By Mark Carlisle
After LSU’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida in Glendale last week, the Tigers have risen to their highest ranking in the final Associated Press poll seven years.
LSU, who topped UCF 40-32 in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on New Year’s Day, rose from No. 11 to No. 6. The last time the Tigers were in the top 10 of the final rankings was after the 2011-12 season where they earned the No. 2 spot after losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.
The Knights fell from the top 10, dropping from No. 7 to No. 11 after having their 25-game win streak snapped in Glendale. Last year, after a 13-0 season, the Knights finished at No. 6 in the AP rankings.
Both teams far outperformed their spots in the AP’s preseason rankings, where UCF was No. 21 and LSU was No. 25.
LSU will open the 2019 season at home against Georgia Southern Aug. 31 before taking a trip to No. 9 Texas following weekend, Sept. 7. They’ll lose starting running back Nick Brossette, first-team AP All-American linebacker Devin White, second-team All-American cornerback Greedy Williams and second-team All-American kicker Cole Tracy.
Returning for the Tigers are quarterback Joe Burrow, cornerback Kelvin Joseph and first-team All-Southeastern Conference safety Grant Delpit. Burrow was outstanding at State Farm Stadium last week, posting career highs in both passing yards (394) and touchdowns (4). However, the Tigers will need more consistent QB play to crack the top five next year.
UCF will open 2019 hosting Florida A&M Aug. 31. It’s other non-conference games will be hosting Stanford Sept. 14 and travelling to Pitt Sept. 21. The Knights will lose receiver Dredrick Snelson and All-American Athletic Conference second-teamers linebacker Pat Jasinski and defensive end Titus Davis.
UCF will bring back three first-team All-AAC offensive linemen – Jake Brown, Cole Schneider and Jordan Johnson. Returning as well will be All-AAC second teamers receiver Gabriel Davis and running back Adrian Killians.
The season will depend largely on the health of quarterback two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year McKenzie Milton, who suffered a severe leg injury during the last game of the 2018 regular season and sat out the Fiesta Bowl. Milton’s playing status for the 2019 season is uncertain after undergoing four surgeries in the past month. If he can’t return, the Knights will ride behind Darriel Mack Jr., who will be a red-shirt sophomore next season. Mack struggled against LSU’s defense in the Fiesta Bowl.
Click here to view the complete final AP college football rankings.