Three teams that could regress in the 2021 college football season

Members of the Northwestern defense celebrate after pulling down an interception late in the game against Iowa to seal the Wildcats' 21-20 win at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The 2021 college football season is just about here. Both the coaches and the AP polls have been released, which means it’s time to start debating which teams can seriously contend for the College Football Playoff and ultimately the championship. We can also talk about which teams may be dropping off just a bit. The Florida Gators, for example, cannot be found in the top 10 of either ranking. Neither the Northwestern Wildcats nor the BYU Cougars are in the top 25.

Let’s take a look at three teams that could take a step back in 2021.

Florida Gators

Quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts are now playing in the NFL. Those losses alone significantly deplete Florida’s offense. Emory Jones brings plenty of athleticism to the QB position, but he is unproven and not having Pitts as a target is unfortunate. The offensive line should be good, but the skill positions (Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes have also departed) won’t be what they were in 2020. Florida’s defense will likely be better, but that is not necessarily saying a lot given how bad the secondary was last year.

You can get the Gators at +6000 to win the National Championship, and they are +2000 simply to win the SEC. That’s an indication of just how much UF is expected to regress. That being said, the fact that head coach Dan Mullen’s crew has such long odds actually makes it a decent dark horse value pick in the conference. The Gators may not boast the talent that they did in 2020, but they also can’t be completely written off.

Kyle Trask of the Florida Gators hands the ball off.

CREDIT – Justin Ford (USA Today)

Northwestern Wildcats

Although 2020 was not a year to remember, it was mostly kind to Northwestern. The Wildcats rolled through an abbreviated Big Ten schedule with a 5-1 regular-season record to take the West Division title and get a shot at Ohio State in the conference championship. Following a hard-fought 22-10 loss, head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s club bounced back to beat Auburn 35-19 in the Citrus Bowl.

Northwestern may do well just to make any bowl game this time around. The Wildcats won’t be terrible, but the Big 10 is no slouch and you have to be pretty good to win a lot of games. The ‘Cats also captured the West title in 2018 and promptly went 3-9 the following year, so a regression would be nothing new for this program. A defense that was positively dominant last season lost a ton of starters in addition to coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who retired. The offense must replace quarterback Peyton Ramsey.

Check out our Big Ten preview and predictions including a 30/1 longshot!

BYU Cougars

BYU’s loss is the New York Jets’ gain, or at least the Jets hope that’s the case. The Zach Wilson era is over in Provo, Utah and now the Cougars will try to reload for 2021 after going 11-1 last season. Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall look like decent options at quarterback, but they won’t have Dax Milne, Wilson’s favorite receiving target, at their disposal. BYU’s offensive line will be solid; in 2020, however, it was one of the best in the business.

A difficult schedule is another reason why some losses could pile up. After opening with Arizona, the Cougars will face consecutive top 25 opponents in Utah and Arizona State. They wrap up their regular season with another top 25 foe, USC. In between BYU will run into Baylor, Boise State, and Virginia.

Don’t forget to read our Pac-12 preview and best bets for the conference

At Pickswise we offer free expert College Football Picks and College Football Predictions for all games in the Power Five conferences and the top 25 teams outside of Power five, including our College Football Parlay picks each week.

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