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NCAA Football Preseason Rankings 2019: Expert Reactions to Amway Top 25

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence drops back to pass during Clemson's annual Orange and White NCAA college football spring scrimmage Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Clemson will start the 2019 college football season in the same position it ended the last one, as it earned the No. 1 spot in the first Amway Coaches Poll Thursday.

As expected, Dabo Swinney's Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide were first and second, with the defending national champion receiving 59 first-place votes compared to the six garnered by Nick Saban's program. 

Last season's National Championship participants earned all of the first-place positions on the ballots of 65 head coaches from across the FBS. 

The Tigers and Crimson Tide should be talked about in the same breath on plenty of occasions over the next few months, as they are both title contenders and possess potential Heisman Trophy winners in Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa. 

If you look further down the top five of the rankings, you will see plenty of similar programs to a year ago. 

Football Scoop's Zach Barnett pointed out Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State also appeared in the top five of the first Coaches Poll in 2018.

Zach Barnett @zach_barnett

Coaches' 2019 preseason Top 5: 1. Clemson 2. Alabama 3. Georgia 4. Oklahoma 5. Ohio State Coaches' 2018 preseason Top 5: 1. Alabama 2. Clemson 3. Ohio State 4. Georgia 5. Oklahoma https://t.co/wQ6IoS8WMX

The order is shuffled from this juncture last year, with Georgia and Oklahoma moving up to No. 3 and No. 4, while the Buckeyes start two positions lower than 12 months ago at No. 5.

Ryan Day's Buckeyes lead the collection of seven Big Ten programs in the Top 25, and it was almost eight with Nebraska at No. 26. 

As Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald observed, the Big Ten starts the season with one more ranked side than the SEC: 

Sam McKewon @swmckewonOWH

Nebraska is No. 26 in the preseason coaches poll. Big Ten teams: Ohio State 5 Michigan 7 Penn State 14 Wisconsin 17 Iowa 19 Michigan State 20 Northwestern 25 7 teams is more than the SEC (6).

USA Today's Paul Myerberg provided more context to that number, and he let us know the Big Ten has seven teams in the preseason Coaches Poll for the first time since 2000:

Paul Myerberg @PaulMyerberg

The 7 ranked teams (5 OSU, 7 Michigan, 14 PSU, 17 Wisconsin, 19 Iowa, 20 MSU, 25 Northwestern) are the Big Ten's most in the preseason Coaches Poll since 2000 (when the league had 11 members). And Nebraska next at #26 w/ most receiving votes.

Michigan is the second-highest Big Ten team on the list at No. 7, a ranking that was a bit surprising in the eyes of The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, but he also noted there is plenty of optimism regarding the Wolverines under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis: 

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

A little surprised to see #Michigan ranked as high as No. 7 in the Coaches Poll esp after the way 2018 ended for the Wolverines BUT I suspect there is a lot of optimism for new OC Josh Gattis and the change on offense--both scheme and personality--there: https://t.co/2IiIRuZWpm

While the Big Ten has more depth in the rankings, the SEC put four programs into the top 10, with LSU at No. 6 and No. 8 Florida joining Alabama and Georgia.

Given the volume of teams in the top half of the Coaches Poll, some SEC teams are in line for the country's most difficult schedules. 

ESPN's Paul Finebaum enlightened us on Auburn's difficult slate, which includes six of the 13 best teams in the first poll of the season:

Paul Finebaum @finebaum

Auburn will play 6 of the top 13 schools in the USA Today preseason poll.

Auburn opens with No. 13 Oregon at AT&T Stadium August 31 and has to visit No. 11 Texas A&M, Florida and LSU in the first two months of the season before welcoming Georgia and Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium in November. 

Feldman acknowledged Texas A&M faces a more arduous task than Auburn, as it faces three of the top four teams, starting with a September 7 visit to Clemson: 

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Roughest slate in the country: #TAMU: Aggies get four of the top six teams in the preseason Coaches Poll and three of em are on the road: at Clemson, at LSU and at UGA (which are back-to-back) in addition to facing Bama.

Jimbo Fisher's Aggies have to face Auburn and Alabama in a three-game span at the start of SEC play and then close out with road trips to Georgia and LSU. 

UCF is the top Group of Five school in the preseason rankings, as it is tied for 17th with Wisconsin.

That ranking is significant because it is six positions above where the Knights began last season, per ESPN Orlando's Nick Gryniewicz:

Nick Gryniewicz @ESPN580Nick

Call it more respect, maybe? UCF’s No. 17 ranking in the coaches poll is 6 spots higher than it was last season when it was returning a bulk of its undefeated team and McKenzie Milton. The Knights were No. 23 in 2018.

UCF struggled to gain respect in the polls for most of the 2018 campaign, and it might be frustrated with its spot again in 2019 because its out-of-conference schedule is headlined by Stanford and Pittsburgh, who combined to go 16-11 last season.

If the Knights beat the Cardinal and Panthers, they would have to root for those programs to have success in their respective conferences to boost their resume.

Even if Stanford and Pitt help out UCF, it might not be enough to move up on a consistent basis given how tough the schedules of programs in the SEC are.