The Coaches poll dropped and finally gave us some content to discuss. Jay Ingles will be breaking down the AP Poll and CFP Polls throughout the season, but I wanted to take an early look at this poll and provide some reaction and then provide a ranking of my own. First, here are a couple thoughts on how rankings SHOULD be thought about.
Ranking are a blend of two things: 1) what a team has accomplished 2) each voters analysis on how “good” that team is. By good, I simply mean that by ranking one team above another, you’re generally saying the higher ranked team would beat them. The tricky part is the blend of those two factors. Some side more on what teams have accomplished while others side on what they think would happen in a game. For example, those who wanted to rank a two-loss UGA over an undefeated Notre Dame in the final poll before the CFP games leaned extremely heavily on the “good factor.”
At the outset, rankings should be 95%+ based on how good you believe the teams will be. It should ignore what their schedule looks like and pay only a little attention to previous year’s accomplishments. By the end of the year, it’ll be the opposite with 95%+ of the weight on accomplishments. For now, we’re in the pre-season so we’re speculating about how good these teams will be. With that said, below is the newly released coaches poll. I’ve included analysis for each teams and then my own rankings below it.
2019 Preseason Coaches Poll
- Clemson Tigers: We’ve arrived and now people are realizing it is “We want Clemson,” not “We want Bama.”
- Alabama Crimson Tide: This is where even in a pre-season poll some consideration has to be given to past accomplishments. Both teams bring back a lot of key players and even if you’re picking Alabama to win the title, you’ve got to rank Clemson ahead of them for now. Although their public excuses for the title game loss are silly and give Clemson free bulletin board material. Behind closed doors I’m guessing that the 44-16 loss is motivating them and they know they must get better to beat the Tigers. I’d take Clemson and Bama over the field right now. It’s going to be hard to beat Alabama with the revenge-factor on their side, but you have to rank Clemson #1 right now.
- Georgia Bulldogs: Despite the Sugar Bowl loss to Texas, #3 is where UGA belongs. They’ll likely lose Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift after this season. As long as Clemson and Bama are this good, they won’t have a better shot at a title than they do in 2019.
- Oklahoma Sooners: This is certainly fair, Lincoln Riley has proven to be one of the best coaches in college football despite being one of the youngest. I’m just not optimistic that Jalen Hurts can replace Kyler Murray without a big drop off. Their defense will improve as they return nine starters, so if they do avoid a big offensive drop off, they’ll be excellent. I just don’t see how they don’t take a step back on offense with QB Kyler Murray, WR Marquise Brown, and four starters from an excellent offensive line departing.
- Ohio State Buckeyes: No qualms here, they’ve got the talent and only lost one game last season, but there are some unknowns at big spots... like head coach and quarterback.
- LSU Tigers: LSU returns a lot of talent from a good 10-3 team that blew out UGA. They don’t have a great path to the playoff, but they’re probably one of the six or seven best teams in the country.
- Michigan Wolverines: Ohio State has won seven-straight and 14 of 15 including a surprising blowout last season. As such, it feels right to have them below the Buckeyes (similar logic as to why I would have Clemson over Alabama). That said, I think Michigan could end up being the best team in the Big 10. They hired Josh Gattis from Alabama to help them move to a no-huddle spread offense like the one QB Shea Patterson played in at Ole Miss. Patterson will be a senior and has four offensive linemen and his two leading WRs returning. They lose their top two RBs so the offensive will likely go as far as Patterson can take it. The defense has to replace LB Devin Bush and and DL Rashan Gary, but in the same what that you wouldn’t doubt DC Brent Venables at Clemson, you shouldn’t doubt Michigan’s great DC Don Brown.
- Florida Gators: Dan Mullen is a top 10 coach and made a splash in year one with the Gators as he took a team that finished 4-7 in 2017 to 10-3. I tend to think they’ll regress, at least slightly, with only five offensive players returning. It may be a bit like VT bursting onto the scene with Coach Fuente and then coming back to earth. Nonetheless, this is certainly a reasonable ranking.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The Irish kept it closer with Clemson than Alabama. Their path is much harder this time around, but they should be approximately as good as the squad that was the 4th best team in the country last season. I would have them above Florida.
- Texas Longhorns: The advanced stats hated Texas last year. They ranked only 32nd in the S&P+ after beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Seven of their 10 wins were single-digit victories. They’re getting much deserved hype after that win, but they only return two starters on defense.
- Texas A&M Aggies: Kellen Mond made quite the impression when I was in College Station. You could say I’m on the bandwagon. As much as I dislike Coach Fisher, I respect him as a great offensive mind. The offense is going to be really good. They lose RB Trayveon Williams, but bring back a strong receiving corps for what should be a good passing game. They only return four starters on defense and they already weren’t great defensively last season (great rush defense, but poor against the pass). I expect a shootout in Clemson. Their schedule is brutal, but in terms of how good they are, there probably 10 or fewer teams better than them. They could go 8-4 and I’d still say they’re a top 10 team depending on how they look doing it.
- Washington Huskies: QB Jacob Eason finally gets a chance to start and will have the Huskies’ top three WRs returning. They return seven starters in total on offense. That’s reason to think their offense, which ranked 88th in points per game can improve. They only return two starters on defense though. As a result, I think they’re over-ranked here based on past success and a soft schedule that’ll likely lead to 10+ wins.
- Oregon Ducks: In a shocking move, QB Justin Herbert decided to return for his senior season. That means the entire offense returns intact. They play at Washington and have a potential loss in the opener to Auburn, but they may still be the best team in the Pac-12.
- Penn State Nittany Lions: Not only did they lose QB Trace McSorely, but back-up Tommy Stevens transferred to Mississippi State where his former OC, Joe Moorhead, is the head coach.
- Utah Utes: A weak Pac-12 South, a soft draw for the Pac-12 North, and a non-conference schedule headlined by BYU gives the Utes have a great shot to reach the Rose Bowl or even become a playoff dark horse. Injuries marred the finish to last season though they still finished with nine wins. That said, a weak schedule doesn’t make them better than the teams ranked above them, even if they finish with more wins (see UCF).
- Auburn Tigers: Auburn looks to have a strong defense coming back, but what the offense will look like is unclear as QB Jarrett Stidham left and there’s no obvious replacement. They return their entire offensive line, which could turn that weakness into a strength, but QB play will be a wildcard. Projecting Auburn has been like chasing the wind over the past decade and that’s especially true this season.
- UCF Knights: The Knights won’t have QB McKenzie Milton in 2019, but they added Brandon Wimbush via graduate transfer from Notre Dame. They return much of their offense and again should be the class of the G5. Hopefully their early season game against Stanford doesn’t get cancelled as many of their interesting non-conference games have. Their ranking at #17 is about right.
- (T-17) Wisconsin Badgers: This rankings feels high. Sure, Jonathan Taylor is the strongest Heisman candidate outside of Clemson and Alabama’s stars, but only he and the center are the only returning starters for their offense. They have big questions at QB and were only 8-5 last season.
- Iowa Hawkeyes: They’ve won 8 or 9 games each of the past three seasons and the expectations should remain the same.
- Michigan State Spartans: They’re being overlooked because their hard schedule will likely produce 3-4 losses. Their offense was hampered by injuries and should improve with better luck. Their defense was strong and should remain so this year.
- Washington State Cougars: The Cougar have to replace Gardner Minshew at QB, but potentially get better around him. In an air raid offense, their ability to replace the 5th-place vote getter in the Heisman balloting will determine what they do after last season’s 11-2 finish.
- Syracuse Orange: Likely the second best team in the ACC, I’d have them higher, but admittedly there are questions along the offensive line, and although expectations are high QB Tommy DeVito is unproven.
- Stanford Cardinal: David Shaw is an extremely well-respected coach and I think Stanford’s inclusion may be due to that. QB KJ Costello is back, but RB Bryce Love and WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside are gone from an offense that only returns three starters and already couldn’t run the ball. I would not have them ranked and expect they’ll drop out after a brutal early season schedule that includes Northwestern, at USC, at UCF, and Oregon.
- Iowa State Cyclones: The Cyclones will have a very good defense by Big 12 standards. They have some key players to replace on offense, but return QB Brock Purdy and his entire offensive line. They have seven starters returning on each side of the ball and could contend for a spot in the Big 12 title game.
- Northwestern Wildcats: The defending Big 10 West champs have a chance to repeat as the division champs, though Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska will give them a battle. Hunter Johnson takes over at QB for an offense that finished 100th in scoring and 108th in yardage. They could be improved from last year’s division winning team.
Ryan Kantor’s 2019 Preseason Rankings
The numbers in parentheses indicate Coaches Poll ranking. 2019 Schedule and path to the playoff was not considered. Emphasis instead was placed on how good I expect each team to be.
- Clemson Tigers (1)
- Alabama Crimson Tide (2)
- Georgia Bulldogs (3)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (5)
- Michigan Wolverines (7)
- Oklahoma Sooners (4)
- LSU Tigers (6)
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9)
- Florida Gators (8)
- Texas A&M Aggies (11)
- Oregon Ducks (13)
- Texas Longhorns (10)
- Utah Utes (15)
- Penn State Nittany Lions (14)
- UCF Knights (T-17)
- Auburn Tigers (16)
- Washington Huskies (12)
- Syracuse Orange (22)
- Michigan State Spartans (20)
- Washington State Cougars (21)
- Iowa State Cyclones (24)
- Virginia Cavaliers (UR)
- Iowa Hawkeyes (19)
- Northwestern Wildcats (25)
- Wisconsin Badgers (T-17)
Not included: Stanford (23)
That’s how I would have them ranked now as we enter Fall Camp. As you can see, some of the teams I tend to think more highly of than the coaches do include Michigan, Oregon, Syracuse, Iowa State, and Virginia. On the flipside, I’m not as high on Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Iowa, or Wisconsin. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
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