Fans know who the elite teams in college football will be in 2019. At least, we think we do. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma. Sure. But what about those college football programs on the rise in 2019?
This article talking Power Five schools who are either in the process of returning to potential greatness or set to bounce back from a rough season or two. Here’s a look at who we think are five college football programs on the rise in 2019.
Eno Benjamin is not the only reason the Sun Devils on this list, but he’s a good start. The talented running back ranked fifth in the nation with 1,1642 rushing yards in 2018. He also caught 35 passes as a sophomore.
He’s hoping to lead ASU to more than seven wins, which has been the total each of the last two seasons. The Sun Devils featured a bevy of young talent last season in Herm Edwards’ first as coach, which should bode well for 2019.
Linebacker Merlin Robertson (77 tackles, 8 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018) was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Matt Rhule did one of the best under-the-radar coaching jobs in 2018, taking the Bears from a 1-11 season in 2017 to 7-6 and a bowl victory over Vanderbilt. Things could be even better for one of the potential college football programs on the rise in 2019.
Baylor returns 16 starters, including quarterback Charlie Brewer, who threw for more than 3,000 yards passing and nearly 400 on the ground last season. On defense, linebacker Clay Johnston (99 tackles) and defensive lineman James Lynch (5 1/2 sacks) are two of the best in the Big 12.
The Bears also host Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas, which could increase the win total from 2018.
After two straight 8-5 seasons, is this the one in which Iowa State finally reaches the double-digit win mark? The Cyclones will eye a third straight bowl appearance, something the program has done just once before.
Iowa State’s offensive cause starts with quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw for 2,250 yards and completed 66.4 percent of his passes in 2018. Meanwhile, defensive back Greg Eisworth (87 tackles) leads a defense that returns a good amount of talent from a unit that yielded a Big-12-best 22.9 points per game in 2018.
A date with Oklahoma at Norman on No. 9 will be one matchup to watch.
Following his 5-7 debut season with the Gophers in 2017, P.J. Fleck rowed the boat to a 7-6 mark in 2018. The impressive part: a 37-15 win at Wisconsin to close out the regular season and 34-10 bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
The key for Minnesota in ’19 is improving on its three Big Ten victories from a year ago. While the quarterback spot might be a concern, running back Mohamed Ibrahim (1,160 rushing yards) and receiver Tyler Johnson (1,169 receiving yards, 12 TDs) are two of the best in the conference.
Not having to play Michigan and Ohio State, and getting Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin at home sure helps.
OK, we had Nebraska on this list last season and it did not win its first game until Oct. 20. That being said, when the Cornhuskers overcame some key injuries and got accustomed to new coach Scott Frost, they won four of their final six.
Nebraska is considered the team to beat within the Big Ten West Division, so expectations are high once again. Quarterback Adrian Martinez, who totaled more than 3,200 passing and rushing yards last season, is poised to be one of the best in the league.
The key for Nebraska is improving a defensive unit that was responsible for the squad allowing 31.3 points per game in ’18. However, it did hold Michigan State to six points last season.