Pu presents the #11 through #20 ranked teams for your pleasure. (#21 through #25 here )
2018 record: 8-5, 3-5 SEC
Key losses: QB Jarrett Stidham, Receivers Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton, DL Dontonvius Russell
After a disappointing 2018 campaign where they suffered through 5 SEC losses, Auburn hopes for a better performance in the 2019 season. But, to have a successful season, the Tigers have some big shoes to fill.
Auburn begins the season with a new QB under center with the loss of Jarrett Stidham to the NFL. They had hoped that Junior QB Malik Willis would carry the team forward, but he transferred out at the end of spring practice. Left to fill the void is a Redshirt Freshman, Joey Gatewood, and a true 5 star freshman recruit, Bo Nix. One of the two will be the starter.
Joining either Gateman or Nix in the backfield will be JaTarvious Whitlow, who ran for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2018. He will be backed up by Kam Martin and Shaun Shivers.
Auburn must also replace their two best receivers, Davis and Slayton, but that may not be a problem. Sophomores Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams should be fine in their new starting roles. If not, the Eli Stove and Will Hastings duo will provide additional support.
The starting five in the offensive line return for another year, but must play better than last year if Auburn is to advance in the SEC.
The defensive line will not be a problem for Auburn. Two expected losses to the NFL, Brown and Davidson, stayed for another year and provides the Tigers with a strong base. Joining them is Nick Coe, rushing from the end position and four new All Star recruits.
Where the defense will be tested is among the linebackers. All starting linebackers are gone, among them Deshaun Davis. K J Britt must step up and fill the gap with the loss of Davis, while 5 star recruit Owen Pappoe will have to take an immediate role supporting the defense.
Safeties appear to be with Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson returning. Cornerbacks will be an issue though.
The defense will have to carry the offense on their backs until the QB situation is resolved.
The first game of the season, Aug 31, will feature Auburn at home against #11 Oregon. This will provide a good indication of what to expect.
The rest of the season is not going to be easy for the Tigers. On the road, they face Texas A&M, Florida and LSU, all Top Ten teams. At home, they get #3 Georgia and #2 Bama.
Expect no more than 8 wins this season. The Tigers just play too many quality teams, especially those in the SEC. A minor Bowl Game in December is likely.
19. Iowa State
2018 record: 9-4, 5-4
Key losses: RB Hakeem Butler, RB David Montgomery, Cb Brian Peavy, Lb William Harvey
Iowa State begins the 2019 season after back to back winning seasons in the Big 12. They hope to continue in their winning ways with another 9 win season.
The Cyclones will again be led by QB Brock Purdy who threw for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns last season as a freshman. He began the season on the bench but was called in to start and led State to a 7-2 record under his leadership.
Purdy is going to have to be good since he will be without RB David Montgomery, a most reliable player. Replacing him will be Kene Nwangwu, Sheldon Croney and Johnie Lang, but none of the caliber of Montgomery. Freshmen Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock will have to push the others to play well, or find themselves on the bench.
Receivers will be another hole to be plugged. With the loss of Hakeem Butler and 22 yards per catch, the Cyclones will have to look to Tarique Milton and Deshaunte Jones as inadequate replacements.
Tight end should be fine with Charlie Kolar returning. And when he is not in the game, Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner provide good relief.
The offensive line should be better, with all five starters returning for another year though they need to up their game.
Iowa State has begun to be famous for great defenses, and 2019 should be more of the same. They led the Big 12 last year giving up only 22.9 points per game and 3.26 yards per rush. However, they lose cornerback Brian Peavy and linebacker William Harvey who will have to be replaced.
The defensive line returns two all-conference players, end JaQuan Bailey and tackle Ray Lima. Both are outstanding players, but they will not be alone.
Senior Jamahl Johnson is back after a great 2018. And joining him will be Enyi Uwazurike and Zach Petersen. At linebacker to replace Harvey will be Marcel Spears and Mike Ross, one of the best defensive players in the country in 2018.
The secondary has some issues to be resolved. The first is replacing Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne. Look to sophs Datrone Young and Anthony Johnson to step up and fill those shoes. Strong Safety returns and should perform once again to high standards.
In the end, Iowa State has some issues, but there should not be a big drop off in quality. The defense should once again be one of the best in the Big 12. Purdy should continue his great play at QB.
Iowa State begins the season with four of five games at home. They will host Iowa, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. Oklahoma and West Virginia will be road games.
A 9 game winning season is not out of the question, and a Bowl Game is just about guaranteed. But a conference championship is not in the books for another year at least.
18. Virginia Tech
2018 record: 6-7
Key losses: TE Eric Kumac, TE Chris Cunningham, QB Josh Jackson, DT Ricky Walker
Virginia Tech had a disappointing 2018 outing, much of which was caused by injuries and lack of depth. The losses were not just losses, they were BIG losses, with 6 being by double digits and four of those by 20 points or more. Tech hopes to return to earlier years and not to repeat the 2018 season.
It all began with a loss to Old Dominion, a 27 point underdog. In that game, QB Josh Jackson suffered a broken leg which changed the offensive outlook for the Hokies.
Jackson has transferred to Maryland, leaving as his replacement for the 2018 campaign, Ryan Willis, who was himself a Kansas transfer. Willis has a strong arm and will have to lead a new group of Hokies forward in 2019.
Willis will have good targets for his passes in 2019. Damon Hazleton, the ALL ACC Second Team pick and Tre Turner will be the primary targets. Joining them will be Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson and Tight Ends Dalton Keene and James Mitchell make for a strong receiving corp.
To make the passing game effective, the Hokies will need an adequate ground game. They must look to running backs Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston to take the pressure off the passing game. Without strong performances by them, the passing game will be less effective.
Adding to the offensive woes, the offensive line must step up its game. It is a young line with the projected starting tackles a couple of sophomores. Whether the team can average last year’s 29.8 points per game remains to be seen.
The Hokie defense was woefully inadequate in 2018. It allowed 31 points per game, 438 yards per game and only 24 sacks and 7 interceptions. Much of this poor performance was the result of injuries and youth, it still leaves much to be desired for 2019.
The strength of the defense will be up the middle. Lb’s Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield return. Safeties Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo will provide additional experience.
The defensive line must be improved upon. Their best player, Ricky Walker, is gone. They will have to rely upon end Houshum Gaines, Emmanuel Belmar and Ty Juan Garbutt to perform at a much higher level. Jarrod Hewitt will be Walker’s leadership replacement, but must kick up his game as well.
The Hokie secondary needs improvement as well. Corner Jeremy Webb, a junior college transfer, should provide some much needed experience and talent. Joining him will be sophomore Caleb Farley. Both will be needed to perform to expectations for the Hokies to be successful in 2019.
The schedule for the Hokies will be of benefit. They will not play Clemson, but do play Miami, Virginia and Notre Dame on the road. Only Notre Dame should be a guaranteed loss.
Expect Virginia Tech to keep its two streaks alive. They should have a 27th straight year of Bowl games and should beat Virginia for the 16th straight time. 8 wins are likely with a 9th possible.
17. Washington State
2018 record: 11-2
Key losses: QB Gardner Minshew, T Peyton Pelluer, T Andre Dillard, Jalen Thompson
Washington State has ceased being the doormat for the Pac 12, having a record of 26-10 for the last 4 years in conference play. During that time, State has consistently defeated Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State. But no matter how well they do, rival Washington has stood in their way. To move forward, State must be able to defeat Washington.
QB Gardner Minshew has moved on, so State must retool at the QB position. To do so, the Cougars again went the transfer route, bringing aboard Gage Gubrud, former FCS All American from Eastern Washington. But he will face stiff competition from seniors Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley.
Whoever starts for the Cougars, he will have a bevy of seven experienced receivers to throw to. Leading the group will be outside receivers Davontavean Martin and Dezmon Patmon who combined for 130 receptions total in 2018. In addition, the slot receiver is Renard Bell with just 20 receptions, five of which were touchdowns.
Joining in the backfield will be sophomore Max Borghi in the running back position. He is a rugged back with great hands who averaged more than 5 yards per carry as a freshman.
The offensive line returns 4 starters out of 5, so they should remain a strong unit protecting the passer.
The Cougar defense should experience little drop off in quality, even with the loss of Peyton Pelluer. One of three redshirt juniors should take over Pelluer’s duties, Jahad Woods, Dillon Sherman or Justus Rogers. Each have plenty of experience.
Watch for nose tackle Lamonte McDougle, redshirt junior from West Virginia. He may be a huge surprise for the Cougars.
The defensive backfield returns only two starters but the Cougars took spring practice seriously, focusing upon shoring up the backfield. Skyler Thomas moves from free safety to the nickel back position. Even then, it will not be enough for the start of the season.
Another 11 win season is likely for the Cougars. But for the season to be considered a success, the Cougars must defeat the Huskies and win the Pac 12. They play Utah, Oregon, California and Washington on the road this year, which makes 11 wins much more difficult. Stanford and UCLA games will be at home.
2018 record 11-1
Key losses: QB Milton McKenzie, T Wyatt Miller, G Tyler Hudanick, linemen Titus Davis, A J Wooten, Joey Conners, lb Pat Jasinski, db Richard Causey and db Kyle Gibson
Once again, UCF proved that they were a force to be reckoned with for the 2018 season. There should now be little question that they are the real deal, after going 11-1 for the season. But UCF goes into the 2019 season missing its great QB.
QB Milton McKenzie has not recovered from a devastating knee injury suffered last season. He will be sidelined for the entire year. Darriel Mack Jr was to be the QB to start the season, but suffered a broken ankle. Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush will be the QB and that is not a loss of ability at all when comparing him to Mack.
The skill positions are all well represented with Adrian Killins and Greg McCrae rushing on the ground. Receivers are returning starters Gabriel Davis and Tre Nixon, so that position is in good hands.
On offense, the only concerns are replacing tackle Wyatt Miller and guard Tyler Hudanick.
The defense is a different story for UCF. There are holes to be filled with the loss of Titus Davis, A J Wooten, Joey Conners, Pat Jasinski, Richard Causey and Kyle Gibson. But a core of qualified players still remain with safety Richie Grant, lb Nate Evans, cb Nevelle Clarke, and Brendon Hayes and Randy Charlton in the trenches.
UCF will again be the cream in the AAC. They play Cincinnati, Tulane and Temple on the road with Pitt on Sep 21 on the road as well. Stanford and Houston will be home games for UCF.
Another 11 game winning season is likely with a New Year’s Day Bowl game on tap.
15. Penn State
2018 record: 9-4, 6-3 Big Ten
Returning starters: six offense, six defense, two special teams
Key losses: QB Trace McSorley, WR DeAndre Thompkins, LB Koa Farmer, CB Amani Oruwariye, S Nick Scott, RB Miles Sanders, G Connor McGovern, OT Ryan Bates, DE Shareef Miller, QB Tommy Stevens
Penn State begins the 2019 season having to rebuild much of the team. QB Trace McSorley is gone along with a large number of underclassmen deserting for the NFL or transferring to other schools. Five members of each the offensive and defense will have to be replaced.
The QB position is a problem. Sophomore Sean Clifford will likely be under center. Incoming freshmen Michael Johnson Jr. and Ta’Quan Roberson must be prepared to step up in the event Clifford cannot perform.
Running backs Noah Cain and Devyn Ford will be in the backfield to relieve some of the pressure on the Penn State QB. They will be joined by Ricky Slade, an ESPN 300. Expect to see a running back by committee with the three.
The receiving corps will be led by junior K J Mamler with Pat Freiermuth as the tight ends. Joining them will be sophomore KJ Hamler (42 catches for 754 yards and five scores last season), with Jahan Dotson, Justin Shorter and transfers George Campbell (Florida State) and Weston Carr (Azusa Pacific)
Penn State will be hampered by the right side of the line. McGovern and Bates left early for the NFL, and so they must be replaced. No easy task.
Penn State will have to improve quickly on the offensive line to have a chance for success.
The defense has its own problems for 2019. Losing six defensive starters, the unit needs to be rebuilt.
Sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons led the team in tackles last year. He will need to have an even more active role, providing leadership for the rest of the unit. Yetur Gross-Mato and Robert Windsor will also need to take on more of a role.
Starters John Reid and Garrett Taylor will give some consistency, but depth is a big worry. Donovan Johnson and Jonathan Sutherland are lacking experience and Lamont Wade had a lackluster sophomore season.
Watch out for Brandon Smith at linebacker. He may surprise.
The schedule for Penn State will not be favorable. They play Michigan at home on Oct 19, but take on Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.
Michigan visits Happy Valley in 2019, but Penn State catches Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa on the road.
Expect an 8 win season, enough to get them a Bowl game, but not much else.
2018 record: 9-5, 6-3 Pac-12
Returning starters: nine offense, seven defense, zero special teams.
Key losses: OT Jackson Barton, G Jordan Agasiva, LB Chase Hansen, LB Cody Barton, FS Corrion Ballard, SS Marquise Blair, K Matt Gay, P Mitch Wishnowsky
Utah begins the season having suffered a self inflicted loss to Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl last season. If they had the services of the injured QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss, the outcome would have been much different.
The Utes hope to repeat with another PAC 12 South title. They are projected favorites in 11 of the 12 games that are on the schedule. In a PAC 12 title game, only Washington would be favored to defeat the Utes and this would be just a few points.
Utah goes into the 2019 season with a very experienced team. Nine offensive and seven defensive starters return with the stars, QB’s Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley both available for duty. They will be joined in the backfield by running back Zack Moss, who ran for over 1000 yards last year and junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole, a sneaky fast back who was injured last year.
Seven top receivers return, providing good reason to believe that the Ute offense will continue to be productive. Britain Cover will be in the slot, joined by Jaylen Dixon as well. Wideouts will be Samson Nacua, Solomon Enis and Demari Simpkins. Tight ends are Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham. Huntley will be throwing to all of them.
The offensive line lost two starters, so they will have to be replaced. Four returnees have starting experience. Washington State transfer Noah Osur-Myers and Marshall transfer Alex Locklear should provide solid replacements for the two lost linemen. Size wise, no linemen will be under 310 pounds.
The Utes lost the top four leading tacklers. For other teams, this could be devastating, but three others returned for their final year instead of declaring for the NFL draft, DL BradleeAnae, DL LekiFotu and CB Julian Blackmon back.
Quality defensive tackles will be trouble for teams playing the Utes. John Penisini and Leki Fotu will be difficult to run against again this year. Backing them up will be senior Francis Bernard and three transfers, Penn State star Manny Bowen, former UCLA blue-chipper Mique Juarez, and Stanford sophomore Sione Lund.
The only concern for Utah is the secondary. Last year, they were only 43rd in marginal pass efficiency and 36th on passing downs. No standouts exist in these positions.
Utah’s path to the Rose Bowl is well defined. But they must beat Washington on the road Nov 2nd to get there.
2018 record: 9-4, 5-4 Big Ten
Returning starters: six offense, four defense, one special teams
Key losses: TE T.J. Hockenson, TE Noah Fant, WR Nick Easley, DE Parker Hesse, DE Anthony Nelson, CB Amani Hooker, S Jake Gervase, LB Jack Hockaday
Iowa begins the season with returning starting QB Nate Stanley. An underrated QB, Stanley is expected to break Iowa’s career record for touchdown passes this season. To do this, Stanley will need a solid supporting cast. In the backfield, Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin will take some of the pressure off Stanley.
Iowa must replace its two star tight ends, both of which went early to the NFL. Replacing Noah Fant and T J Hockenson will not be easy. Iowa must look to wide receivers Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette to pick up the slack, with Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini in place on the outside.
The offensive line is a force to be reckoned with and could be the best in the Big Ten. The interior of the line will be anchored by likely All American tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs will contend for All-America honors. One guard and the center must be replaced, but this should not be an issue.
The defensive line is of concern. Losing a number of players, the new line must be built around A.J. Epenesa, who should be among the best in the NCAA in 2019. He will need help in the tackle positions, but there are up and coming stars to join him, among them Chauncey Golston at the end position.
Defensive line depth will be a concern when playing the schedule that Iowa faces. But the secondary is fine.
Iowa looks to be the favorite to win the Big Ten West. But winning the Big Ten title is out of the question. The schedule has the Hawkeyes playing Iowa State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road. At home, Penn State comes to play the week after Michigan.
A nine win season is possible, but a New Year’s Day Bowl game is not likely. Expect a December date for a bowl.
2018 record: 10-4, 7-2 Pac-12
Returning starters: seven offense, two defense, two special teams
Key losses: LB Ben Burr-Kirven, CB Byron Murphy, S Taylor Rapp, LB Tevis Bartlett, S JoJo McIntosh, DL Greg Gaines, DE Jaylen Johnson, QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, OT Kaleb McGary
Washington goes into the 2019 season, after experiencing a less than satisfying 2018 campaign. Hoping for a great season, Washington did win a Pac 12 title and played New Years Day, but they lost four games including the bowl game. This year, the desire to go further is intensified. But that will not be easy.
The defense is wiped out, returning only 2 starters from one of the best defenses in the FBS in 2018. The entire line must be replaced.
QB Jake Browning is gone as well, and so is running back Miles Gaskin.
Georgia transfer Jacob Eason should be taking over the QB position. He will have plenty of targets starting with Aaron Fuller who is a 100 catch and 1,349 yards receiver and Andre Baccellia with 55 passes caught last year.
Also, Eason has Junior Ty who has the potential to be a big play receiver.Tight Ends Cade Otton and Hunter Bryant who are there to run alternate routes when needed. Red shirt freshmen Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne and Trey Lowe are all upcoming stars and incoming freshman Puka Nacua, a top 150 recruit. The Washington passing game looks solid for this year and years to come.
Running backs will be available for Washington as well. Salvon Ahmed should take over Gaskin’s position, and junior Sean McGrew should be a strong third down candidate. Joining them will be Kamari Pleasant and redshirt freshman Richard Newton.
The offensive line has no worries. Washington has 5 returning quality starters including tackle and first team all conference Trey Adams. Joining him at center is all conference Nick Harris.
The defense lost only two starters from a very strong unit last year. Their pattern was to let a team complete a play, then stop them dead. It should be the same in 2019.
The defensive returns linemen Levi Onwuzurike and Benning Potoa’e, linebackers Ryan Bowman and Brandon Wellington and cornerback Myles Bryant. Joining them are six blue-chip freshmen and redshirt freshman on the line. Three others reside as linebackers with five more in the secondary. The defense has many good years ahead.
Washington is the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 again this year. Their schedule has them playing Oregon, USC, Utah and Washington all at home.
The schedule sets up in Washington’s favor. The Huskies catch USC, Oregon, Utah and Washington State all in Seattle this fall.
Only Utah stands in the way of Washington winning it all again in the PAC 12 and a New Year’s Day Bowl game. Expect 11 or 12 wins this season.
2018 record: 9-5, 5-4 Pac-12
Returning starters: 10 offense, seven defense, two special teams
Key losses: DE Jalen Jelks, OLB Justin Hollins, LB Kaulana Apelu, FS Ugochukwu Amadi , WR Dillon Mitchell
If Washington falters in their run for the Roses, Oregon is going to be there to pick up the pieces. The Ducks return 10 offensive starters and seven on defense, providing a solid core of experience for the 2019 campaign.
Junior QB Justin Herbert turned down the chance to join the NFL and possibly be the first QB drafted for another year at Oregon. Under his leadership in 2019, the Ducks might become a CFP contender, if they can get by Washington and Utah.
Joining Herbert in the backfield will be a solid one-two punch at running back in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. They will make life miserable for Pac 12 defenses.
The strength of Oregon beyond Herbert is the offensive line. The Ducks return all five starting linemen, with left guard Shane Lemieux and right tackle Calvin Throckmorton receiving top billing. Center Jake Hanson has started 38 games.
Sophomore left tackle Penei Sewel had a tremendous first year, receiving an all-league honorable mention. Freshman Jonah Tauanu’u will be fighting for the left tackle position while Jalaesala Aumavae-Laulu will be going for the guard position. And there will be 8 other quality offensive linemen to fall back including right tackle Brady Aiello.
The Ducks do need a bit more at the receiver positions. Penn State grad transfer Juwan Johnson will help, but wideout needs work. Junior Jaylon Reed had 38 passes for 433 yards and five touchdowns last season and senior Brenden Schooler had 21 catches. Redshirt freshman Bryan Addison will need to step up his game. Josh Delgado, Mycah Pittman and Lance Wilhoite, all freshmen and valued recruits will earn close looks.
The Oregon defense remains strong with the returning starters. Six starting sophomores return and the #1 ESPN 300 pick, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux should make his presence well know.
Junior Sampson Niu returns along with Redshirt sophomore Isaac Slade-Matautia. They will battle for a starting spot. Outside linebacker Dru Mathis will vie for a starting position ad well as Ge’Mon Eaford and another ESPN 300 member, Mase Funa.
Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is the highest-rated signee in Oregon history and arrived in Eugene at 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds.
Linebacker Troy Dye will be anchoring the unit after passing on joining the NFL for another year.
Oregon’s biggest test this season will be its schedule. It is not for the faint of heart. The Ducks begin the season against Auburn, a team hoping to put in the past last season’s debacle. This game will define both teams.
In the Pac 12, the Ducks get Washington, USC and Stanford on the road. The good news is that Utah is not on the regular season schedule, but if Oregon wins Pac 12 North, then it is likely they will play Utah for the title.
Expect an 11 win season with a potential BCS appearance for the National Championship.
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