Six (OK, seven) teams capable of reaching the CFB playoff for the first time in 2020

It’s hard to believe Joe Burrow and LSU ever could’ve been a well-kept secret, but this time last year they weren’t really on anyone’s radar. Will a team break out similarly next season? If so, which one?

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Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida

Florida is on the verge of a 2020 breakthrough.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

LSU star safety Grant Delpit didn’t grasp until well into training camp that his team was going to be outstanding in 2019.

“We knew that either we were going to be really good or we were going to be bad, because [the offense was] putting up a lot of yards, a lot of points on us in all the scrimmages,” he said.

Five months later, it’s hard to believe Joe Burrow and that Tigers offense ever could’ve been a well-kept secret.

Will a team break out similarly in 2020? If so, which one?

Here are half a dozen, listed alphabetically, that could crash the playoff party for the first time next season:

Auburn: Basically, the Tigers need quarterback Bo Nix to take a Burrow-size step forward and assert himself as the SEC’s best player. An approximation of Cam Newton’s 2010 dominance would get the job done, too. Those are tall orders — just a bit, right? — but Nix has massive talent. The defense should be motivated all offseason after getting embarrassed by Minnesota in the Outback Bowl.

Florida: The Gators were quietly terrific during an 11-2 season that included losses to LSU and Georgia. QB Kyle Trask will continue to get better. LSU must come to the Swamp, and Georgia must reload with a nearly all-new offense. This is the year for Dan Mullen to prove what he can do when he holds the cards. 

Penn State: No, it’s not too soon to circle October 24 on the calendar. That’s when Ohio State visits Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions will be loaded in 2020, with tremendous speed on both sides of the ball. James Franklin is an elite coach just waiting to break all the way through.

Texas: With Sam Ehlinger coming back, the Longhorns are assured of having one of college football’s best quarterbacks guiding them. The 38-10 blowout of favored Utah in the Alamo Bowl was a taste of what’s to come. Bigger Saturday: September 12 at LSU or October 10 vs. Oklahoma?

UCF: If QB McKenzie Milton is able to come back and reclaim the starting job more than a year and a half after a devastating knee injury, it’ll be one of the most compelling stories out there. Milton has led the Knights to an unbeaten season before, and the AAC has only risen — thanks to Memphis and Cincinnati — in stature since then.

Wisconsin or Minnesota: Is this cheating? It feels like cheating. But these rivals seem tied together heading into a new year. The Badgers are one of the top programs yet to make the playoff. The Gophers have huge momentum after the bowl win against Auburn, and their 2020 schedule is pretty friendly. Can a Big Ten West team grab a league title for the first time in seven years?

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