Clemson routed Alabama in the CFB Playoff National Championship to win their second title in three seasons; but as Dabo Swinney said last night after the victory, there’s a team meeting Friday, and the Tigers will be ready to go for 2019. So it’s not too early to take a look at power rankings for next season, which starts with the reigning champions.
Anyone that watched Trevor Lawrence and that extraordinary talent around him (including fellow true freshman Justyn Ross) play last night knows Clemson is going to be tough to beat. The Tigers lose senior leadership in a class that went 55-4 with four conference titles and two national titles, but the team still might be even stronger in 2019.
The talk of last night’s loss being a “knock” or “stain” on Nick Saban’s legacy is an absolute joke and a waste of breath. Saban will have the Crimson Tide ready to go as usual next season, and they have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to get right back in the Playoff and in the title game with Tua Tagovailoa leading the way. If they meet Clemson again, the script will be flipped, with Alabama looking for a little redemption after last night.
Clearly, it looked like Georgia was not as energized as they could’ve been to play Texas in the Sugar Bowl, and it led to them falling behind in their seven-point loss a week ago. The Dawgs could be a force similar to Clemson and Alabama in 2019, as this season’s team had 68% freshman and sophomores, so next season will be a more experienced roster. Star cornerback Deandre Baker is among those Georgia is losing to the NFL, but they have the significantly-underrated Jake Fromm at quarterback and a strong culture.
The Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia showed the promise Texas has entering Tom Herman’s third season at the head of the program. Dual-threat quarterback Sam Ehlinger looks poised to become a star in 2019, and he’ll likely be one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates for the potential Big 12 favorite. Defensive end Malcolm Roach already announced he’s returning for his senior season, and it’d help to get wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey back as the Longhorns gear up for a potential title run.
It’ll be interesting to see how UCF is perceived after losing a game, but LSU ending a team’s 25-game winning streak should not be discounted. Former Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow arguably played his best game in the Fiesta Bowl against the Knights, and he should be more comfortable quarterbacking the Tigers for a second season. The Tigers will have a big early test in a potential top-five showdown with Texas on September 7.
He could’ve left for the NFL in a weaker quarterback draft class than the stacked 2019 group, but Shea Patterson returned to Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to finally win the Big Ten and get to the Playoff under Jim Harbaugh. As is the case with Burrow at LSU, Patterson should be in more control his second season leading Michigan.
7. Ohio State
The Buckeyes could certainly be higher than No. 7 in these early college football power rankings, but there’s some uncertainty with head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Dwayne Haskins leaving. New head coach Ryan Day should do a great job with Ohio State, but Meyer is one of the greatest college coaches in history—his loss is big. Meanwhile, the quarterback situation is intriguing. Former five-star recruit Tate Martell has had a couple of years of watching the offense from the sideline, while top recruit and Georgia transfer Justin Fields is pushing to get immediate eligibility in 2019. The quarterback competition could be among the biggest storylines leading up to next season.
Dan Mullen had an outstanding first season as the head coach of the Gators, and the future is bright in Gainesville. Linebacker Vosean Joseph is among the players Florida will lose for 2019, but there’s a ton of speed and talent on both sides of the ball to make a push in the SEC. The consistency of quarterback Feleipe Franks will be key for the Gators.
If Kyler Murray happens to surprise everyone and return to Norman for one final college season in a commitment to football, the Sooners would probably be in the top five and the Big 12 favorites. However, there’s some uncertainty with the quarterback if Murray leaves for the MLB or NFL—though Lincoln Riley makes things easy for his signal-callers, and there are fantastic weapons on the outside, including receiver CeeDee Lamb, which also helps the next man up. The defense must improve if the Sooners are going to knock off Clemson or Alabama.
10. Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher had his offense cooking toward the end of the season, with point totals of 38, 41, 74 (in the historic overtime win over LSU), and 52 to end the season on a four-game winning streak and a Gator Bowl win against NC State. The Aggies played the eventual champion Tigers to the wire in a near comeback victory back in September, and they’re obvious sneaky title contenders for 2019. Quarterback Kellen Mond has great potential in his second season under Fisher.