Extremely Early Top 25 For 2019
Before you know it August 24th will be here and the 2019 college football season will be upon us. The dust has barely settled on Clemson’s title victory so why not start looking ahead to next season. With that in mind here are the Last Word On College Football Extremely Early Top 25 For 2019.
The Title Contenders
1. Clemson– Not a real surprise here that the current champs start next year as the favorites. Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Justyn Ross all return for Dabo Swinney‘s club. While the entire defensive line must be replaced this offense alone pretty much guarantees a fifth straight ACC title and the inside track for a return trip to the title game.
2. Alabama- After being so dominant for so long it’s surreal to see how badly they were beaten in the national title game. More than likely the Crimson Tide will come back more fired up than ever. Tua Tagovailoa returns and the Heisman competition between he and Lawrence should be fun to watch. Much of the defense may need to be replaced but the next crop of five star recruits are waiting for their chance.
3. Georgia- It’s been an interesting couple of weeks down in Athens. First there was the disappointing performance in the Sugar Bowl. Next a number of players declared for the NFL and others announced they were transferring. Finally their offensive coordinator Jim Chaney left for the same job at Tennessee. One steadying force for Kirby Smart is Jake Fromm at quarterback. A slew of top recruits ready to play and a very favorable schedule keeps the Bulldogs in contention for the title.
4. Ohio State- Urban Meyer retired and Dwayne Haskins is off to the NFL. However the Buckeyes aren’t going anywhere. If the school can get Justin Fields eligible this season to go along with running back J.K. Dobbins then the sky is the limit. If the Georgia transfer can’t play then look for Tate Martell under center. New coach Ryan Day must replace several starters on defense including Nick Bosa. Nevertheless the Buckeyes are the Big 10 favorites.
5. LSU- For years we wondered “what would the Tigers be like with a really good quarterback?” With Joe Burrows under center the answer is a 10-3 season and Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida. Ed Orgeron’s team returns most of the offensive line and has the number one running back in the country John Emery coming in.
The Next In Line
6. Notre Dame- After seeing what Clemson did to Alabama the Fighting Irish’s performance in the Cotton Bowl doesn’t seem so bad. Ian Book returns at quarterback for Brian Kelly’s squad and they return many of their top receivers. However they must find a replacement for Dexter Williams who ran for nearly 1,000 yards in 2018. Games at Georgia and Michigan give the Irish a chance to make a national splash.
7. Oklahoma- For a second straight season Lincoln Riley must replace a Heisman winning quarterback. Look for Austin Kendall or true freshman Spencer Rattler to replace Kyler Murray. Of course there are rumors Murray may return in 2019. If so then the Sooners move up on this list. On the other side of the ball 10 starters return and they have a new defensive coordinator in Alex Grinch. The former Ohio State coordinator was a semi-finalist for the Frank Broyles Award in 2017.
8. Texas- In Tom Herman‘s second season the Longhorns won 10 games and knocked off Georgia and Oklahoma. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger returns as does one of his favorite targets Collin Johnson. On the defensive side of the ball they may lose as many as nine starters from last season. A week two battle against LSU is one of the best early season battles.
9. Florida- Over the last four games the Gators rolled up 180 points and blew out Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Feleipe Franks returns at quarterback as does most of their skill players on offense. However they must replace four offensive linemen. Despite some NFL departures defensive coordinator Todd Grantham returns many top players. Whether Dan Mullen‘s club challenges Georgia remains to be seen.
10. Oregon- When quarterback Justin Herbert decided to stay in school for his senior year it moved the Ducks to the top of the Pac-12. Coach Mario Cristobal could return as many as 18 starters from 2018. In addition the number one ranked recruit, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is heading to Eugene.
As we continue with the Extremely Early Top 25 for 2019 let’s go through teams 11-20.
The Next Ten
11. Michigan- Saying Jim Harbaugh‘s squad struggled down the stretch is an understatement. The nation’s number one ranked defense gave up 103 points in losses to Ohio State and Florida. Shea Patterson returns at quarterback however they must find a replacement for Karan Higdon, who ran for 1,178 yards. With the Wolverines losing their top three tackles the offense is going to have to carry the load.
12. Texas A&M- In finishing 2018 strong and blowing out N.C. State in the Gator Bowl, Jimbo Fisher proved to be the anti-Kevin Sumlin. Quarterback Kellen Mond returns but they must replace the SEC’s leading rusher in Trayveon Williams. Furthermore All-American tight end Jace Sternberger is gone as well. The Aggies schedule is brutal with trips to Clemson, Georgia and LSU.
13. Washington- Former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason takes over for Jake Browning at quarterback. However Chris Petersen must find a way to replace most of one of the best defenses in the country for 2019. With Eason leading the way the Huskies may have to score 35+ points to win.
14. Penn State- The school’s all-time leader passer Trace McSorley is gone and fifth year senior Tommy Stevens is next in line. In addition James Franklin must replace running back Miles Sanders, who declared for the NFL. Six starters return on defense and look for the Top 10 recruiting classes over the last two years to see lots of playing time.
15. Central Florida- A loss to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl was the Knights’ first in 25 games. Following his horrible injury it’s unclear whether quarterback McKenzie Milton will play this season. However Darriel Mack Jr. did a great job replacing him. On the other side of the ball defensive coordinator Randy Shannon lost a number of players. Look for UCF to be in the mix for a New Year’s Six game once again.
16. Utah- The Utes won the Pac-12 South for the first time and are the favorites to repeat. Coach Kyle Whittingham has 15 starters returning including both quarterbacks who saw significant playing time. On defense seven starters are back however they lose their top four tacklers.
17. Wisconsin- At 8-5 the Badgers were one of the more disappointing teams in 2018. Jonathan Taylor looks to become the first running back in 20 years to rush for 2,000 yards in back to back seasons. The biggest question is “who will be the quarterback?” Whether it’s Alex Hornibrook, Jack Coan or incoming freshman Graham Mertz Wisconsin needs more consistent play in 2019.
18. Northwestern- The Wildcats won nine games and defeated Utah in the Holiday Bowl. The biggest accomplishment in the off season is keeping coach Pat Fitzgerald from moving to the NFL. Look for former Clemson quarterback Kelly Johnson to replace the departing Clayton Thorson.
19. Washington State- The legend of Gardner Minshew is gone for Mike Leach and the number one task is finding a replacement. Look for Leach to try the graduate transfer route again in 2019. Whomever is under center has a ton of options to throw to. The defense, which was much better in 2018, has to replace leading tackler Peyton Pelluer.
20. Iowa State- Just below the Cougars is the Cyclones team they beat in the Alamo Bowl. Top play makers Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery declared for the NFL Draft however quarterback Brock Purdy remains. Eight starters return on defense and an easy early schedule will help Matt Campbell’s team in the first part of the season.
We’ve gone through the first 20 teams now let’s look at the last five in our Extremely Early Top 25 for 2019.
The Final Five
21. Auburn- After taking over the play calling duties Gus Malzahn’s offense improved considerably. A record 56 point first half in the Music City Bowl has fans excited for next season. However like many teams on this list they must replace their quarterback. Jarrett Stidham is gone leaving a big question mark under center. Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix are talented but unproven.
22. Army- The Black Knights are coming off a school record 11 win season and total dismantling of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. A big coup for the school was keeping coach Jeff Monken for another year. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins returns after becoming the first player in school history to rush and throw for 1,000 yards in a season.
23. Kentucky- Mark Stoops‘ club is coming off their best season since 1977 winning 10 games and the Citrus Bowl. The trick now is to keep the momentum going. While they must replace Benny Snell, Josh Allen and a host of others they have some really good young players ready to step up. With a very favorable schedule another January 1st bowl is certainly in play in 2019.
24. Cincinnati- In only his second season Luke Fickell won 11 games and beat Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. With quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Michael Warren returning look for the offense to shine. The biggest question marks are on the offensive and defensive lines where a number of players graduated.
25. Appalachian State- Former coach Scott Satterfield and defensive line coach Mark Ivey have moved onto Louisville. However the cupboard is far from bare for new coach Eli Drinkwitz. He inherits a Mountaineer squad looking for its fourth straight Sun Belt title. With 18 starters returning Appalachian State could be a dark horse for a New Year’s Six bowl.
Five Who Just Missed
Boise State, Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse and Utah State are five more schools who just missed the rankings. Do you agree with our choices for the Extremely Early Top 25 for 2019 here at Last Word On College Football. Feel free to post your picks below in our comments section.