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Risers and fallers in 247Sports’ updated Top 25 rankings for 2021

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247Sports released its first way-too-early top 25 rankings for the 2021 football season in early January. But with the passing of National Signing Day, the NFL Draft declaration deadline, and spring enrollment for transfers, plus more time to dig into rosters, we made some changes with our February release.

Our experts — Brad Crawford, Bud Elliott, Chris Hummer, Brandon Marcello, Josh Pate and Trey Scott voted for their own “way too early” top 25 rankings and the results are in. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Clemson stayed at the top, in order. But there were some big changes throughout. We polled the voters to ask why they moved teams up or down.

WISCONSIN: UP

It’s easy to get swept away by recent results, which is what happened with the Badgers. I saw them struggle to finish the 2020 season, and that impacted my initial rankings when I placed them 18th. That’s far too low when you consider the amount of production that returns (the 14th-most nationally) and the way Wisconsin has recruited recruiting. Don’t forget the Badgers’ second-half struggles are at least somewhat attributed to COVID-19 outbreak that all but halted the program’s season for weeks. Wisconsin is my preseason favorite in the Big Ten West without much question. ” — Hummer

“Extreme recency bias may have influenced my initial placement of Wisconsin. The more I look back on 2020 though the more it’s apparent Paul Chryst and the Badgers never really had a chance to get off the ground. The Week 1 drubbing of Illinois turned out to be misleading because we were denied the opportunity to see that team intact the rest of the year. The Badgers have recruited well above standard and I expect the 2021 product to validate what many thought would unfold in 2020.” — Pate

“How much should 2020 matter when figuring out who might be good in 2021? It has to matter some, but for some teams, perhaps it should matter less. Wisconsin had multiple stoppages due to the pandemic and struggled to find continuity. But the Badgers have had their best two recruiting classes in back-to-back years and return a ton from a disappointing 2020 team which still played to a top-20 level.” — Elliott

IOWA STATE: UP

“Our initial Top 25 came out a few days before Brock Purdy, Charlie Kolar, Mike Rose and Greg Eisworth each announced they’d return for the 2020 season. That means Iowa State returns the fourth-most production in the FBS, per ESPN’s Bill Connelly. A roster with that much experience and starpower is a legitimate CFB Playoff contender, blueblood or not. Iowa State has the highest floor of any team ranked outside the top five. That’s why I jumped them from No. 10 to No. 6 on my ballot.” — Hummer

MIAMI: UP

“I changed my stance on the Miami Hurricanes after discussing Manny Diaz’ team on a recent episode of the Cover 3 Podcast. I think I was overestimating the impact that QB D’Eriq King’s ACL injury might have, as it appears he should be back in time to start the season. More importantly, Miami returns more than any team except UCLA and Louisiana.” — Elliott

ALABAMA: UP

“I ranked Oklahoma at No. 1 in my initial poll, but even with half of Nick Saban’s assistants on the move and one of the greatest receivers in college football history (DeVonta Smith) out the door, I moved Alabama ahead of the Sooners for the simple reason that Alabama still has the most talented roster in college football coached by the greatest coach of all time. There are many questions Alabama must answer, but why am I questioning the GOAT and placing Oklahoma, a program that has gone 0-4 in the College Football Playoff above the Tide? Correction made. Alabama, like nine of the last 11 recruiting classes, is the unanimous choice at No. 1.” — Marcello

OKLAHOMA: UP

When it comes to what could prevent the Sooners from playing for a title in 2021 it seems many of the past reasons have been addressed. With an infusion of potential impact transfers along with several great recruiting classes stacked on top of each other the roster certainly fits the profile. This also figures to be the most balanced team Lincoln Riley has fielded with OU playing top-15 caliber defense down the stretch in 2020 providing a glimpse of what we can expect from Alex Grinch’s crew this year. ” — Pate

FLORIDA: UP AND DOWN

“I moved schools like Clemson and Iowa State up a spot each after some unexpected returnees, and did the same for the Sooners thanks to their transfer haul, but the biggest jump was Florida. I initially had the Gators ranked No. 22; just wasn’t impressed with the way they finished the season and life without Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. But the addition of Arik Gilbert from LSU warranted a 6-spot jump in my ballot. He won’t be Pitts, but he should be Emory Jones’ top target, and if you backfill him and Clemson RB transfer Demarkcus Bowman into the class of 2020, UF’s haul would have ranked No. 6, so the talent on the roster here is better than you’d think otherwise.” — Scott

“Florida moved out of my preseason Top 10 and fell three spots to No. 12 after National Signing Day and the 2021 class close-out leaving much to be desired. Coming off a division title, I expected the Gators to close stronger than they did with this class and losing Terrion Arnold to Alabama was substantial. There are some questions on both sides of the ball for me entering spring considering the personnel losses. Still, Florida has Top 15 talent.” — Crawford

COASTAL CAROLINA: UP

The Chants are my highest-ranked Group of 5 team at No. 9, which skewed Coastal Carolina’s ranking in our preseason poll. Jamey Chadwell’s team is high on my ballot because no team in college football was more positively affected by the blanket NCAA eligibility waiver. The Chants will bring back 21 starters off a team that lost one game. I’m expecting an unbeaten regular season given the schedule favorability and a Top 10 finish.”– Crawford

DOWN: NOTRE DAME

“I think Brian Kelly is an excellent coach. And Notre Dame had a great 2020 season. But it loses an incredible amount of production (123rd in the country). Despite its good recruiting, that is a lot to overcome. I feel more comfortable with Notre Dame just outside the top ten. If they can exceed that might depend on receivers Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin Jr., who missed all or part of 2020, making a big impact.” — Elliott

“I don’t think I’m the only one who’ll list Notre Dame here. Brian Kelly has recruited well enough to keep the good vibes rolling in South Bend, which is why I initially had the Irish a little higher than they deserved to be in my Top 25, But when you stop and consider the wholesale roster turnover that will occur this offseason – almost all of one of the nation’s best o-lines, the nation’s best defensive player, a three-year starter at QB – it’s difficult to envision this being anything but a rebuilding year. That’s why I dropped Notre Dame from No. 8 to 13. Though, the schedule still might allow the Irish to win nine or 10 games.” — Hummer

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