Published on August 25, 2019 by Connor Wolf  

With the 2019 College Football season rapidly approaching, coaches and players are preparing themselves for the grueling task ahead.  These teams have aspirations of making the College Football Playoff and winning the National Championship.  This article lists the top eight college football teams heading into the season, based on their performance last year, returning players, and incoming recruits.  I believe these eight teams are the most ready to make a run to the final four and possibly win it all.

  1. Alabama
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 2
    2018 Season Record: 14-1 (National Runner-Up)
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 27, #1
    2019 Predictions:  Alabama’s perfect 2018 season came to an end in last year’s National Championship game, where they came up short against Clemson, to finish 14-1.  However, with the return of some key offensive weapons and the number one ranked incoming class, Alabama finds themselves the pre-season favorite once again.  Alabama finished the season third in points per game last year at 45.6 and we can expect more of the same this year with the return of QB Tua Tagovailoa and RB Najee Harris.  The Rolling Tide defense finished the season ranked fourth in opponent points per game at 14.8.  With the return of DL Raekwon Davis and OLB Anfernee Jennings, opposing teams will struggle to move the ball on this strong defense.
  1. Clemson
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 1
    2018 Season Record: 15-0 (National Champions)
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 29, #10
    2019 Predictions:  The reigning national champions have their eyes set on another title, and why shouldn’t they?  Their offense finished third in the nation in yards per game at 527.  That same offense may prove to be even more explosive in 2019, as QB Trevor Lawrence is a future star surrounded by big play threats at both wideout and running back.  Clemson’s defense allowed the second least amount of points per game last year at 13.7.  Led by All-American candidate LB Isaiah Simmons and backed by a stacked secondary, the Tigers will be nearly impossible to score on once again.  They are certainly the favorite to win the ACC title.
  1. Georgia
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 8
    2018 Season Record: 11-3
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 24, #2
    2019 Predictions:  Georgia’s offense, led by star QB Jake Fromm, was dynamic last season, putting up 37.9 points per game.  Fromm threw for 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions.  One contributing factor to his efficiency is his help in the backfield.  In 2019, Georgia will rotate four great running backs, led by the shifty D’Andre Swift.  The Bulldog defense was tough last season too, only allowing 18.5 points per game.  Their number two ranked recruiting class is heavily influenced by their stud incoming linebackers.  Two incoming freshman, Nolan Smith and Nakobe Dean, and a junior college transfer, Jermaine Johnson, join four returning Tigers to complete the middle of their defense.
  1. Michigan
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 14
    2018 Season Record: 10-3
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 26, #8
    2019 Predictions:  Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh are looking to finally edge out Ohio State for the title of Big Ten East division champions and play in the College Football Playoff this year.  This is the season to do so as the big game is in Ann Arbor and the Wolverines return QB Shea Patterson for his senior season.  Michigan bolstered 35.2 points per game last year and won’t have trouble scoring this year either.  Their receiving core is among the best in the nation, led by returning WR Donovan Peoples-Jones.  Their defense allowed the fewest yards per game in the nation last season at 263.  They will be tough to move the ball against again this year, with a stout secondary led by star CB Lavert Hill.
  1. Ohio State
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 3
    2018 Season Record: 13-1
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 18, #16
    2019 Predictions:  Replacing Urban Meyer at head coach and Dwayne Haskins at quarterback is no small task for the Buckeyes in 2019.  Ohio State ranked second in the nation in 2018 in yards per game at 536.  Their offense looks to be just as explosive in 2019 with the addition of Georgia-transfer QB Justin Fields.  Fields is a former five-star recruit dual-threat quarterback.  Fields’s wingman in the backfield will be Heisman-hopeful RB J.K. Dobbins.  The Buckeye defense is also loaded with talent with the return of DL Chase Young and DL Tyreke Smith to the line.  Senior LB Malik Harrison will need to have a big year and step up as a leader for the Buckeye defense.
  1. Oklahoma
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 4
    2018 Season Record: 12-2
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 25, #4
    2019 Predictions:  The Sooners are looking to claim their fifth straight Big 12 title in 2019 and third straight trip to the College Football Playoff.  Oklahoma, more so than any other team on this list, relies on one side of the ball.  They are consistently among the most efficient offenses in the nation, and even led the nation last year in both points per game and yards per game, at 48.4 and 570, respectively.  They amazingly have a strong shot at having a Heisman-winning quarterback for the third straight year.  Alabama-transfer QB Jalen Hurts is looking to continue the tradition set by Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.  He will have a lot of help in this quest as he is surrounded by an abundance of talent on offense.  RB Trey Sermon and RB Kennedy Brooks make up a dynamic run game.  Meanwhile, three standout freshmen join a receiving core led by stud wideouts CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra.
  1. LSU
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 6
    2018 Season Record: 10-3
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 25, #7
    2019 Predictions:  LSU had a solid offense last year, putting up over 400 yards and 30 points per game.  However, to really win in the stacked SEC, coach Ed Orgeron knows the offense needs to be even better.  QB Joe Burrow is a talented player returning to run the offense and should have enough weapons to put up some big numbers.  He has a fantastic receiving core surrounding him, led by breakout WR Justin Jefferson.  LSU also had a solid defense last year, only giving up 20.9 points per game.  But once again, the Tigers need to be better if they want to make a run at the national championship.  Good news for the Tigers, their defense does look like one of the best of 2019.  K’Lavon Chaisson returns at linebacker to lead the middle of the defense.  Meanwhile, the Tiger secondary is quite possibly the best in the nation.  Kristian Fulton and freshman Derek Stingley Jr. will be lockdown at the cornerback position, while S Grant Delpit may be the best safety in all of college football.
  1. Florida
    2018 AP Final Ranking: 7
    2018 Season Record: 10-3
    2019 Commits and Class Rank: 25, #9
    2019 Predictions:  Florida looks to continue their momentum from the 2018 season, one that could be considered somewhat of a pleasant surprise.  The Gators had an efficient offense posting 35.0 points per game last year.  QB Feleipe Franks has shown constant improvement since joining the Gators and had an extremely underrated 2018 season.  He threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns, while also rushing for 350 yards and seven touchdowns.  RB Lamical Perine will lead the ground attack, while the receiving core returns its’ top six guys.  Florida had a strong defense in 2018 as well, only allowing 20.4 points per game.  The Gators will be tough to score on again, as they return seven defensive starters from last year.  Their defense boasts two of the best defensive pairs in the nation next season, at defensive end and cornerback.  These groups consist of DE Jabari Zuniga and Louisville-transfer DE Jonathan Greenard, and CB Marco Wilson and CB CJ Henderson.

My Predictions

My pre-season picks to make the College Football Playoff are the Alabama Rolling Tide, the Clemson Tigers, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the LSU Tigers.  My favorite to win the National Championship is Alabama. 

Sources

athlonsports.com

www.espn.com

insider.espn.com

About the Author

Connor just completed his sophomore year at Purdue University, where he is pursuing a double major in actuarial sciences and applied statistics, with a minor in management.  He has had a passion for both sports and statistics since a very young age, and enjoys discovering all the new information statistics can give us about sports.  Here is a link to his LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/connor-wolf-bb3775186/.