The dust has settled on another season of college football, with Clemson taking the national title in convincing fashion.
Does this blowout victory put Clemson in the proverbial driver's seat for next year's championship?
The offensive troika of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, wide receiver Justyn Ross and tailback Travis Etienne (seven combined touchdowns vs. Alabama) will return in full, and the defense won't lose their thirst for destruction–even if a handful of defensive linemen are selected high in the NFL draft.
That's certainly a good foundation for ranking no worse than No. 2 overall.
11Alive Sports offers a sampling of betting odds and rankings projections for next fall, with the intent of finding a consensus with both groupings.
We have one request, though: Please don’t strain your eyes too much looking for UGA in each countdown … or Georgia Tech, for entirely different reasons.
SUPERBOOK USA: TITLE ODDS
Ohio State (12-1)
Notre Dame (25-1)
Mississippi State (50-1)
BOVADA: FAVORITES TO WIN THE 2019 TITLE
a) Let's start with the following distinction: National-title odds are vastly different than straight-up rankings for a coming season.
Take UCF, for example. The Vegas experts (above) aren't necessarily knocking the Knights' potential for clawing back into the top 10 next season, and perhaps reach a New Year's Six bowl for a third straight time.
They simply know that, long before the first snap, a Group Of Five program has little or no chance of reaching the four-team College Football Playoff.
b) Independent Notre Dame obviously has more national cachet than UCF, but the Fighting Irish are still proverbial long shots for Playoff contention, short of posting another undefeated regular season.
Looking at the schedule ... the trips to Georgia (Sept. 21), Michigan (Oct. 26), Duke (Nov. 9) and Stanford (Nov. 30) will likely yield at least one defeat.
c) It's hard to envision any media or betting company logging thousands of man hours on this project in January, since we know it's a fun and consequence-free exercise.
So, in that vein, it only makes sense that Clemson, Alabama, UGA and Ohio State would occupy the top-4 slots for each survey.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: EARLY TOP 25
4. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
11. Texas A&M
14. Penn State
21. Iowa State
23. Michigan State|
25. Virginia Tech
ORLANDO SENTINEL: EARLY TOP 25
5. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
9. Notre Dame
14. Virginia Tech
15. Mississippi State
16. Penn State
20. Iowa State
24. Washington State
BLEACHER REPORT: EARLY TOP 25
5. Ohio State
7. Notre Dame
11. Texas A&M
17. Iowa State
18. Penn State
20. Washington State
22. Utah State
a) The early-entry defections of Elijah Holyfield, Isaac Nauta, Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley (NFL Draft), along with the transfer of former 5-star recruit Justin Fields (bound for Ohio State), haven't hindered UGA's 2019 outlook in any way.
It's a testament to head coach Kirby Smart's relentless recruiting prowess, routinely swapping out one blue-chip recruit for another along the Dawgs' depth chart.
The only downside of UGA ranking No. 3 across the board: These media pundits aren't factoring in the sustained difficulty of the Bulldogs' slate next year.
After three winnable games to open the season (at Vanderbilt, vs. Murray State, vs. Arkansas State), Georgia will encounter a somewhat-treacherous run of Notre Dame, Tennessee (road), South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida (Jacksonville), Missouri, Auburn (road), Texas A&M and Georgia Tech (road).
(On the plus side, the Dawgs will conveniently have two byes during this stretch.)
b) I'm absolutely OK with various countdowns rubber-stamping Clemson and Alabama for next year's title game.
Until some program can step up and threaten victory ... the Tigers and Tide should be robust write-in considerations the following season.
Sight unseen, perhaps.
c) Here's a story angle that hasn't gotten much attention–yet.
With the Peach Bowl in Atlanta serving as a Playoff-semifinal venue next year (along with the Fiesta), Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn will likely have a zero margin of error in 2019, if these schools harbor any hopes of collecting the No. 1 overall seed ... and subsequently charting an easy travel path to championship glory.
Semifinal #1: Atlanta
Playoff title game: New Orleans