More of the same in the AP Top 25
By RALPH D. RUSSO
Associated Press Writer
The final Associated Press Top 25 of the season has a familiar look.
LSU is No. 1 after winning the national championship. Add Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama and you have seven of the preseason top 10 teams finishing in the top 10 five months later.
In fact, for the first time since 2006 every preseason top 10 team finished the season ranked.
One last Reality Check for the AP Top 25, with an eye toward what’s to come in 2020:
No. 1 LSU (15-0)
Key returnees: WR Ja’Marr Chase; WR Terrace Marshall Jr.; CB Derek Stingley Jr.; DT Tyler Shelvin.
Key departures (x-likely): QB Joe Burrow; CB Kristian Fulton; S Grant Delpit-x; DT Rashard Lawrence.
Big games: vs. Texas; at Florida, Alabama.
Reality check: The loss of Burrow creates enough uncertainty to take the Tigers out of the running for preseason No. 1.
No. 2 Clemson (14-1)
Key returnees: QB Trevor Lawrence; WR Justyn Ross; DT Tyler Davis; OT Jackson Carman.
Key departures (x-likely): WR Tee Higgins-x; RB Travis Etienne-x; Isaiah Simmons-x; K’Von Wallace.
Big games: at Florida State; at Notre Dame; South Carolina.
Reality check: The Tigers had never been preseason No. 1 until this season. They’ll likely make it two in a row.
No. 3 Ohio State (13-1)
Key returnees: QB Justin Fields, WR Chris Olave; DB Shaun Wade; DE Zach Harrison.
Key departures: DE Chase Young; CB Jeff Okudah; RB J.K. Dobbins; CB Damon Arnette.
Big games: at Oregon, Penn State; vs. Michigan.
Reality check: Despite huge losses on defense, the Buckeyes are likely a preseason top-three team.
No. 4 Georgia (12-2)
Key returnees: WR George Pickens, RB Zamir White; LB Nolan Smith; CB Eric Stokes.
Key departures: QB Jake Fromm; RB D’Andre Swift; S J.R. Reed; DT Tyler Clark.
Big games: at Alabama; vs. Florida, Auburn.
Reality check: Should start in the top five for the third straight season.
No. 5 Oregon (12-2)
Key returnees: OT Penei Sewell; DE Kayvon Thibodaux; RB CJ Verdell; S Jevon Holland.
Key departures: QB Justin Herbert; LB Troy Dye; OG Shane Lemieux; OT Calvin Throckmorton.
Big games: Ohio State, Southern California, Washington.
Reality check: The Ducks will easily be the highest ranked Pac-12 team to start the season, somewhere in the back of the top 10.
No. 6 Florida (11-2)
Key departures: DEs Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga; CB CJ Henderson; RB Lamical Perine.
Key returnees: QB Kyle Trask; TE Kyle Pitts; CB Kaiir Elam; S Marco Wilson.
Big games: LSU, Georgia; at Florida State.
Reality check: The Gators have lived in the 6-12 spot the last couple years and will likely start there again.
No. 7 Oklahoma (12-2)
Key returnees: RB Kennedy Brooks; C Creed Humphrey; DE Ronnie Perkins; QB Spencer Rattler.
Key departures: QB Jalen Hurts; WR CeeDee Lamb; LB Kenneth Murray; DT Neville Gallimore.
Big games: Tennessee, Baylor, Texas;
Reality check: Mark down the Sooners for another prolific offense and top-10 preseason ranking.
No. 8 Alabama (11-2)
Key returnees: WR DeVonta Smith; LB Dylan Moses; WR Jaylen Waddle; CB Patrick Surtain.
Key departures: QB Tua Tagovailoa; WR Jerry Jeudy; OLB Anfernee Jennings; S Xavier McKinley.
Big games: Southern California, Georgia; at LSU.
Reality check: No reason to think this was anything more than a blip for ‘Bama, which should start next season in the top three.
No. 9 Penn State (11-2)
Key returnees: LB Micah Parsons; QB Sean Clifford; RB Journey Brown; TE Pat Freiermuth; C Michael Menet.
Key departures: WR K.J. Hamler; DE Yetur Gross-Matos; DE Shaka Toney; S Garrett Taylor.
Big games: at Virginia Tech, Michigan; vs. Ohio State.
Reality check: The Nittany Lions will be a trendy alternative to Ohio State to pick out of the Big Ten and should land in the back half of the preseason top 10.
No. 10 Minnesota (11-2)
Key returnees: QB Tanner Morgan; WR Rashod Bateman; S Jordan Howden; OT Daniel Faalele.
Key departures: S Antonio Winfield; WR Tyler Johnson; De Carter Coughlin; CB Chris Williamson.
Big games: Iowa; at Wisconsin; Michigan.
Reality check: For the first time since 2004, the Gophers will start the season ranked.
No. 11 Wisconsin (10-4)
Key returnees: LB Jack Sanborn; NT Keeanu Benton; TE Jake Ferguson.
Key departures: RB Jonathan Taylor; OLB Zack Baun; LB Chris Orr.
Big games: at Michigan; Notre Dame; at Iowa.
Reality check: The Badgers won’t have much buzz, but they are a reliable mid-teens pick.
No. 12 Notre Dame (11-2)
Key returnees: QB Ian Book; S Kyle Hamilton; WR Braden Lenzy.
Key departures: WR Chase Claypool; TE Cole Kmet; DE Julian Okwara.
Big games: Wisconsin; Clemson; at Southern California.
Reality check: Four 10-win seasons in five years give the Irish top-10 credibility to start the year.
No. 13 Baylor (11-3)
Key returnees: QB Charlie Brewer; WR Tyquan Thornton; LB Terrel Bernard.
Key deparures: DE James Lynch; DT Bravvion Roy; QR Denzel Mims.
Big games: Mississippi; at Oklahoma; at Texas.
Reality check: New coach + massive turnover on defense = Bears will probably start around 20.
No. 14 Auburn (9-4)
Key returnees: QB Bo Nix; WR Seth Williams; LB Owen Pappoe.
Key departures: DT Derrick Brown; DE Marlon Davidson; OT Prince Tega Wanogho.
Big games: at Georgia; LSU; at Alabama.
Reality check: Big losses on defense. Pencil the Tigers in to start about where they finished this season.
No. 15 Iowa (10-3)
Key returnees: RB Tyler Goodson; WR Tyrone Tracy Jr.; LB Djimon Colbert.
Key departures: QB Nate Stanley; DE A.J. Epenesa; OT Tristan Wirfs.
Big games: Iowa State; Minnesota; at Ohio State.
Reality check: The Hawkeyes might get a bowl bump into the preseason top 15.
No. 16 Utah (11-3)
Key returnees: TE Brant Kuithe; LB Devin Lloyd; DE Mike Tafua.
Key departures: QB Tyler Huntley; RB Zack Moss; DE Bradlee Anae.
Big games: BYU; Southern California; Washington.
Reality check: The rebuilding Utes will slip back to their more typical position of overlooked heading into next season.
No. 17 Memphis (12-2)
Key returnees: QB Brady White; RB Kenneth Gainwell; S La’Andre Thomas.
Key departures: DE Bryce Huff; RB Patrick Taylor; WR Antonio Gibson.
Big games: at Purdue; at Cincinnati; UCF.
Reality check: Even with a new coach, the Tigers could crack the top 20 and be the highest ranked Group of Five team.
No. 18 Michigan (9-4)
Key returnees: WR Nico Collins; RB Zach Charbonnet; DE Kwity Paye.
Key departures: QB Shea Patterson; OLB Josh Uche; CB Lavert Hill.
Big games: at Washington; Penn State; at Ohio State.
Reality check: The Wolverines will likely be ranked to start the season behind four or five other Big Ten teams.
No. 19 Appalachian State (13-1)
Key returnees: QB Zac Thomas; RB Marcus Williams.
Key departures: LB Akeem Davis-Gaither; RB Darrynton Evans; DL George Blackstock.
Big games: at Wake Forest; at Wisconsin; at Georgia Southern.
Reality check: Loaded again, the Mountaineers should start the season ranked for the first time.
No. 20 Navy (11-2)
Key returnees: RB Jamale Carothers; LB Diego Fagot; DB Kevin Brennan.
Key departures: QB Malcolm Perry; OL David Forney; LB Paul Carothers.
Big games: Notre Dame in Ireland; at Air Force; Army.
Reality check: With the dynamic Perry leaving, the Middies will start the season unranked.
No. 21 Cincinnati (11-3)
Key returnees: QB Desmond Ridder; WR Alec Pierce; CB Ahmad Gardner.
Key departures: RB Michael Warren II; TE Josiah Deguara; LB Bryan Wright.
Big games: at Nebraska; Memphis; at UCF.
Reality check: The Bearcats should get their first preseason ranking ever.
No. 22 Air Force (11-2)
Key returnees: QB Donald Hammond III; RB Kadin Remsberg; LB Demonte Meeks.
Key departures: S Jeremy Fejedelem; DT Fifita Mosese; OT Scott Hattok.
Big games: at Purdue; Navy; at Army.
Reality check: After maybe the quietest 11-win season of the season, the Falcons will have to prove themselves all over again in 2020.
No. 23 Boise State (12-2)
Key returnees: QB Hank Bachmeier; LB Demtri Washington; RB George Holani.
Key departures: DE Curtis Weaver; WR John Hightower; DB Kekoa Nawahine.
Big games: Florida State; at Air Force; Utah State.
Reality check: A promising returning quarterback should be enough to get Boise State into the preseason Top 25.
No. 24 UCF (10-3)
Key returnees: QB Dillon Gabriel; RB Greg McRae; DT Kalia Davis.
Key departures: WR Gabriel Davis; DE Brendon Hayes; CB Nevelle Clark.
Big games: North Carolina; Cincinnati; at Memphis.
Reality check: UCF will probably start next season unranked and its fans will be angry.
No. 25 Texas (8-5)
Key returnees: QB Sam Ehlinger; LB Jospeh Ossai; OT Samuel Cosmi.
Key departures: WR Devin Duvernay; DT Malcolm Roach; C Zach Shackelford.
Big games: at LSU; Oklahoma; Baylor.
Reality check: Voters can’t quit Texas so the Longhorns will probably start next season ranked again.