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Preseason College Football Rankings 2019: Predicting AP Top 25 After Amway Poll

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence warms up before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Just 23 days from the start of the 2019 College Football season, the first polls provide a road map for what a select group of coaches and reporters expect to happen when games kick off.

On Thursday, the preseason Amway Coaches Top 25 poll was released with Clemson and Alabama—the two teams that met in January's College Football Playoff Championship Game—in the top two spots.

Here is the full list of 25 teams that make up the initial Amway Coaches Poll:

   

Amway Coaches Poll (First Place Votes)

1. Clemson (59)

2. Alabama (6)

3. Georgia

4. Oklahoma

5. Ohio State

6. LSU

7. Michigan

8. Florida

9. Notre Dame

10. Texas

11. Texas A&M

12. Washington

13. Oregon

14. Penn State

15. Utah

16. Auburn

T17. Wisconsin

T17. Central Florida

19. Iowa

20. Michigan State

21. Washington State

22. Syracuse

23. Stanford

24. Iowa State

25. Northwestern

  

Projected AP Top 25 Poll

1. Clemson 

2. Alabama 

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

5. LSU

6. Texas

7. Oklahoma

8. Florida 

9. Notre Dame

10. Michigan

11. Texas A&M

12. Oregon

13. Penn State

14. Utah 

15. Washington

16. Auburn

17. Wisconsin

18. Iowa

19. Michigan State

20. Washington State 

21. Central Florida

22. Syracuse

23. Stanford

24. Iowa State

25. Nebraska

It would be hard to argue against Clemson and Alabama as the top two teams in the nation. 

This season will be a unique task for Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney, who has to replace all four starters from his 2018 defensive line. The quartet of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence combined for 56 tackles for loss and 27 sacks last year. 

Even without that group, sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence is tied with Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa as the preseason betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy. The 19-year-old threw for 674 yards and six touchdowns in playoff wins over Notre Dame and Alabama. 

Alabama has only been ranked lower than second in an AP preseason poll once since 2010 (No. 3 in 2015). 

The biggest potential difference between the two polls inside the top 10 is Texas. The coaches put the Longhorns at No. 10, just one spot below their position in the final rankings last season. 

ESPN @espn

Sam Ehlinger has a message for Texas fans 🤘 https://t.co/zWmYYHCV5V

Head coach Tom Herman had an excellent second year at Texas, leading the program to 10 wins and a 28-21 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. 

One pessimistic outlook for Texas in 2019 came from SB Nation's Bill Connelly, who noted the team ranks 121st nationally in returning production. 

Per Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation, one area Texas will have to figure out quickly is the secondary: 

"After all, Texas lost three longtime starters in the defensive backfield—cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Davante Davis and nickel back PJ Locke III. Together, those three produced 186 tackles just as seniors and 27 of 49 passes defensed (55 percent). The fact that Boyd was the fifth-leading tackler on the team with 67 stops showed just how valuable he was in run support and how solid he was in space. For all of his faults, Boyd was an excellent, physical tackler."

Texas' showdown with LSU on Sept. 7 will go a long way toward showing if the program, as quarterback Sam Ehlinger says in the clip above, really is back to being a national powerhouse. 

Despite Urban Meyer's retirement, there's no reason to think Ohio State will suddenly fall off a cliff. First-year head coach Ryan Day did a fine job in his three-game trial run at the start of last year when Meyer was serving a suspension. 

The loss of Dwayne Haskins at quarterback would hurt most offenses, but Georgia transfer Justin Fields is going to soften the blow. 

Brad Crawford of 247Sports already has Fields ranked as the best quarterback in the Big Ten before he's even taken a snap with the Buckeyes:

"Fields' place in any preseason quarterback ranking is based on upside and will be subject to criticism from the non-believers, but the Georgia transfer is supremely talented and should excel in an offense that caters to his strengths under Ryan Day.

"Ohio State has impressive depth when it comes to high-end talent at the skill spots despite losing Mike Weber, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. Fields keeps defenses honest with his running ability, but is still a pass-first quarterback. Don't be surprised if Fields warrants a ton of Heisman attention if the Buckeyes stay inside the Top 10 throughout the season."

One team that could sneak into the bottom of the preseason AP Top 25 after being left out of the coaches poll is Nebraska. The program is coming off back-to-back seasons with a 4-8 record, but there seems to be a lot of optimism as head coach Scott Frost heads into his second year. 

A lot of the Cornhuskers' hype revolves around quarterback Adrian Martinez after he accounted for 3,235 combined rushing and passing yards and 25 total touchdowns in 11 games as a freshman. 

Yahoo Sports' Nick Bromberg highlighted ways that Nebraska's defense, which allowed 31.2 points per game last season, did improve from 2017 to 2018: "The Huskers gave up fewer yards per carry (5.0), fewer yards per play (5.8), allowed quarterbacks to complete just 56 percent of their passes and had 11 more sacks (25) than in 2017."

No one is going to confuse Nebraska for Alabama with defensive stats like that, but it was a step forward from when it allowed 5.7 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per play in 2017. 

Frost and the Cornhuskers will be able to showcase their talent on Sept. 28 when they host Ohio State.

Oregon is a potential sleeper in the College Football Playoff race. The coaches placed the Ducks at No. 13 to start the season. They quietly won nine games last year for the first time since 2015. 

Expectations are high for quarterback Justin Herbert, who returns to school after being considered a potential top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

If Herbert vaults himself into Heisman contention, with running back CJ Verdell and tight end Jacob Breeland returning, the Ducks figure to have a potent offense. Head coach Mario Cristobal has the program on the rise in a wide-open Pac-12.