Let me type this sentence for you so you can just copy and paste it into the comments section: Preseason rankings don't matter.
Yes, obviously any lists, rankings, Top 25s in the preseason/offseason have zero impact on how the FCS season plays out. But would you rather have zero content until August?
Didn't think so.
So less than a week removed from North Dakota State winning its seventh national title in eight years, let's start talking about the 2019 season, shall we? Because there's a good chance we'll see a much more exciting playoff bracket this upcoming season.
Here are 10 way-too-early favorites to win the national championship:
[divider]Past Way-Too-Early Predictions
Coming off a season as the No. 2 seed but a quarterfinal exit, the Wildcats return almost its entire offense. Jake Constantine is back at quarterback after an up-and-down season in his first year as a starter. He'll get the FCS Freshman of the Year in running back Josh Davis back along with his second through sixth pass catchers in yards. No. 1 target Darryl Denby is gone after recording 541 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018.
Weber has four offensive linemen returning with starting experience. Defensively, the Wildcats lose six First Team All-Big Sky players. But this team has had one of the better defenses in the FCS the last couple of years and we expect that to continue.
Weber is at the bottom of this list because of its brutal nonconference schedule. The Wildcats play at FBS opponents San Diego State and Nevada along with a home game against 2018 playoff participant Northern Iowa. [divider]
Offensive backs seem to grow on trees in option offenses. Despite losing its top two rushers, Wofford should be just fine in the running back room considering the entire starting five offensive linemen who played in the playoffs are back. Not to mention Joe Newman to engineer the offensive attack at quarterback.
Wofford showed some passing ability as well and T.J. Luther provided explosiveness as a freshman in 2018. He averaged 23.07 yards on his 14 catches with four touchdowns. The Terriers will have some holes to fill on defense, but the top two tacklers Jireh Wilson and Thad Mangum were juniors in 2018. [divider]
The Phoenix have a new-look coaching staff after former head coach Curt Cignetti brought a number of assistants with him to James Madison. But strong pieces remain for defensive coordinator turned HC Tony Trisciani.
Quarterback Davis Cheek was the 2017 CAA Rookie of the Year and missed half of last year with an injury. Elon's standout running back Malcolm Summers missed a large chunk as well as a senior, but the Phoenix get Jaylan Thomas back, who was the conference's Offensive Rookie of the Year. The top two receiving targets in Cole Taylor and Kortez Weeks also return while Elon will need to replace two First Team All-CAA offensive linemen.
Defensive, the Phoenix will miss standout linebacker Warren Messer, but the next four leading tacklers are back. [divider]
JSU had a talented, but young roster last season that saw a 9-4 record. A majority of the starting lineup returns, highlighted by an explosive passing attack.
Quarterback Zerrick Cooper should make big strides after he threw for 3,416 yards as a sophomore. His top four pass catchers are back, led by Josh Pearson (1,123 yards, 17 TDs) along with the top three rushers (Jaelen Greene, Michael Matthews and backup QB Zion Webb combined for 1,554 yards and 14 TDs). The Gamecocks lose two First Team All-OVC linemen but do have experience coming back.
Defensively, nine of the 11 top tacklers return highlighted by NFL prospect Marlon Bridges at safety. The Gamecocks benefit from three home nonconference games but will face challenges against Chattanooga, Eastern Washington and North Alabama. [divider]
UC Davis nearly, and probably should have beaten EWU in the quarterfinals. The Eagles scored with 26 seconds remaining (after UC Davis took the lead 47 seconds earlier) to win 34-29. EWU went on to handle Maine, making the Aggies painfully close to potentially playing in the national title game.
UC Davis looks to make that next step and its returning roster indicates it can do so. You can start with the 2018 Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Jake Maier. While losing wide receiver Keelan Doss to the NFL stings, the next nine top pass catchers are back. Couple that with returning running backs Ulonzo Gilliam and Tehran Thomas, who combined for 1,662 yards and 19 touchdowns, along with four offensive linemen who started in the EWU playoff game, this offense should remain explosive.
The Aggies need to continue to improve defensively. They return six of their top 11 tacklers, which will help. The nonconference schedule features games at Cal and NDSU. But its toughest Big Sky games are held at home while avoiding EWU. [divider]
Yes, Maine lost 50-19 to EWU in the semifinals. But that game would be much closer if the Black Bears didn't have to travel across the country and back multiple times in a week. Yes, the coaching staff saw its head coach and defensive coordinator leave. But that doesn't diminish the talent on the field.
The Black Bears finished 10-4, went 7-1 in the CAA and return a good chunk of their starting lineup.
Quarterback Chris Ferguson returns along with the top two running backs Ramon Jefferson (1,037 yards, 8 TDs) and Joe Fitzpatrick, the top two wide receivers Earnest Edwards (839 yards, 10 TDs) and Jaquan Blair and four of the five offensive linemen from the two playoff wins.
The defense, one of the toughest units in the FCS in 2018, has four of its five First Team All-CAA players back. Maine has a tough nonconference with two games against FBS Liberty and Georgia Southern. The Black Bears avoid James Madison and get Towson at home. [divider]
With 25+ seniors departing, it'll be interesting to see how EWU reloads. One bitter-sweet positive is the number of seniors that got hurt in 2018, allowing underclassmen to gain crucial experience in the national title game. But there were still a high number of seniors playing against NDSU.
Six of the 11 defensive starters played their last game along with four of the five offensive linemen, although All-American center Spencer Blackburn and All-Big Sky guard Kaleb Levao are applying for medical redshirts and could return.
The Eagles lose their No. 1 running back (Sam McPherson) and receiver (Nsimba Webster). But Tamarick Pierce and Antoine Custer Jr. combined for 1,175 yards and 15 touchdowns and there is never worry about the talent at the WR position. And of course, Eric Barriere is a superb talent at quarterback. He was just a sophomore in 2018 and has a bright, bright future. [divider]
The Jackrabbits could either continue its trajectory as a program making a run to the semifinals, or they can return to a program that loses in the second round. There are very few question marks about the 2019 SDSU team. But the biggest one is glaring. Who's going to start at quarterback?
Is the 2018 No. 2 Kanin Nelson good enough to be a starter? Is highly-thought of freshman J'Bore Gibbs ready? Or will the Jacks look for a transfer? Whoever gets the nod has a complete roster to work with.
The backfield is loaded with two young guys with extremely bright futures in C.J. Wilson and Pierre Strong, Jr. along with veteran Mikey Daniel. There wasn't one senior in the 2018 receivers room and Cade Johnson was just a sophomore who caught 17 touchdowns off of 1,332 yards. The offensive line has four guys returning who started six games or more.
On defense, seven of SDSU's 11 top tacklers are back along with freshman All-American defensive tackle Krockett Krolikowski. The Jacks showed they can replace Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert in 2018. They don't need the next Taryn Christion in 2019. All SDSU needs is solid quarterback play and this team has what it takes to make the next step.
A new-look coaching staff and 20+ seniors gone. We've seen this story before with NDSU in 2014. The difference is the 2019 Bison don't have a future No. 2 overall draft pick taking the reigns as a junior quarterback along with a veteran defense.
But make no mistake, the Bison are going to remain title contenders for many years. Their 2016-2018 recruiting classes are just as good, if not better than the 2013-2015 recruiting classes. And NDSU has the depth, retention rate and developmental program that allows a big senior class to leave without a significant drop-off.
Will the Bison be as dominant as 2018? No. The field should level up. But NDSU is still going to be a really good football team in 2019. Whether the Bison are a team that's back in Frisco or a team that competes into the quarterfinals comes down to the quarterback.
Trey Lance will be a redshirt freshman who is the highest rated quarterback recruit NDSU has landed. He turned down a late offer from Boise State and many Bison fans and media expect him to be a four-year starter. But the Bison did bring in Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland, who will be the most experienced guy in the room as a junior and who started four games in 2018.
The quarterback has weapons around him, as the running back room never lacks talent in Fargo even with Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson leaving. The offensive line loses its three interior starters but will have the best tackle tandem in the FCS with Zack Johnson and Dillon Radunz. Plus, the OL really has never been a concern at NDSU since this run began. Pass catchers are a big question and young players like Phoenix Sproles and Christian Watson, two guys the coaching staff is really excited about, need to develop their game in a hurry.
Only four defensive starters in the national title game return. However, word is several young guys are waiting to step into starting roles and immediately "become all-conference type players." But you never really know until game action hits. The NDSU defense likely won't be a dominant unit. But it'll still be solid enough compared to the FCS nationally that will make the Bison competitive deep into the playoffs.
You may be asking how a team that lost in the second round to Colgate can be favored to win it all. Well, the same reason why EWU made it to Frisco a year after not making the playoffs.
JMU is loaded and has returning starters at every position but one. The Dukes had a top defense in the FCS last year. Against Colgate, only one senior started in cornerback Jimmy Moreland. Pro prospect Rashad Robinson returns from injury to take over that shutdown spot.
Offensively, the only senior starter was running back Cardon Johnson. The Dukes lose two other valuable seniors at that position, but the combo of Percy Agyei-Obese and Jawon Hamilton should be as explosive as ever.
There are three concerns about the 2019 Dukes, two of which are overblown.
1. There's a first-year staff under Curt Cignetti. Mike Houston showed you can win a national title in your first year.
2. Quarterback Ben DiNucci can't get it done. While there will likely be an open quarterback battle, the Dukes can win with DiNucci. His five-interception game in the playoff loss will be put under a microscope. But the first-year starter and transfer still had several good performances, including against North Carolina State.
3. The offensive line. This concern is the most legitimate. The JMU OL has ranged from average to below average the last couple of years. While the entire unit returns in 2019, it'll need to make big improvements. The Dukes allowed 26 sacks in 2018 and the running game wasn't nearly as explosive as people expected.
If the offensive line and quarterback play improves, the Dukes may roll a lot of teams.
As a bonus nugget, teams who made the big list but ultimately not the Top 10 are Kennesaw State, Montana State, Duquesne, Illinois State, Towson and Nicholls.