Take 5: CFP title pretenders in 2019

The 2019 national championship betting odds and a multitude of way-too-early college football Top 25 rankings are out, with Clemson and Alabama favored to be the best two teams. Again.
That’s easy.
While Clemson and Alabama are 1A and 1B in the college football world, what’s hard is getting other teams in line after that. There are the oh-so-close programs (Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma) and the intriguing once-proud powers on the rise (Florida, Texas, Texas A&M) … and, well, then a bunch of guesses and thrown darts.
Some teams that show up high in early 2019 rankings are living off 2018 success, and here are five that we’d rather sell than buy as national title contenders:

1. Notre Dame

The Irish made the College Football Playoff for the first time this season — promptly dismissed by Clemson — and now they lose Jerry Tillery, Julian Love, Te’Von Coney and Drue Tranquill on defense. Big-play running back Dexter Williams is also leaving for the NFL, making life a bit more difficult for slippery quarterback Ian Book.
In 2019, road games at Georgia, Michigan, Duke and Stanford will help make 2018’s undefeated regular season a distant memory.

Jim Harbaugh
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

2. Michigan

Quarterback Shea Patterson is returning for his senior season, surrounded by talented receivers such as Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins. But to believe the Wolverines will live up to early predictions of playoff contention — seemingly more possible with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer riding off into seeming retirement — requires a leap of faith that coach Jim Harbaugh can turn around a 1-9 record against Top 10 teams.
And he must capably replace defensive stars such as Rashan Gary and Devin Bush. Without them (and others), the bowl result against Florida wasn’t pretty.

3. Texas

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger declared after the Sugar Bowl win against Georgia that “We’re baaaaaack!” but 2019 will be the judge of that. For Texas to stay in the Top 10 neighborhood after finishing No. 9 in the AP poll, the Longhorns have to plug-and-play on defense after losing Gary Johnson, Charles Omenihu and Kris Boyd.
A game at LSU on Sept. 7 looms large … and watch for a sneaky tough Big 12 game at TCU, which should bounce back from a 7-6 season behind redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Rogers.

4. Texas A&M

An 8-4 regular season under Jimbo Fisher has everyone in College Station aflutter, while too many 8-4 regular seasons got Kevin Sumlin fired. Don’t worry. We get it. Fisher has the championship pedigree and top-notch recruiting. He’ll get it done, but maybe that’s more of a 2020 thing than a 2019 thing, with road games on tap against Clemson, Georgia and LSU next season.
Assuming losses there, the Aggies would have to run the table everywhere else (including vs. Alabama at home) to flirt with early prognostications that place them around the top 10.

5. USC

USC isn’t being picked to win the Pac-12 (that’s Oregon or Washington) or even the Pac-12 South (that’s Utah). We’re just listing the Trojans here on principle because they still show up in some early Top 25s despite going 5-7 this season and with coach Clay Helton having shown no propensity for winning when not having a quarterback named San Darnold.
–By Anthony Gimino (AGWildcatReport), Field Level Media

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