Photo courtesy of Alabama athletics
Something new that we’re going to be doing for this college football season is a weekly tier list.
Special thanks to tiermaker.com for being a free, online tier maker.
For anyone that would like to participate and share with us their own personal tier list, the template to make it can be found here.
Each week, this tier list will be updated based on how they play each of their opponents. A loss does not necessarily mean a drop, and a win does not necessarily mean an increase. In some rarer instances, the opposite might apply.
Note: teams are alphabetized in each tiers, not ranked. This is a stratification exercise, not a ranking exercise.
Fair warning, there are some logos that show up too darkly or do not fit properly. We tried to find the best logo for each team possible
Lastly, the titles for each tier are going to change throughout the season and are meant more as a general blanket statement. They may not necessarily apply to each and every team.
Tier 1: The Most Talented Teams; Should Compete for Playoff Spot
Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma
There should be no surprises that these five schools are in a tier by themselves. They really have separated themselves from the rest of college football in the last few seasons.
It will be interesting to see how Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State do with new quarterbacks leading the offenses.
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 2: Oklahoma, loser of Clemson/Georgia.
Tier 2: Could Make Noise in Playoff Conversation; Should Compete for New Year’s Six Spot
Cincinnati, Florida, Iowa State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas A&M
They are not the current cream of the crop.
But could they steal a game against Tier 1? Sure.
Similar to teams in Tier 1, there are a three teams here — Florida, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M — that will have a new quarterback that could determine whether they are ready to move in to Tier 1.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 1: Texas A&M, North Carolina
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 3: Florida, Iowa State, Notre Dame
Tier 3: Might Make a New Year’s Six; Should Push 10 Wins or So
Louisiana, Miami, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas, USC, Wisconsin
In this tier, there are some former powerhouses in Miami, Texas, and USC, but there are also some teams that have not quite gotten over the hump to national championship stardom in Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Then of course, there are the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana. Based on this tier list, they’re the second-ranked Group of 5 team in the country behind only Cincinnati.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 2: Miami, Texas
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 4: Oklahoma State, Wisconsin
Tier 4: Should Comfortably Make a Bowl; Could Get to 10 Wins
Auburn, Boise State, Coastal Carolina, Indiana, Liberty, LSU, Michigan, NC State, Nevada, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Penn State, TCU, UCF, Utah, Virginia Tech, Washington
Now the tiers start to get a little more full.
There are some teams that have high expectations despite previous results being middle of the road – Nevada, Ole Miss, TCU.
There are also some teams that had disappointing seasons in 2020 and likely want to turn the page in 2021 – LSU, Penn State.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 3: Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Penn State
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 5: Michigan, NC State, Ole Miss, Washington
Tier 5: Likely Will Make a Bowl; Probably Not a 10 Win Team
Air Force, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Arizona State, Ball State, Baylor, BYU, California, Colorado, Florida State, Houston, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Marshall, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, San Jose State, SMU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Tulane, Tulsa, UCLA, UTSA, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington State, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
Tier 5 will likely be the most full tier for the entire season; this is where most teams land.
The original plan was for the tiers to take a bell curve shape, with most teams falling in the center couple tiers. College football being top heavy changes that a little, but there is still a general bell curve shape.
Some teams, like BYU, had a great 2020, but lose far too much production to justify a high-tier ranking.
Other teams, like Florida State, had a disappointing 2020, but are looking ready to compete and fight their way to higher tiers.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 4: Appalachian State, Colorado, Memphis, SMU, West Virginia
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 6: Arizona State, Ball State, Marshall, Michigan State, Texas Tech
Tier 6: Might Make a Bowl; Probably Won’t Win Less Than 3 Games
Arizona, Arkansas State, Army, Boston College, Colorado State, Duke, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Fresno State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas State, Kent State, Miami University, Navy, Nebraska, North Texas, Rutgers, San Diego State, South Alabama, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Toledo, Troy, UAB, Utah State, Western Michigan, Wyoming
The second-most full tier, Tier 6 is the teams that will likely have their season’s success be determined by if they make a bowl game.
Some teams, like Rutgers, are excited to finally be out of the basement of college football.
Others like Nebraska, are likely growing tired of being in this below average rung on the college football ladder.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 5: Arizona, Kent State, Nebraska, San Diego State
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 7: Duke, East Carolina, Navy, North Texas, Syracuse
Tier 7: It’s Not Likely They Go Winless, But Let’s Be Realistic About Expectations
Buffalo, Central Michigan, Charlotte, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Old Dominion, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Temple, Texas State, UNLV, UTEP
Some teams might even make bowls, like Buffalo or Ohio, but that’s more a product of their scheduling rather than their overall talent.
Other teams, like Charlotte, South Florida, and Temple, would probably deem a four-win season to be a success.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 6: Buffalo, Ohio, Southern Mississippi, UTEP
Some teams on edge of dropping to Tier 8: Charlotte, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, Texas State
Tier 8: Maybe They’ll Beat An FBS Team?
Akron, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana Monroe, Massachusetts, New Mexico State, Rice, Vanderbilt
This is the bottom level of college football. This is as bad as it can get for a team.
This tier is titled, “maybe they’ll beat an FBS team,” because going winless against FBS competition is definitely on the table.
New Mexico State went 1-1 in its games of 2020 against FCS foes Tarleton State and Dixie State. In those two games, the Aggies allowed 72 points while only scoring 53.
Some teams on edge of rising to Tier 7: None of them, maybe Vanderbilt?
Bottom three, ranked from 128th to 130th: Louisiana Monroe, Massachusetts, New Mexico State