Wrap­ping up fi­nal Top 25 with eye to­ward next sea­son

Centre Daily Times - - Sports - BY RALPH D. RUSSO

Clem­son beat Alabama for the na­tional cham­pi­onship, but can the Tigers keep the Crim­son Tide from reach­ing an­other less sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone?

Alabama has been the pre­sea­son No. 1 in the AP poll the past three sea­sons, match­ing a record held by Ok­la­homa, which started No. 1 each sea­son from 1985-87. An­other pre­sea­son No. 1 in 2019 would make Alabama the first team to ever start four con­sec­u­tive sea­sons topranked since the pre­sea­son poll started in 1950.

Clem­son has never been pre­sea­son No. 1, but maybe next sea­son.

At the very least ex­pect a se­cond straight sea­son of the Tide and Tigers hold­ing the top two spots to start the sea­son in some or­der as both teams re­turn star quar­ter­backs and a bevy of weapons.

The fi­nal 2018 rank­ings were re­vealed a few hours after Clem­son beat Alabama 44-16 Mon­day night in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off cham­pi­onship game. The fi­nal Heat Check of the sea­son looks at how the teams in the fi­nal rank­ings might start next sea­son. (Note that “x” in­di­cates a player likely to leave early for NFL)

NO. 1 CLEM­SON (15-0)

2019 opener: vs. Ge­or­gia

Tech.

Gone: DT Christian Wilkins; DE Clelin Fer­rell; OT Mitch Hy­att.

Back: QB Trevor Lawrence; RB Travis Eti­enne; DE Xavier Thomas.

Heat check: The Tigers have some re­build­ing to do on the lines. They’ll prob­a­bly start at No. 2.

NO. 2 ALABAMA (14-1)

2019 opener: vs. Duke in

At­lanta.

Gone: DT Quin­nen Wil­liams-x; OT Jonah Wil­liams-x; S-Deionte Thomp­son.

Back: QB Tua Tago­v­ailoa; WR Jerry Jeudy; LB Dy­lan Moses.

Heat check: The beat goes on in Tuscaloosa.

NO. 3 OHIO STATE (13-1)

2019 opener: vs. Florida

At­lantic.

Gone: QB Dwayne Haskins; DT Dre’Mont Jones; WR Par­ris Camp­bell. Back: RB J.K. Dob­bins; DE Chase Young; S Jor­dan Fuller.

Heat check: Hello, QB Justin Fields, trans­fer­ring from Ge­or­gia. The postUr­ban Meyer era should start in the top five.

NO. 4 OK­LA­HOMA (12-2)

2019 opener: vs. Hous­ton. Gone: QB Kyler Mur­ray; QB Mar­quise Brown; OT Cody Ford.

Back: WR CeeDee Lamb; RB Trey Ser­mon; C Creed Humphrey.

Heat check: Big losses on of­fense. The Soon­ers are likely to be ranked be­hind Texas among Big 12 teams.

NO. 5 NOTRE DAME (12-1)

2019 opener: at Louisville.

Gone: CB Ju­lian Love; LB Te’von Coney; DL Jerry Tillery.

Back: QB Ian Book; DE Ju­lian Ok­wara; DE Khalid Ka­reem.

Heat check: No rea­son the Ir­ish shouldn’t start in the top 10, though the lop­sided loss to Clem­son might give vot­ers some pause.

NO. 6 LSU (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Ge­or­gia

South­ern.

Gone: CB Greedy Wil­liams; LB Devin White-x; RB Nick Bros­sette.

Back: S Grant Del­pit; CB Kelvin Joseph; QB Joe Bur­row.

Heat check: The Tigers are a top-10 team, but still need more con­sis­tent play out of quar­ter­back.

NO. 7 (TIE) FLORIDA (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Mi­ami in Orlando, Florida.

Gone: DE Jachai Po­lite; S Chauncey Gard­ner-John­son; RB Jor­dan Scar­lett. Back: QB Feleipe Franks; S Brad Stewart; CB C.J. Hen­der­son.

Heat check: Ga­tors looked ahead of sched­ule in year one un­der Dan Mullen and could start next sea­son bor­der­line top-10.

NO. 7 (TIE) GE­OR­GIA (11-3)

2019 opener: at Van­der­bilt.

Gone: CB Dean­dre Baker; DE Jonathan Led­bet­ter; LB D’An­dre Walker. Back: QB Jake Fromm; RB D’An­dre Swift; S Richard LeCounte.

Heat check: The Bull­dogs should be loaded again to make an­other run at Alabama in the SEC, start­ing in the top five.

NO. 9 TEXAS (9-4)

2019 opener: vs. Louisiana Tech.

Gone: DE Charles Omeni­hul, LB Gary John­son; RB Tre Wat­son.

Back: QB Sam Eh­linger; S B.J. Fos­ter; WR Collin John­son.

Heat check: The Longhorns could start next sea­son in the top 10 and ac­tu­ally de­serve it.

NO. 10 WASH­ING­TON STATE (11-2)

2019 opener: vs. New

Mex­ico State.

Gone: QB Gard­ner Min­shew II; RB James Wil­liams; OT An­dre Dil­lard. Back: S Skyler Thomas; Davon­tavean Martin; RB Max Borghi.

Heat check: The Cougars will have to prove it with a new quar­ter­back, but there is a lot com­ing back that could get them ranked in the high teens.

NO. 11 UCF (12-1)

2019 opener: vs. Florida

A&M.

Gone: WR Dredrick Snel­son; LB Pat Jasin­ski; DE Ti­tus Davis.

Back: RB Greg McRae; WR Gabriel Davis; RB Adrian Killins Jr.

Heat check: The health of QB McKen­zie Mil­ton (leg) will de­ter­mine where the Knights will be ranked in the pre­sea­son.

NO. 12 KEN­TUCKY (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Toledo. Gone: OLB Josh Allen; RB Benny Snell; OG Bunchy Stallings.

Back: QB Terry Wil­son; WR Lynn Bow­den; OLB Ja­mar Wat­son.

Heat check: The Wild­cats were build­ing to this sea­son and are likely to fall back next. They might sneak into the bot­tom of the pre­sea­son rank­ings.

NO. 13 WASH­ING­TON (10-4)

2019 opener: vs. Eastern Wash­ing­ton.

Gone: QB Jake Brown­ing; LB Ben Burr-Kir­ven; S Tay­lor Rapp.

Back: QB Ja­cob Ea­son; OL Trey Adams; WR Ty Jones. Heat check: The Huskies are say­ing good­bye to most of a good de­fense, but for­mer five-star Ea­son should put Wash­ing­ton in the low teens.

NO. 14 MICHI­GAN (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Mid­dle Ten­nessee.

Gone: DE Rashan Gary; LB Devin Bush; RB Karan Hig­don.

Back: QB Shea Pat­ter­son; DE Kwity Paye; WR Dono­van Peo­ples-Jones.

Heat check: Some re­build­ing on de­fense likely leaves the Wolver­ines in the 8-10 range.

NO. 15 SYRA­CUSE (10-3)

2019 opener: at Lib­erty. Gone: QB Eric Dungey; WR Ja­mal Custis; LB Ryan Guthrie.

Back: S An­dre Cisco; RB Moe Neal; QB Tommy De­Vito.

Heat check: The Orange have sev­eral de­fen­sive line­men they are hop­ing to get back. If they do, they should start ranked for the first time since 1998.

NO. 16 TEXAS A&M (9-4)

2019 opener: vs. Texas

State.

Gone: RB Trayveon Wil­liams; TE Jace Stern­berger; DT Day­lon Mack. Back: QB Kellen Mond; WR Quar­t­ney Davis; DE Justin Madubuike.

Heat check: The of­fense has big po­ten­tial while the de­fense re­builds. Jimbo Fisher’s se­cond year will likely start ranked.

NO. 17 PENN STATE (9-4)

2019 opener: vs. Idaho. Gone: QB Trace Mc­Sor­ley; DE Sha­reef Miller; RB Miles Sanders.

Back: DE Ye­tur GrossMatos; LB Micah Par­sons; WR K.J. Ham­ler.

Heat check: The Nit­tany Lions will start in the back of the Top 25, but some new stars could emerge from strong re­cruit­ing classes.

NO. 18 FRESNO STATE (12-2)

2019 opener: at South­ern

Cal­i­for­nia.

Gone: QB Mar­cus McMaryion; LB Jef­frey Al­li­son; CB An­thoula Kelly.

Back: RB Ron­nie Rivers; DE Mykal Walker; S Mike Bell.

Heat check: Huge losses on of­fense, but the Bull­dogs might get ben­e­fit of the doubt after 22 wins the past two sea­sons, and a rank­ing in the 20s.

NO. 19 ARMY (11-2)

2019 opener: vs. Rice. Gone: FB Dar­nell Wool­folk; LB James Nachti­gal; LB Ken­neth Brin­son. Back: QB Kelvin Hop­kins; LB Cole Chris­tiansen; RB Kell Walker.

Heat check: The Black Knights have won 21 games the past two sea­sons, but will prob­a­bly need to prove it again to get ranked next sea­son.

NO. 20 WEST VIR­GINIA (8-4)

2019 opener: vs. James

Madi­son.

Gone: QB Will Grier; LB David Long; WR David Sills V.

Back: RB Kennedy McKoy; DL Dante Stills; QB Jack Al­li­son.

Heat check: Ma­jor re­build and new coach Neal Brown’s first West Vir­ginia team will start un­ranked.

NO. 21 NORTH­WEST­ERN (9-5)

2019 opener: at Stan­ford. Gone: QB Clay­ton Thor­son; CB Mon­tre Hartage; WR Flynn Nagel.

Back: QB Hunter John­son; RB Isa­iah Bowser; LB Paddy Fisher.

Heat check: With a for­mer five-star trans­fer QB in John­son, Wild­cats might be bet­ter next sea­son and ranked to start it.

NO. 22 UTAH STATE (11-2)

2019 opener: at Wake

For­est.

Gone: RB Dar­win Thomp­son; Ron’qua­vion Tarver; TE Dax Ray­mond.

Back: QB Jor­dan Love; LD David Wood­ward; DE Tipa Galeai.

Heat check: Los­ing coach Matt Wells will make vot­ers ten­ta­tive, but bring­ing back Love should make them take no­tice.

NO. 23 BOISE STATE (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Florida State in Jack­sonville. Gone: QB Brett Ryp­ien; RB Alexan­der Mat­ti­son; CB Tyler Hor­ton,

Back: S Kekoa Nawahine; LB Cur­tis Weaver; WR John Hightower.

Heat check: With Ryp­ien gone, Boise State prob­a­bly will start the sea­son un­ranked but with po­ten­tial.

NO. 24 CINCIN­NATI (11-2)

2019 opener: vs. UCLA. Gone: DT Cortez Broughton; DT Mar­quise Copeland; WR Khalil Lewis Back: QB Des­mond Rid­der; RB Michael War­ren II; S James Wig­gins.

Heat check: One of the best turn­around teams in the coun­try in 2018 and might sneak into the bot­tom of the rank­ings to start 2019.

NO. 25 IOWA (9-4)

2019 opener: vs. Mi­ami, Ohio

Gone: TE Noah Fant; S Amani Hooker; DL Parker Hesse.

Back: QB Nate Stan­ley; DE A.J. Epe­nesa; TE T.J. Hock­en­son.

Heat check: The Hawkeyes have only been ranked in the pre­sea­son once in the last eight years. Out­side chance they buck that trend in 2019.

ALSO …

Un­ranked teams likely to start 2019 ranked: Ore­gon; Auburn; Iowa State.

CHRIS CARL­SON AP

RB Travis Eti­enne, who rushed for two touch­downs and caught an­other Mon­day against Alabama, will re­turn to Clem­son next sea­son. How­ever, the Tigers will be re­build­ing its lines.

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