No. 13 Washington
The Huskies remain at the same spot as they left the 2018 season, which is kind of surprising considering the amount of turnover going into this season. Regardless, head coach Chris Peterson and company will reload with young talent on both sides of the ball and transfer quarterback Jacob Eason has the tools to be an elite playmaker for the Dawgs. A lot of this year’s success will hinge on Eason’s arm and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake’s ability to run out another stalwart defense.
No. 1 Clemson
Not a real shocker that the Tigers sit atop the rankings heading into the 2019 season, but it’s the first time in school history they’ll start the season at the top spot. The defending champions return Heisman-favorite Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and running back Travis Etienne to lead a loaded offense. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will need to replace three first round picks on that side of the ball, but the Tigers will probably reload and find themselves in the College Football Playoff for the fifth straight year.
No. 14 Utah
The Utes may be third-best among Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top-25, but it’s their highest ever preseason ranking, and there’s going to be room for them to rise. Utah dodges most of the tougher conference teams but does have a roadtrip to Washington, a game that will likely be its toughest. The Utes closed out the season without some of their stars in quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, but still won the Pac-12 South and came within arms reach of their first ever Pac-12 Championship.
No. 22 Syracuse
The Orange rose as high as No. 12 a season ago before being knocked off by the Fighting Irish in week 11. Syracuse’s bowl win over West Virginia helped secure its first preseason Top-25 ranking since Donovan McNabb was quarterback in upstate New York. Syracuse has given top-ranked Clemson trouble in recent history, splitting the last two games. With that game held in the Carrier Dome and the rest of the ACC relatively wide-open, look out for the Orange to make some noise in the polls this season.
No. 9 Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish’s loss to Clemson in the Sugar Bowl may have looked worse at the time then it really was. After seeing Clemson roll Alabama in the championship game, maybe Notre Dame was the third-best team last year. Maybe? Regardless, Ian Book returns to run the offense again and could be in some Heisman talks with a full body of work in 2019. The AP may have dropped Notre Dame too far, but they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves week three in a game at SEC-powerhouse Georgia.
No. 23 Washington State
After the Cougars lost both their Heisman hopeful Gardner Minshew at quarterback and lead running back James Williams, they took a big hit in the preseason rankings. Despite winning eight of nine games last season, Washington State yet again missed out on a chance to play for the Pac-12 Championship and found themselves once again failing to get over the hump. They enter the 2019 preseason rankings just barely with a lot of question marks.
The Wildcats’ 2018 season of dreams may have been a one-hit-wonder. The team that got head coach Mark Stoops his first AP Top-25 ranking has been depleted. His stars Benny Snell Jr. and Josh Allen fled to the NFL along with some other key contributors. Coming into last season, the last time the Wildcats were ranked was 2007, and it may be some time before they’re seen in the polls again.
Reach reporter Josh Eddy at email@example.com. Twitter: @JoshTreEddy
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