Post-spring college football power rankings

Monday, May 6, 2019

Now that spring football is over, it's a good time to reassess the Top 25 teams for the coming college football season. Which teams have moved up and which ones still have work to do?

We had a panel of 14 experts provide their own lists, then we tallied up the results.

Voters: Andrea Adelson, Joel Anderson, Edward Aschoff, Kyle Bonagura, David Hale, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Ryan McGee, Dan Murphy, Adam Rittenberg, Alex Scarborough, Mark Schlabach, Jake Trotter, Tom VanHaaren

No. 1 Clemson

It should come as no surprise that the Tigers remain No. 1 headed out of spring practice. They return one of the most dynamic offenses in college football and appear to have even enhanced that unit with some early-enrollee freshmen who could make a difference. Though it hurts to lose Amari Rodgers (torn ACL), watch for ESPN 300 receivers Frank Ladson and Joe Ngata to contribute right away. The two combined for 10 receptions for 229 yards in the spring game, drawing high praise from quarterback Trevor Lawrence throughout the spring. Questions remain on the defensive line, as several projected contributors missed the spring with injuries. Matching what the Tigers did up front a season ago is a difficult task, but there is plenty of talent, starting with Xavier Thomas. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 2 Alabama

With no major injuries and no quarterback competition, it was something of a quiet spring for the defending SEC champs. Even Nick Saban's hip-replacement surgery seemed to go swimmingly. But there's still work to be done in Tuscaloosa. While Josh Jobe and a few other players created a buzz, the defense must find a way to replace a bunch of draft picks and bounce back from a rough end to last season. And looking bigger picture, having seven new assistant coaches is something worth keeping an eye on. -- Alex Scarborough

No. 3 Georgia

We're going to have to trust Jake Fromm when he says he and the offense made strides this spring, because it didn't show up on G-Day, with the exception of a seemingly rising star in wideout Jeremiah Holloman. The defense, on the other hand, was a reason for optimism. The secondary, which must replace first-round pick Deandre Baker, was aggressive and appears to have an emerging playmaker in third-year cornerback Eric Stokes. -- Scarborough

No. 4 Oklahoma

Jalen Hurts might not win the Heisman Trophy and go No. 1 in the NFL draft like his two Oklahoma predecessors, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Still, the Sooners are squarely in position to make the playoff for a fourth time in five seasons with Hurts at quarterback. Not only was Hurts spectacular in OU's spring game but he has quickly taken over a prominent leadership role in the locker room despite having been in Norman only four months. -- Jake Trotter

No. 5 Ohio State

The Buckeyes and new head coach Ryan Day have had an interesting spring. Day added transfer quarterback Justin Fields, but Matthew Baldwin decided to transfer. The coaches have since added Kentucky quarterback transfer Gunnar Hoak and 2019 preferred walk-on JP Andrade. If Fields stays healthy, Ohio State should be in the playoff discussion. -- Tom VanHaaren

No. 6 Notre Dame

Notre Dame made it to the College Football Playoff this past season, and the team has some good stability coming out of this spring. Quarterback Ian Book returns, and the defense will be anchored by a strong, experienced line. The Fighting Irish are going to have a tough road back to the playoff with Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, USC and Stanford all on the schedule, but it's not out of the realm of possibility we'll see them back among the final four. -- VanHaaren

No. 7 Michigan

The expectations are high for Michigan, returning most of its offense, including quarterback Shea Patterson. Jim Harbaugh has handed the offense over to new coordinator Josh Gattis. Through the short time they've been together, Patterson and backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey have raved about the energy level from Gattis and what the new offense will bring. If it doesn't end with a conference championship or playoff berth, there will be quite a bit of grumbling around Ann Arbor. -- VanHaaren

No. 8 Florida

The Gators set multiple spring-game records on offense, a surprising breath of fresh air considering how poorly that unit has performed over the past decade. Perhaps the Florida faithful can truly believe the Gators turned a corner under Dan Mullen. It certainly appears that way, with Feleipe Franks growing more comfortable and confident as the starting quarterback, and a deep, talented group of receivers returning that gives the offense multiple options for the first time in a long time. Watch for Trevon Grimes to have a much bigger impact this season as a versatile playmaker. Though Florida lost some of its best pass-rushers, grad transfer Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga are poised to make some plays. -- Adelson

No. 9 LSU

Whether it sticks remains to be seen, but LSU is selling a new offensive vision again. You saw it during a spring game in which the Tigers hardly went under center. Coach Ed Orgeron is calling new passing-game coordinator Joe Brady an expert in the run-pass option offense, and optimism abounds. On defense, replacing Devin White and Greedy Williams won't be easy, but the return of Grant Delpit and K'Lavon Chaisson gives coordinator Dave Aranda a couple of nice cornerstones to work with. -- Scarborough

No. 10 Oregon

The Ducks will enter the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 and are probably the league's only hope of a playoff berth. Oregon has 17 starters back, a quarterback in Justin Herbert who could be the No. 1 player taken in next year's NFL draft and is starting to look more and more like an SEC front on both sides, thanks to recruiting and a top-flight strength team. -- Edward Aschoff

No. 11 Texas

For the first time in a decade, since Colt McCoy, Texas finally boasts one of the country's top players behind center again in Sam Ehlinger, who last season became just the sixth Power 5 quarterback to throw for 25 touchdowns and rush for another 15. The other five to accomplish such a feat won Heismans. Ehlinger might still be a little overlooked. But he's a legitimate Heisman contender. And as a result, Texas just might be a playoff contender, too. -- Trotter

No. 12 Texas A&M

There's an awful lot to like on paper about the Aggies. Kellen Mond, who made significant strides under Jimbo Fisher, is back under center, along with six other returning starters. On defense, the tackle tandem of Justin Madubuike and Bobby Brown III is a nice centerpiece. But the question is, after coming out of the gate with a nine-win first season under Fisher, what's a realistic follow-up when you see Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and LSU all on the schedule? -- Scarborough

No. 13 Penn State

The Nittany Lions have seen an alarming number of players enter the NCAA transfer portal this offseason, including most recently quarterback Tommy Stevens. Sean Clifford is the presumed starter at quarterback, but losing Stevens means losing a veteran player with experience at the position. With some coaching and player turnover, this is going to be a pivotal season for James Franklin. Coming off losses to Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan in 2018, the staff is looking for a better result than last season's 9-4 finish. -- VanHaaren

No. 14 UCF

An offseason filled with speculation is underway, as the Knights ended spring without a declared starter at quarterback. Darriel Mack Jr., who started two games last season after McKenzie Milton got hurt, and Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush lead the group, and there was no real separation between them. Coach Josh Heupel said the competition has been good and will only help whoever eventually wins the starting job. Defensively, the Knights are looking for improvement on the interior of the line after losing three tackles in Trysten Hill, Joey Connors and A.J. Wooten. They might even go the grad-transfer route if necessary to shore up the position. -- Adelson

No. 15 Washington

The Huskies are totally rebuilding on defense, but the good news is that that side of the ball had a pretty productive spring, particularly late. Longtime starting quarterback Jake Browning is gone, but the hope is that former No. 1 QB recruit Jacob Eason can step right in and be even better. He's more physically gifted than Browning, but the Georgia transfer hasn't played since the first game in fall of 2017, when a knee injury cut his season short. -- Aschoff

No. 16 Utah

Oregon might be the Pac-12 favorite, but the Utes cannot be overlooked. They are the early favorites to win the Pac-12 South, particularly with the return of running back Zack Moss, who averaged 121.7 yards per game; their top four receivers from last year; and quarterback Tyler Huntley, who looked sharper this spring. The defense should continue to be stout, but replacing three starters on the offensive line will be interesting to watch. -- Aschoff

No. 17 Stanford

Only three starters return to an offense that shifted to more of a pass-first look last season. Quarterback K.J. Costello, who threw for 3,540 yards in 2018, is back and said this spring that he's hoping to "piece together an offense that is ready to go Day 1." Offensive-line issues from last season and the loss of star running back Bryce Love won't make that easy. Five starters are back on a defense that surrendered 410 yards per game in 2018. -- Aschoff

No. 18 Auburn

The talent is there. On defense, projected first-round pick Derrick Brown returns, along with Marlon Davidson. And on offense, wideout Seth Williams and running back Boobie Whitlow have the look of future stars in the SEC. But it all comes down to quarterback, where, after the spring, it appears to be a two-man race featuring Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix. Choosing between a redshirt freshman and a true freshman is a tough call for coach Gus Malzahn, who is on the hot seat while managing a return to calling plays on offense. -- Scarborough

No. 19 Washington State

The hope is that Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud will pick up right where Gardner Minshew and his glorious mustache left off. The good news for the Cougs is that Gubrud twice was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS offensive player of the year. There is plenty of returning receiver talent, but Wazzu has to improve on its 77 rushing yards per game from last season. With six starters back, this defense should take another positive step under Tracy Claeys. -- Aschoff

No. 20 Nebraska

If the finish to the 2018 season is any indication of how much progress this Nebraska team can make under Scott Frost, this should be an exciting season for the Cornhuskers. Quarterback Adrian Martinez showed flashes of his talent and, now healthy, should be able to expand on what he did last season. The staff added some talent around him in the 2019 class that will only help raise the offense to where Frost wants it to be. -- VanHaaren

No. 21 Wisconsin

The 2018 season didn't go as planned for Wisconsin, and based on the coaching staff's record, it was very likely an anomaly. Starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook decided to transfer, but the coaches signed the No. 1 pocket-passing quarterback in the 2019 class, Graham Mertz. The offense still has running back Jonathan Taylor, who led all FBS rushers last season, and the Badgers should see a better performance from the defense. -- VanHaaren

No. 22 Syracuse

Optimism is high at Syracuse after a breakout 2018, and nothing that happened this spring dampened those expectations. Though Eric Dungey is gone, Tommy DeVito has been groomed for this opportunity at quarterback and has game experience to help smooth out the transition. Plus, there are playmakers back at running back and receiver to help the offense remain at the fast tempo Dino Babers wants. Syracuse also returns defensive ends Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson, who combined to form the best sacks duo in the ACC. There are still holes to fill on the offensive line, and the linebackers group is a work in progress, but the pieces are there for the Orange to have another big season. -- Adelson

No. 23 Iowa

The Hawkeyes have some stability at key position groups with Nate Stanley at quarterback and along the defensive line with A.J. Epenesa leading the way. There are some big holes at other positions, though -- most notably at tight end, with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both first-round NFL draft picks, off the roster. That production needs to be replaced, and Iowa is still figuring out who will step up in key areas. -- VanHaaren

No. 24 Army

Coming off a school-record 11 wins, Army has big expectations for 2019. The Black Knights do have significantly big shoes to fill at fullback and on defense. But with Kelvin Hopkins Jr. running the option, after becoming the first Army QB to pass and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, the Black Knights have the pieces to match 2018's success. And on top of that, a big opportunity to make a statement Sept. 7 at Michigan. -- Trotter

No. 25 Mississippi State

Coach Joe Moorhead and Dan Mullen before him have recruited well in recent years, and it's going to need to show for the Bulldogs to bounce back in 2019. First-round picks Montez Sweat, Jeffery Simmons and Johnathan Abramare gone on defense. On offense, they're figuring out how to move on from a record-setting three-year starting quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald. The hope is that the handoff from another record-setter, in Dak Prescott, to Fitzgerald went well, so why wouldn't the handoff from Fitzgerald to Keytaon Thompson? -- Scarborough

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