we didn’t do certain things. I feel like the way that Vlatko wants our team to play kind of just fits me. I love high pressing. I love putting the defenders and opponents under pressure. From the time that Vlatko came on board to now, I’ve literally just been a sponge trying to continuously get better and evolve my game.”

Lloyd is famous for the personal slights she seized upon for motivation, starting with her benching in advance of the 2012 Olympics that ended with her scoring twice in the gold-medal match. Before the 2019 World Cup, she bristled at the suggestion she had embraced the role of “super-sub”, emphasizing to SN she still was fighting for a starting spot every day.

In the early hours Monday, Lloyd made sure to tell The Philadelphia Inquirer’s excellent soccer writer, Jonathan Tannenwald, she was bothered to have him predict she would not make the Olympic roster, and that she was particularly annoyed because the Inquirer was essentially a hometown paper for someone who grew up 14 miles away in Delran, N.J. Tannenwald, though, only had suggested Lloyd was “on the bubble”, as they say, for selection.

“I don’t think if I’ll be able to answer directly about any player, not just Carli, any player on this team until I really have to,” Andonovski told Tannenwald. “I will say that I was happy with her performance: comes in, scores the goal, sets the pace for the team and does well overall, not just in this game but in the previous games and in training. So I think she’s in a really good place.”

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With 12-team playoff, college coaches on hot seat may have higher survival rate

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With 12-team playoff, college coaches on hot seat may have higher survival rate

A College Football Playoff subcommittee revealed a proposal for 12-team expansion last week, a move that became the leading topic of the offseason. 

Soon enough, we will be back to the hot-seat coaches. That chatter never goes away. 

While that expansion won’t impact the futures of head coaches for the next few seasons, the potential ripple effects on the coaching carousel will be intriguing. Just wait until the 12-team playoff and hot-seat talk mix. 

MORE: How a 12-team College Football Playoff works 

That will lead to some interesting questions about the definition of coaching success. 

Is it a trip to the 12-team CFP? Would winning a Playoff game save a coach’s job — similar to a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament? Which coaches would have different temperatures now if the 12-team Playoff started in 2014? Will fewer coaches be fired as a result?

Those are legitimate questions when you consider past results. Here is a look at the schools that would have multiple CFP appearances if the 12-team format started in 2014:

If CFP had 12 teams since 2014 … 

SCHOOL PLAYOFF APP.
Ohio State 7
Alabama 6
Clemson 6
Oklahoma 6
Georgia 4
Notre Dame 4
Penn State 4
Florida 3
Florida State 3
Washington 3
Wisconsin 3
Baylor 2
LSU 2
Michigan 2
Michigan State 2
Oregon 2
TCU 2
UCF 2
USC 2

Now, here is how it would have changed the outlook on some programs and coaches in that time frame: 

Which programs would have benefitted with 12 teams?

Penn State, Georgia and TCU stand out.

The Nittany Lions have yet to make a Playoff appearance, and James Franklin is coming off a miserable 4-5 season in 2020. Franklin is on shakier ground than usual heading into 2021, but it would be a different story in a 12-team setup. 

Penn State would have made four at-large appearances from 2016-19. Imagine the impact that would have had on recruiting and how that would have helped make up ground with Ohio State — the only school that would have made the CFP all seven seasons. Over time, that would make the Big Ten East race more compelling than it is in the present day.  

Sound familiar, Georgia? The Bulldogs would have made the CFP each of the last four seasons, which is better than the one appearance Georgia has under Kirby Smart. Georgia has recruited at an elite level under Smart, but the program continues to chase its first national championship since 1980. For all the success, the Bulldogs are still operating in Alabama’s shadow. 

Perhaps in one of those seasons the Bulldogs would have made that run, but Smart’s success in Athens — and even Mark Richt before him — would be perceived with more appreciation.

Imagine what back-to-back Playoff appearances in 2014-15 would have done for Gary Patterson at TCU in the Big 12. Those misses stalled the program’s momentum. Patterson is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the FBS and has enjoyed steady success, but the Horned Frogs are 18-17 the last three seasons.

Which coaches would have cooler seats now?

Clay Helton and Jim Harbaugh have been on the hot seat the past few seasons. Those two coaches are talked about more than anybody else on any given offseason.

Helton would have led the Trojans to back-to-back CFP appearances in 2016-17 with Sam Darnold, and perhaps that would have helped the program avoid a two-year decline from 2018-19. Helton bounced back with a Pac-12 South championship in 2020, but USC might be further along on that road to true national championship contention.

Harbaugh is 0-5 against Ohio State and has failed to break through to a Big Ten championship game since his arrival in 2015. Yet Michigan would have two CFP appearances under this setup, including that 2016 team that lost the double-overtime thriller to the Buckeyes on “The Spot.” The 2018 team also was Harbaugh’s last true Big Ten contender.

Perhaps those teams win a Playoff game or two. The Ohio State question still looms, but it isn’t the only talking point with Harbaugh. 

Which coaches might have stayed put? 

Chris Peterson retired after the 2019 season, but the Huskies would have been a three-time Playoff team in a 12-team setup from 2016-18. Would that have attracted the necessary talent for Peterson to make that national championship run?

Would Scott Frost still be at UCF? It’s worth asking knowing the Knights would have been a playoff team in 2017 and 2018. The Group of 5 inclusion might prompt more coaches to stay put (think Tom Herman at Houston). Frost is 12-20 the last three seasons at Nebraska.

Will there be fewer coaching changes?

Frost is a good launching point for that discussion. Consider that UCF coach Josh Heupel is at Tennessee now, and former Auburn coach Gus Malzhan is now at UCF. 

Auburn would have made the CFP only one time under this format, and Malzahn was formerly a coach that was on the hot seat every year like Harbaugh and Helton. Maybe that changes Malzahn’s status. Maybe it doesn’t. 

There were 17 coaching changes in the FBS this offseason. That was the first time in the CFP era that the number was under 20. Perhaps the 12-15 number becomes the norm in the 12-team era knowing that the definition of success slides with more includied in the Playoff.

Here is betting that will happen, and it will be a welcome change. 

Hot seat talk will never stop, but we’re looking forward to see how those conversations change. 

 

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MLB All-Star voting 2021: How it works, updated vote totals for Midsummer Classic

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MLB All-Star voting 2021: How it works, updated vote totals for Midsummer Classic

The MLB All-Star Game is back, after the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the cancellation of the 2020 game during the shortened 60-game MLB season. The 2021 contest was moved from Atlanta to Denver in early April, a controversial move spurred by a controversial voting bill passed in Georgia. But that’s a topic for another column.

Today, let’s look at how the 2021 All-Star Game voting is happening; it’s easy to forget that MLB changed the voting format a bit before the 2019 game, which was held in Cleveland. A few things have happened in the world — baseball and otherwise — since that change. 

Let’s look at that, along with the first batch of voting results.

How does the MLB All-Star voting process work?

As a refresher, here’s how MLB’s relatively new voting process works, with dates for 2021: For Phase 1, teams submit player names, one per position and three outfielders. And the voting, which started June 3, rolled out as usual. Fans vote, in a number of ways, for their favorite players or the players they felt deserved the nod (it’s always been vague and that’s part of the charm of a fan vote, I guess). There will be a second vote-total reveal on June 21. 

Phase 1 voting ends at 4 p.m. ET on June 24. On June 27, during an MLB Network show, the top three vote-getters at each position (the top nine outfielders) will be revealed.

Then, vote totals for those players all go back to zero. A new ballot will go live at noon ET on June 28, with only those three players at each position (and nine outfielders). Phase 2 voting does not last long; it ends July 1 at 2 p.m. ET. That’s just 98 hours of voting time to determine the starters at each position. 

The starters will be revealed later in the day on July 1. Details for that broadcast will be revealed at a later date. The full teams — including pitchers and reserves — will be revealed on a July 4 broadcast (again, details to come). 

Key dates ahead for the MLB All-Star Game

All-Star Balloting Update No. 2: June 21st 

Phase 1 Balloting Ends: June 24 at 4 p.m. ET

2021 Google MLB All-Star Ballot Finalists Show: June 27 at noon ET on MLB Network

Phase 2 Voting Begins: June 28 at noon ET

Phase 2 Voting Ends: July 1 at 2 pm. ET

2021 Google MLB All-Star Starters Reveal: July 1 (details TBA)

2021 Google MLB All-Star Selection Show: July 4 (details TBA)

Futures Game: July 11, at 3 p.m. ET

MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game: July 11, at 6 p.m. ET

MLB Draft: July 11, at 7 p.m. ET

Home Run Derby: July 12, at 8 p.m. ET

MLB All-Star Game: July 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET

First 2021 All-Star ballot update 

American League

Position/player Team Votes
C Salvador Perez Royals 694,710
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays 857,956
2B Marcus Semien Blue Jays 561,326
3B Rafael Devers Red Sox 451,042
SS Xander Bogaerts Red Sox 502,629
OF Mike Trout Angels 706,503
OF Aaron Judge Yankees 538,448
OF Byron Buxton Twins 383,178
DH Shohei Ohtani Angels 526,608

National League

Position/player Team Votes
C Buster Posey Giants 511,221
1B Max Muncy Dodgers 405,609
2B Ozzie Albies Braves 295,478
3B Kris Bryant Cubs 502,970
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 701,251
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. Braves 834,287
OF Nick Castellanos Reds 568,758
OF Jesse Winker Reds 462,692

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