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Three-Point Stance: Ten teams that should be feeling positive

Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a look at several programs that should be optimistic about the future, underrated Power Five rivalries and the best true freshmen defensive backs during the 2020 season.



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Sean Clifford
Sean Clifford (AP Images)

It's time for some optimism. Spring football is starting soon, the Masters commercials are more common and the warm weather will soon return to us. Best of all, college football isn’t that far off. Here are 10 programs that should be feeling positive about 2021.

Texas Why: Steve Sarkisian — Sark brings much optimism to the program, more than Tom Herman did, because of his stint at Alabama and how that helps on the recruiting trail. He’s also a very good offensive mind.

Penn State Why: Offense — Sure, the Penn State offense was 36th last season in yards per game and averaged a solid, if unspectacular, 29.8 points per game. But Sean Clifford should be better this season, Parker Washington is a star and Theo Johnson will be the program's next great tight end. The offensive line is solid and the Nittany Lions showed they could run the ball down the stretch. If the red zone offense can be improved this team can put up points.

Michigan Why: New coaches — Michigan got a lot younger and as a result will be better on the recruiting trail with new coaches. Whether it’s NFL experience like defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald and Maurice Lingquist or high school connections like Ron Bellamy, the six new hires will bring a new energy to this program.

LSU Why: Youth — We saw it in the win against Florida at the end of the season that this team has a ton of young talent. Be it Kayshon Boutte on offense or Elias Ricks and B.J. Ojulari on defense, new leaders have emerged.

Florida State Why: Recruiting — We are finally seeing some big-time recruits choose Florida State like Travis Hunter and Sam McCall. While they are a long way away from signing or playing, it’s a sign of life finally from the Seminoles.

Ole Miss Why: OffenseLane Kiffin is a great offensive mind and Matt Corral, Jerrion Ealy and a deep group of wide receivers will give the SEC fits next season.

Boston College Why: Jeff Hafley — Hafley brings a winning attitude with him from Ohio State and did a great job in his first season on the field and in recruiting. He could be a future star.

Washington Why: Sam Huard — One player typically won't change a team but Huard is a five-star quarterback and Washington is coming off a solid year.

Arkansas Why: Sam Pittman — Pittman showed in one season in the SEC that his team will compete, fight and stay in close games. That will lead to some upsets down the line.

Arizona State Why: NFL ExperienceHerm Edwards, Marvin Lewis, Antonio Pierce and others all have NFL experience. They could make a run with excellent coaching and Jayden Daniels.



Wisconsin beat Minnesota last fall 38-17
Wisconsin beat Minnesota last fall 38-17 (AP Images)

How about some good rivalry talk? Everyone knows Ohio State/Michigan and Alabama/Auburn are great, storied rivalries, but what about some other Power Five feuds that are a bit underrated nationally?

Big Ten: Minnesota/Wisconsin — The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is a nasty one and very underrated on a national scale. Wisconsin barely leads 62-60 with eight ties.

SEC: Florida/LSU — The permanent cross-division rivals get after it and this is always an exciting game it seems. Florida leads 33-31 with three ties so the closeness of the series, like with Wisconsin and Minnesota, adds to the hatred.

ACC: North Carolina/NC State — This one isn’t as close as North Carolina leads 68-36 with six ties but it can get heated when both teams are having good seasons.

Pac-12: Oregon/Washington — Forget the Civil War or the Apple Cup, this is a very underrated rivalry with Washington owning a 60-47 edge with five ties. This has become more important since the Pac-12 went to divisions.

Big 12: Iowa State/Iowa — I cheated a bit here by adding an inter-conference rivalry but this is a nasty match-up every season. Iowa leads 45-22 for the Cy-Hawk Trophy but it’s been closer in recent years after a long run of Hawkeyes' dominance in the 1980s and 90s.



Emmanuel Forbes
Emmanuel Forbes (AP Images)

Today I will finish my look at the top true freshmen of the 2020 season with the defensive backs.

1. Elias Ricks, LSU — Ricks was the best true freshman in the country overall. He flirted with the transfer portal and the Ohio State Buckeyes but will be back for another great year in Baton Rouge. He had four interceptions and returned two for scores.

2. Malachi Moore, Alabama — Moore was amazing last season with 44 tackles and three interceptions. He could be the next great defensive back at Alabama.

3. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State — An argument can be made for Forbes to be No. 1 here with his five interceptions and three touchdowns.

4. Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M — The former five-star had 28 tackles and broke up four passes for the strong Aggies' defense.

5. Ja’Had Carter, Syracuse — Carter had 65 tackles as a freshman and two picks for a very talented and young Syracuse defense.

6. Tarheeb Still, Maryland — With 20 tackles and an impressive eight pass breakups Still was awesome last season.

7. Ennis Rakestraw, Missouri — Rakestraw had six pass breakups and two tackles for a loss.

8. Nick Anderson, Wake Forest — Anderson had an amazing year with 63 tackles and four interceptions.

9. Karon Prunty, Kansas — Prunty played very well as a freshman with an amazing nine passes defended.

10. Max Melton, Rutgers — Melton showed a lot of promise last season with more than 20 tackles.