College football rankings: Way-too-early top 25 sees Clemson entering 2019 season at No. 1

It's never too early for a top 25. And not so surprising, the 2019 season looks a lot like 2018. Alabama and Clemson are once again 1-2 after battling the the fourth time in as many seasons in the College Football Playoff. It was the Tigers who came out on top Monday night -- in a major way -- 44-16 over the Crimson Tide to pull Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban 2-2 in postseason competition.

Spoiler alert for these early rankings: The SEC isn't dominating (only five teams in these rankings), though the best challengers to crack the four-team CFP field this year are Georgia and LSU. There is also pressure on the Big Ten (primarily Ohio State) to get back into the playoff, and Oklahoma to find a defense. Will Texas step up and overtake OU after bludgeoning UGA in the Sugar Bowl?

There is plenty yet to be written as we head into 2019, but first, some team(s) are going to need to figure out a way to beat Alabama and Clemson.

Let's take a look at the way-too-early top 25 ahead of the 2019 season.

Way-too-early top 25
1
There's a reason Kelly Bryant was expendable. Theoretically, Trevor Lawrence gets two more shots at Alabama. Yes, that's how far the top two have separated themselves.
2
How can you not pick the Tide again? An educated guess (depending on early NFL exits) looks like about 13 starters will be back. That list includes Tua Tagovailoa, rising star Dylan Moses at linebacker and all three starting receivers.
3
In what figures to be Jake Fromm's final season, the Dawgs will be loaded again. D'Andre Swift will be a Doak Walker Award (best running back) candidate. The offensive line will be among the best.
4
Yes, that's right. We have three SEC teams in the top four. We'll let the CFP Selection Committee figure that one out. Meanwhile, an improving Joe Burrow is back giving the Tigers a legit threat at quarterback.
5
It will difficult to replace Kyler Murray. Ever. But the Sooners will once again be the class of the Big 12. Watch that quarterback battle between incoming recruit Spencer Rattler, junior Austin Kendall and redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai. Kendall was neck-and-neck with Murray last August.
6
This is assuming Justin Fields indeed does get a waiver to become immediately eligible. If it works out that way, Fields will be the next trigger man on an explosive offense.
7
Mario Cristobal landed a top five recruiting class topped off by No. 1 recruit (lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux). The return of quarterback Justin Herbert makes the Ducks the Pac-12 favorite and an outlier playoff contender.
8
Dan Mullen's impact was felt immediately. The offense jumped from averaging 22 points to 35. Mullen absolutely milked the most out of quarterback Feleipe Franks. Emory Jones may upgrade the position in 2019, if he wins the job. Three starters are lost on the offensive line.
9
In the last two seasons Brian Kelly has won 22 of his last 26 games and taken the Irish to the CFP. Notre Dame shouldn't fall off that much. Watch Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones take over for Dexter Williams, who felt five yards short of 1,000 rushing. Ian Book will benefit from an offseason working as the quarterback starter.
10
Such a dichotomy for Jim Harbaugh. He has won 10 in three of his four seasons at Michigan but hasn't delivered so much as a division title. That could change with the departure of Urban Meyer, but the offense has to get more creative and more productive.
11
Should be an interesting battle in the Big 12 between OU and the Horns. Texas went to another (physical) level against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger returns, as does 6-foot-6 receiver Collin Johnson. Sophomore Keontay Ingram must learn to run better behind his line which loses three starters.
12
The Lions continue to contend for Big Ten titles under James Franklin. There is some retooling to be done with the exit of Trace McSorley. But remember this name: Tommy Stevens. Watch out for road games at Michigan State and Ohio State.
13
Jimbo Fisher posted an impressive first season in College Station (8-4). Kellen Mond returns without his two biggest weapons – tailback Trayveon Williams and tight end Jace Sternberger. Jimbo, though, has loaded up in recruiting.
14
Chris Petersen has won Pac-12 titles in two of the last three seasons. The Huskies will likely start projected behind Oregon in the North. But it will be exciting with the Jacob Eason era starting.
15
Countering the Pac-12 slide are the Utes. Kyle Whittingham has it going for the defending Pac-12 South champions. Quarterback Tyler Huntley returns after missing the final games due to injury. Three starters in the offensive line are gone. The defense is solid having allowed less than 20 points per game. The Utes should be favored to win the South again.
16
The sky has not fallen now that the 25-game winning streak is over. In fact, the Knights should be favored once again in the AAC and for that Group Five New Year's Six berth. If quarterback McKenzie Milton can make it back from that horrendous knee injury, even better.
17
Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Walker returns for another run at 2,000 yards. Quarterback remains a huge question mark with Alex Hornibrook slipping back last season. The Badgers should get back to being the class of the Big Ten West.
18
This is the only 4-8 team you'll find on this list. The worst start in Husker history (0-6) ended with signs of life. Nebraska finished 4-2, and there seems to be visible signs of progress under Scott Frost. Quarterback Adrian Martinez has shown flashes.
19
This ranking sort of depends on whether tailback David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler stay in school. Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy helped the Clones to a second consecutive eight-win season since 1976-78. Matt Campbell is brilliant.
20
Kirk Ferentz remains perhaps the highest-paid .600 coach in history. Hawkeyes everywhere love the steady hand who has lost at least four games every year but one since 2009. Three of 2018's four losses came by six points or less.
21
Gardner Minshew and his celebrated mustache are gone. But Mike Leach has it going in Pullman, Washington. The top four receivers return. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys was honored as the Pac-12's top assistant.
22
The Black Knights are inching toward becoming a top 25 regular. Jeff Monken, a national coach of the year, has won at least 10 in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. But in the Army-Navy rivalry if you've got a quarterback you've got a chance. Kelvin Hopkins returns. Michigan (Sept. 7 vs. Army), you have been warned.
23
P.J. Fleck is making tangible progress in the Twin Cities. Beginning in November, the Gophers beat Purdue, Wisconsin and Georgia Tech in the bowl game. Minny is looking for consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2013-14.
24
Justin Fuente has some of the best quarterback depth in the country. Josh Jackson is expected to return from injury. Backup Ryan Willis played admirably in his place throwing 24 touchdowns.
25
Pat Fitzgerald continues to be the perfect fit for the Wildcats. He'll lose quarterback Clayton Thorson from a team that played for the Big Ten title. Northwestern always seems to overachieve. That's a good thing.   
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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