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Preseason College Football Rankings 2019: Predictions for Initial AP NCAA Top 25

Jake RillAnalyst IAugust 19, 2019

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (16) scrambles out of the backfield 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

Will Clemson win back-to-back national championships? Can Alabama avenge its loss in last year's College Football Playoff? And which schools could have surprise teams this year?

The 2019 college football season is about to get underway, and these are only a few of the exciting storylines entering the new campaign. The top programs in the country are stacked with exceptional returning players, giving many teams reasonable hopes of ending the season with a national title.

On Monday, the first AP Top 25 poll of the year will be released at noon ET, which will give an initial look at how the top teams in the country stack up. However, there haven't been any games to base these rankings off of, so there could be a lot of movement in the first few weeks of the season.

Here's a look at projections for the first rankings of the season, followed by a breakdown of the predicted top three teams in the country.

         

Projected AP Top 25 Poll

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Michigan
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Texas
9. Notre Dame
10. Florida
11. Oregon
12. Texas A&M
13. Penn State
14. Washington
15. Wisconsin
16. Utah
17. Auburn
18. Iowa
19. Nebraska
20. Virginia Tech
21. UCF
22. Michigan State
23. Missouri
24. Boise State
25. Northwestern

        

Top Three Projected Teams

1. Clemson

Last season, Trevor Lawrence led the Tigers to the national championship as a true freshman. That bodes well for not only Clemson's potential success this year, but also the year after.

The Tigers should roll through their ACC competition again this season and make the College Football Playoff for the fifth straight year. In their last four CFP appearances, they have made it to three national championship games and won two national titles.

Head coach Dabo Swinney has turned this program into a national powerhouse, and last year marked its first undefeated season since 1981. It's possible the Tigers keep that winning streak going deep into this season.

Clemson's toughest non-conference game in the regular season will likely be against SEC foe Texas A&M, but that's a matchup the Tigers should win. If they do suffer their first loss since Jan. 1, 2018, it likely won't be until the College Football Playoff against one of the nation's other top teams.

However, Clemson should handily reach that point and, along with Alabama, be a favorite to win the national title.

           

2. Alabama

Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

This ranking shouldn't come as a surprise. Head coach Nick Saban is back, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is entering his junior season and the Crimson Tide's roster is filled with future NFL players.

The only reason Alabama likely won't be ranked No. 1 is because it lost to Clemson last season, and both teams have a similar amount of returning talent.

Tagovailoa has some exciting weapons he'll utilize in the offense, including running back Najee Harris and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Plus, the Crimson Tide always have a strong defense, and this year won't be any different.

Alabama will have a tougher conference schedule than Clemson, as it will have matchups against LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, all of which will likely be ranked to open the season. But the Crimson Tide haven't lost more than one game in a season since 2014, and they've made it to the national championship game each of the past four years.

Alabama should be talented enough to get there again in the 2019 season.

             

3. Ohio State

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Of the top three projected teams, the Buckeyes are the most unpredictable after enduring a lot of change since the end of last season.

Ohio State has a new coaching staff led by first-year head coach Ryan Day. He took on the role for three games last season when Urban Meyer was on administrative leave, but this will be his first true head-coaching gig.

The Buckeyes' starting quarterback will likely be sophomore Justin Fields, who is entering his first season at the school after transferring from Georgia. As the Bulldogs' backup last season, the 20-year-old passed for 328 yards and four touchdowns in limited action.

Ohio State also has some key returning players, and this is a program that has had plenty of recent success, losing no more than two games in each of the past seven seasons. However, it hasn't made the College Football Playoff the last two years and hasn't won the national championship since 2014.

If Day and Fields have successful debut campaigns, it's possible that could change this season.