We don’t know when the 2020 college football season will get underway, but it’s never too early to examine which teams are poised to make a significant leap and improve their win total.
This list reflects three teams that we think you should keep an eye on when making college football picks this season.
California Golden Bears
The California Golden Bears could challenge the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 North. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has to jumpstart a unit that averaged just 21.2 points per game last season.
Quarterback Chase Garbers threw for 1,772 yards and 14 touchdowns and was 7-0 in games in which he started and played all snaps. Garbers can have a breakout year if he stays healthy.
Garbers will return, which is significant in their aspirations and they also bring back running backs Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy, who combined for over 1,000 rushing yards last season. Also, five of Cal’s top six wide receivers and every starter in the offensive line also return, making this a loaded offense.
Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter made drastic improvements on that side of the ball since 2017. All-American linebacker Evan Weaver and safety Ashtyn Davis led a defense that allowed 21.9 points per game in 2019.
California has to find a way to replace Weaver and Davis but eight starters return to that unit and I wouldn’t be surprised if they can rank high in their conference. Oregon and Washington have to visit Cal and they could shock them in those games. California at +1000 to win the Pac-12 North at BetOnline has tremendous value.
Head coach Bill Clark is outstanding. This team won the conference title in 2018 and then lost over 30 players. Last year only eight starters from that squad returned and they also lost quarterback Tyler Johnston III and running back Spencer Brown to injuries for significant periods of time and UAB still reach the Conference USA Championship Game against FAU.
This season UAB will bring back most of that roster and having Johnston III and Brown for an entire
Defensively, UAB allowed just 21.6 points per game last season, with defensive lineman Garrett Marino and linebacker Fitzgerald Mofor being significant contributors. The defense will definitely miss Marino and Mofor but other key pieces of that unit will return and it can be just as good as it was last year.
Edge rusher Jordan Smith (14.5 Tackles For Loss) is their player to watch on the defensive side of the ball, he can be a difference-maker and is regarded as one of the best at his position in the conference.
Cornerback Brontae Harris coming back after missing last season will help them improve the secondary. UAB’s visit to Miami will be a big test but this is a special group and they can go far in 2020.
The Boise State Broncos are the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference but the Wyoming Cowboys can put up a fight. BetOnline has Wyoming at +1400 to win the Mountain West and there’s value on this team.
Head coach Craig Bohl has led Wyoming to eight-win seasons and bowl games in three of the last four years. Wyoming was very competitive all year long and their five losses were by 13 points or less. This includes a 20-17 overtime home setback against Boise State on November 9th and a 26-22 road loss against San Diego State on October 12th.
Boise State, San Diego State and Air Force all have to visit Wyoming, which is clearly favorable for their aspirations. A stingy defense has helped Wyoming thrive in recent years but this season they lost linebackers Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia.
Also, defensive backs Tyler Hall and Alijah Halliburton are no longer eligible. Losing these four players, along with defensive coordinator Jake Dickert can be an issue. Bohl likely planned for this and their offense can make up for it as well.
Offensively, Wyoming averaged 25.4 points per game last season and quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams can get the job done. The offensive line returns all players and it can help talented running back Xazavian Valladay thrive once again. Valladay finished with 1,265 rushing yards last year and he is one of the keys to this team’s success.