Set aside your holiday shopping, your bowl season travel plans and your family reunions for a few days this week. From Wednesday through Friday, it is officially college football recruiting season. The early signing period for college football settles into that window, and during those three days, you will see upwards of 80 percent of FBS prospects sign their national letters of intent.
Though the period is three days, most of the action will go down Wednesday, making it the most important day on the college football recruiting calendar for the Class of 2020. There will be additional commitments to come on the following two days -- as well as the more established National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February -- but here are four storylines to keep an eye on as the process kicks into gear this week.
CBS Sports HQ and 247Sports will air a live National Signing Day show on Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET.
The race for No. 1
The battle for the top recruiting class in college football is often fairly drama-free with one overwhelming favorite and maybe another token contender. This year, the race will come down to a photo finish. As things stand on Monday, Clemson holds the No. 1 spot thanks to a weekend commitment out of four-star linebacker Trenton Simpson, the No. 29 player in the country. Clemson has been an overwhelming favorite for most of the 2020 cycle, but it will have to fight to hang on to that spot despite the fact that it has six -- six! -- five-star commitments.
Alabama is currently at No. 2 with LSU and Ohio State rounding out the top four in that order. All three are within striking distance of Clemson with big names on the board this week. Back at No. 6, Georgia is a tier below the other four and looking up at No. 5 Texas A&M, but UGA has enough big names left on its radar to perhaps sneak into the conversation as a legitimate No. 1 contender by the time the early signing period is over.
When it comes to the No. 1 class, it's the five-star names that sway the rankings the most. Uncommitted five-stars Justin Flowe, Jordan Burch, Kelee Ringo, Darnell Washington and Zachary Evans are all heavily considering those five contenders.
Flip watch is on
Before the days of an early signing period, late January was a chaotic scene. College coaches would be working furiously to mine rivals' recruiting classes, probing for players ripe to pick off and flips from one commitment to another were abundant. With the adoption of the early signing period and its placement in the heart of bowl season -- not to mention that it's fresh off of a regular-season grind -- the effort necessary to create a symphony of flips hasn't been there recently.
This year, though, perhaps because of a newfound comfort with the calendar, it feels like we could see some a lot of early action on the flip front. The possibilities are endless, and the most surprising flips are the ones we can't see coming. Here are a few to watch.
- LSU commit Malcolm Green is likely heading to Clemson.
- Florida had Alabama commit Timothy Smith on campus last weekend.
- Alabama has been working steadily on Oklahoma commit Jase McClellan.
- North Carolina commit Jacolby Criswell is an Arkansas native that has been a priority of the new Razorbacks staff.
- LSU commit Jermaine Burton is being tempted by his home state of Georgia and the Bulldogs.
- Arizona State is close to flipping Oregon commit Johnny Wilson thanks to the Jayden Daniels effect.
- Auburn is battling to steal Miami commit Romello Height out of Georgia.
- Texas A&M is trying to hold off home-state program Florida for top 100 commit Donell Harris.
First impressions for new coaches
Coaching changes in the age of the early signing period create major challenges due to an abbreviated timeline. Let's see which new hires are up to the task. Already we've seen Mike Norvell hit the ground running at Florida State with mixed results. In one week, he appears to have done something that Willie Taggart couldn't do in two cycles: sign a quarterback. With former South Florida QB commit Tate Rodemaker in the fold, Norvell will need to have a strong close, even if that just means holding targets off of signing with others until the February signing day.
Sam Pittman's departure from Georgia has put some of its offensive line commits in play, and Pittman is a recruiting heavyweight, but he also inherits a program ranked No. 118 nationally with only six commits total. Lane Kiffin is expected to be a serious factor recruiting in the SEC West at Ole Miss, but he has only landed one commit since his hire on Dec. 7. Jimmy Lake has less of an uphill climb at Washington because of the ease of transition. He's already landed one commit in four-star cornerback Jacobe Covington, but his ability to make a splash could be an indicator of what's to come in the future for Huskies recruiting.
Perhaps it's predictable, but new Rutgers head man Greg Schiano has been the most active of all the new hires to this point. His strong New Jersey ties, work behind the scenes during the season and national reputation have allowed Rutgers to reel in eight December commits.
Who will close the strongest?
Georgia has a reputation under Kirby Smart of making a lot of noise when it matters most, and the Bulldogs have once again positioned themselves for some potential wins at the finish line. SEC East rival Florida seems to have caught the bug too with a recent flip of Tennessee commit Mordecai McDaniel and a few more potential flips left to go. If Dan Mullen can mount a Kirby Smart-sized close, that could speak volumes about the future of the SEC East.
Out West, USC is always a threat to finish strong and it has never needed a characteristic close more than this year. Amid job security issues, Clay Helton has USC ranked No. 80 nationally with only half of his class in the fold. If the Trojans don't finish with a typical flurry, it could be the result of Pac-12 South upstart Arizona State taking some of its targets. Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils well-positioned to make some noise down the stretch.