Overrated, underrated teams in the preseason AP Top 25
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Preseason polls are imperfect by design.

Soon after the release of 2019's preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, ESPN's Chris Fallica produced this statistic: in every year since 2002, one of the top-10 ranked teams in the preseason poll has ended the campaign outside the top 25.

At the same time, polls can be useful. Eight straight national champions have come from the top 11 of the preseason AP poll. The last school to unexpectedly wear the crown was the Cam Newton-led Auburn team in 2010 after beginning the season ranked 22nd.

So, which teams were ranked too high - and too low - in this year's preseason installment?


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Four teams from the SEC West rank in the top 16 in the country.

Given the difficult schedules that await each team, it seems likely that at least one will drop by the end of the season.

Auburn is the most likely to do so, as it's the only one of the four without a returning starter at quarterback.

The Tigers enter the season 16th, a show of confidence in a program that has lost five-plus games in four of the last five seasons.

In fact, Auburn has ended the year in the AP's top 20 just once since 2014.

Gus Malzahn's team has a difficult season opener against Oregon in Arlington, Texas, and still hasn't named a starting quarterback. It will be either redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or true freshman Bo Nix.

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The Longhorns begin this season ranked 10th after ending 2018 as the No. 9 team in the country.

With Sam Ehlinger back at quarterback, they're the logical alternative to Oklahoma in the Big 12.

But there are also reasons to be concerned about Texas' ability to maintain a top-two position in the conference this year.

While safety Caden Sterns might be the best individual defensive player in the Big 12, he is one of only three returning starters on the Longhorns' defense.

That's a lot of moving pieces for a team that must face LSU and Oklahoma State during the first month of the campaign.

In addition, seven of Texas' 10 wins last season came by a touchdown or less. Comparatively, Oklahoma won eight games by double digits.

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It feels like a pivotal year for UCF and second-year coach Josh Heupel.

The Knights built on the success of the Scott Frost era last year by completing a 12-0 regular season before losing to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

However, they won't have McKenzie Milton at quarterback in 2019 and the American Athletic Conference has at least three teams - Cincinnati, Memphis, and Houston - that could give UCF a challenge this year.

At No. 17, UCF is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team in the country. It's an indication that the voters, collectively, believe the Knights are most likely to return to a New Year's Six bowl game.

That's a high bar, even for a program that has won 25 of its last 26 games.

UCF deserves the respect this preseason because of what it has accomplished. But this ranking might be a little too high in what could be a transitional year both at quarterback - where Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush takes over - and on defense, where the Knights return only five starters.


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The Badgers actually edged out Iowa and Nebraska to finish as the top-ranked team in the Big Ten West, coming in at No. 19.

But if Wisconsin can get it right at quarterback, it has the surrounding players to be a top-15 team once again.

It finished both the 2016 and 2017 campaigns under Paul Chryst ranked in the top 10 and kicked off last season as the No. 4 team in the country. The Badgers ended it unranked, however, after a disappointing 8-5 campaign.

Still, Wisconsin returns perhaps the top running back in the country in Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 2,194 yards as a sophomore, as well as most of its top playmakers at receiver.

The Badgers will need either some development from junior quarterback Jack Coan or freshman Graham Mertz to emerge as the signal-caller of the future.

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Virginia Tech

This is a vote of confidence in experience and track record.

First, the experience: Virginia Tech returns the majority of its starters on defense for Bud Foster's final season as coordinator.

Then, the pedigree: The Hokies have been ranked, at some point, in 25 of 26 seasons.

Head coach Justin Fuente went 19-8 in his first two campaigns in Blacksburg before last year's 6-7 nadir.

Quarterback Ryan Willis, a Kansas transfer, showed flashes with 24 touchdown passes.

After a season opener at Boston College, Virginia Tech doesn't leave home again until Oct. 5, so the schedule also works in its favor.

The ingredients are there for a bounce-back season.

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While UCF was voted as high as No. 11, Memphis was left off the ballot by 60 of 62 voters in the AP poll.

As we wrote last week, the Tigers enter 2019 with serious breakout potential.

While they do lose star running back Darrell Henderson (1,909 yards), senior Patrick Taylor rushed for 1,122 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Quarterback Brady White gives Memphis experience at the position, while Damonte Coxie (72 receptions, 1,174 yards in 2018) is a name more people will get to know in 2019.

Overrated, underrated teams in the preseason AP Top 25
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