The first 2018 AP college football poll was released on Monday, August 20, giving us a first look at how teams stack up this coming season. The reigning champion Alabama Crimson Tide are No. 1, with Clemson, Georgia, Wisconsin and Ohio State rounding out the top 5.

But just how much does the AP preseason poll reflect on how the Top 25 will look come January? Aside from Alabama, who became just the 11th team in the 68 years of the AP Top 25 to open and close the season at No. 1, not much else remained the same in 2017.

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So while many predicted that Alabama would once again raise a championship trophy in the title game, Georgia, the Tide’s opponent in that memorable title match, was in the middle of the rankings. In fact, the rest of the rankings went through a lot of changes over the course of the season.

Final AP Rank Team Record Points AP Preseason
1 Alabama (57) 13-1 1,521 1
2 Georgia 13-2 1,454 15
3 Oklahoma 12-2 1,374 7
4 Clemson 12-2 1,292 5
5 Ohio State 12-2 1,286 2
6 UCF (6) 13-0 1,248 NR
7 Wisconsin 13-1 1,194 9
8 Penn State 11-2 1,120 6
9 TCU 11-3 974 RV
10 Auburn 10-4 917 12
11 Notre Dame 10-3 857 RV
12 USC 11-3 839 4
13 Miami (Fla.) 10-3 769 18
14 Oklahoma State 10-3 758 10
15 Michigan State 10-3 705 RV
16 Washington 10-3 668 8
17 Northwestern 10-3 528 RV
18 LSU 9-4 368 13
19 Mississippi State 9-4 359 NR
20 Stanford 9-5 336 14
21 South Florida 10-2 267 19
22 Boise State 11-3 251 RV
23 NC State 9-4 232 RV
24 Virginia Tech 9-4 126 21
25 Memphis 10-3 119 NR

Taking a look at the start of the 2017 season to the final poll, nine teams dropped out from August to January, opening the door for nine new teams to leave their mark. Preseason No. 3 Florida State, who struggled to a 7-6 record in 2017, fell completely out of the Top 25, opening the door for undefeated UCF to jump from the unranked all the way to No. 6, even grabbing six first-place votes at the end of the season. 

Preseason No. 11 Michigan, Louisville (16), Florida (17), Kansas State (20), West Virginia (22), Texas (23), Washington State (24), and Tennessee (25) all played themselves out of the AP Top 25 by season’s end. That allowed six teams that received votes in the preseason poll (TCU, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Northwestern, Boise State, and North Carolina State) to enter. UCF led a trio of schools to rise from the unranked to the Top 25, joined by Mississippi State and Memphis.

MORE: Here is who has been No. 1 in the AP preseason poll most often and how they finished

The top 10 itself went through a shakeup by the end of the season. No one made their presence felt more than the Georgia Bulldogs, jumping 13 spots to No. 2 after taking Alabama to the limit in a thrilling championship game. Three teams joined Georgia in the top 10 that began their season on the outside looking in, two of which — UCF and TCU — weren’t even ranked.

So who will be the surprises of the 2018-19 college football season? We’ll just have to watch and find out.

Wayne Cavadi is in his fourth year covering all things Division II sports for In the “offseason”, he covers the Atlanta Braves minor league system for SB Nation’s Minor League Ball and the PGA Tour with


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