The Associated Press will release its preseason Top 25 today at 11 a.m. The poll includes 62 voters across the nation, and LSU football beat reporter Brooks Kubena is one of the voters. Below is Kubena's preseason ballot, along with details regarding each team.
No. 1 Clemson
Dabo Swinney is at the height of his powers within the dynasty he's built in the other Death Valley. The reigning national champions have surrounded Heisman Trophy favorite quarterback Trevor Lawrence with plenty of star power, and nickel/sam linebacker Isaiah Simmons leads an elite defense that led the nation last season by holding opponents to an average of 13.1 points per game.
No. 2 Alabama
The Crimson Tide's highest scoring offense in school history has all the pieces to be just as potent in 2019. Heisman candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has a powerful offensive line and perhaps the nation's best wide receiver in junior Jerry Jeudy. There's youth on defense, especially in the front seven, after star players left for the pros; but Nick Saban's program has signed the top-rated recruiting class in four out of the last five seasons, per 247Sports' composite rankings. They'll reload.
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No. 3 Ohio State
Can the Buckeyes maintain their Big Ten dominance under Ryan Day? The 40-year-old former offensive coordinator went 3-0 to start 2018 while Urban Meyer was suspended. Following Meyer's retirement, Day is well-stocked with players to make a run at the playoff. Ohio State has an elite talent to replace Dwayne Haskins at quarterback in Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia, plus a top 10 running back in J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes start the season the king of their conference.
No. 4 Georgia
Kirby Smart has unquestionable talent and maturity on his roster, and the Bulldogs have come within a half of knocking off Alabama in two straight seasons. Third-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm was one of the most efficient passers in 2018, and Georgia returns thousand-yard rusher D'Andre Swift. Strong safety J.R. Reed, a fifth-year senior on the Bednarik Award watch list, put the NFL on hold to lead a defense that held opponents to 19.2 points per game last season.
No. 5 Oklahoma
The last two Heisman Trophy winners were quarterbacks who transferred to Oklahoma, and Lincoln Riley could have another one in Jalen Hurts, who helped lead Alabama to three straight national championship games. It's gotten to the point where you expect the Sooners to score 50 points a game, and they likely will near last year's average (48.4) again in 2019. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has to fix a defense that gave up 33.3 points a game last year.
No. 6 LSU
Defense is a standard in Baton Rouge, and Ed Orgeron believes he's around the best secondary in his career, which includes unanimous All-American safety Grant Delpit. The Tigers have reconstructed their offense (again), but quarterback Joe Burrow could make the jump to elite in a run-pass option scheme that seems built for him. A Top 5 recruiting class produced Day 1 contributors in cornerback/punt returner Derek Stingley and running back John Emery. LSU went 10-3 in a season in which it battled for an identity amidst a myriad of injuries. The sooner they establish an identity, the better.
No. 7 Florida
The reconstruction of Florida's offense seems to be complete going into Dan Mullen's second year. The Gators battled inconsistency in 2018, following a home victory over LSU with consecutive losses to Georgia and Missouri. A convincing thrashing of Michigan in the Peach Bowl demonstrated the power the program can have, and with quarterback Feleipe Franks growing into maturity, Florida has great potential in 2019. Expect havoc on the defensive front and a tough secondary with corners CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson.
No. 8 Notre Dame
Notre Dame's only true error in 2018 was that its only loss of the season was a 30-3 beatdown by Clemson in the playoff semifinals. That's almost forgivable with Clemson's 44-16 pummeling of Alabama in the national championship. Still, Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish have not yet proven themselves consistently on the national stage, and they'll get another chance in Week 3 against Georgia. Ian Book is a Heisman candidate at quarterback, and there's plenty of talent on defense to improve in Clark Lea's second year as defensive coordinator.
No. 9 Texas
Despite what quarterback Sam Ehlinger said after the Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, Texas is not quite back yet. The Longhorns' win over the Bulldogs showed promise, as did their regular-season upset of Oklahoma; but tight losses throughout last season showed the team still needs consistency. Tom Herman will have to keep the program on track by replacing nine starters on defense, including most of the front seven and both starting cornerbacks. A Week 2 home game against LSU will likely define the rest of the season.
No. 10 Texas A&M
It took seven overtimes for the Aggies to beat LSU and defeat its first top 10 team in the Jimbo Fisher era — a fitting battle to illustrate Texas A&M's fight for its first winning SEC record since joining the conference in 2012. Returning starting quarterback Kellen Mond believes he's the best QB in the SEC, but he'll have to weed out some erraticism to make the jump to elite.The Aggies are contenders in 2019 behind a defense that's made vast improvements under coordinator Mike Elko.
No. 11 Michigan
Michigan is ranked within the Top 10 in the Coaches Poll (No. 7), but Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines flopped on the national stage in 2018, losing to Notre Dame (24-17), Ohio State (62-39) and Florida (41-15). Returning QB Shea Patterson keeps Michigan at the top of the second tier. For a preseason poll, that's exactly where Michigan should be.
No. 12 Washington
Losing All-Pac-12 running back Myles Gaskin to the NFL was a blow to Chris Petersen's offense, but Salvon Ahmed, a guy with 4.3 speed who also recently produced a hip-hop album "A Safehouse Summer," should provide firepower along with Georgia transfer QB Jacob Eason. Washington's replacing 13 starters from last year's 10-4 team.
No. 13 Utah
Last season, Kyle Whittingham's Utes went to their first conference title game since joining the league in 2011. Defensive tackle Leki Fotu, named to CBS Sports' preseason All-America team, leads one of the best defensive fronts in college football. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig returns in the same role as Utah's undefeated 2008 season.
No. 14 Washington State
Mike Leach's Cougars are hardly ever ranked high in preseason polls, if they're ranked in them at all. Washington State finished No. 10 in the AP poll last year largely due to QB Gardner Minshew; but transfer Gage Gubrud was an FCS All-American who threw for 11,000 yards and 100 touchdowns at Eastern Washington. Leach has proven he can figure the offense out.
No. 15 Oregon
Oregon's showdown with Auburn in Week 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will produce ample evidence whether Mario Cristobal's Ducks are Pac-12 contenders or not in 2019. There's vivacity in Eugene with the return of senior quarterback Justin Herbert, who was ranked No. 6 on ESPN's Mel Kiper's NFL draft "Big Board" before he decided to return for one more year.
No. 16 Penn State
Defense is the strength for James Franklin's Nittany Lions, which will need to replace three-year starting quarterback Trace McSorley and 1,200-yard rusher Miles Sanders. Linebacker Micah Parsons is an All-America candidate as a sophomore and leads a defense that ranked No. 1 in sacks per game and No. 4 in tackles for loss per game in 2018.
No. 17 Central Florida
UCF's 25-game win streak is over. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is still out with his gruesome 2018 knee injury and backup Darriel Mack broke his ankle in July. That means Brandon Wimbush, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, will have to step up. Josh Heupel's Knights will have to fend off Dana Holgorsen and Houston to stay atop the AAC.
No. 18 Army
Army? Yes. Army. Go back and look what the Black Knights did to Houston in a 70-14 bowl win last year. Jeff Monken's program has two straight 10-win seasons, and they return starting quarterback Kelvin Hopkins. The triple-option goes as far as its quarterback goes, and Hopkins is exceptional. Army nearly beat Oklahoma in 2018, and it'll face Michigan in Week 2.
No. 19 Auburn
Gus Malzahn could be starting a true freshman at quarterback in 2019 in top-rated recruit Bo Nix. Questions abound with that kind of move, and Nix would hit the spotlight early against Oregon in Week 1. Senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown could be an All-American and the Tigers front should give everyone in the SEC trouble. Just how consistent will this team be?
No. 20 Syracuse
After consecutive 4-8 seasons, the Orange made a substantial jump in Dino Babers' third season by winning 10 games for the first time since 2001. New Jersey native Tommy DeVito was the nation's No. 13 pro-style quarterback as a recruit, and the sophomore is tasked with keeping the momentum going.
No. 21 Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor, a unanimous All-American running back, won the Doak Walker Award last season. This year Taylor ought to make a run for the Heisman. Strong defense could help produce a Big Ten West division title.
No. 22 Iowa State
With back-to-back winning Big 12 records for the first time in school history, Matt Campbell is building a consistent winner in Ames, Iowa, although he'll have to replace 1,200-yard rusher David Montgomery.
No. 23 Stanford
David Shaw's program has potential with senior quarterback K.J. Costello, who threw for 3,540 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 touchdowns in a 2018 season in which the Cardinal finished with a four-game win streak.
No. 24 Michigan State
Mark Dantonio's Spartans are elite on defense and dreadful on offense, and if they can be adequate on offense, some damage can be done. Michigan State ranked No. 126 nationally with 18.7 points per game in 2018.
No. 25 Missouri
Bowl ban or not, Barry Odom's Tigers can cause trouble in the SEC East after picking up former Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant as a graduate transfer.