Clemson beat Alabama for the national championship, but can the Tigers keep the Crimson Tide from reaching another less significant milestone?

Clemson beat Alabama for the national championship, but can the Tigers keep the Crimson Tide from reaching another less significant milestone?

Alabama has been preseason No. 1 in the AP poll the last three seasons, matching a record held by Oklahoma, which started No. 1 each season from 1985-87. Another preseason No. 1 in 2019 would make Alabama the first team to ever start four consecutive seasons top-ranked since the preseason poll started in 1950.

Clemson has never been preseason No. 1, but maybe next season.

At the very least expect a second straight season of the Tide and Tigers holding the top two spots to start the season in some order as both teams return star quarterbacks and a bevy of weapons.

The final 2018 rankings were revealed a few hours after Clemson beat Alabama 44-16 Monday night in the College Football Playoff championship game. The final Heat Check of the season looks at how the teams in the final rankings might start next season.

(x-player likely to leave early for NFL)

No. 1 Clemson (15-0)

2019 opener: vs. Georgia Tech.

Gone: DT Christian Wilkins; DE Clelin Ferrell; OT Mitch Hyatt.

Back: QB Trevor Lawrence; RB Travis Etienne; DE Xavier Thomas.

Heat check: The Tigers have some rebuilding to do on the lines. They'll probably start at No. 2.

No. 2 Alabama (14-1)

2019 opener: vs. Duke in Atlanta.

Gone: DT Quinnen Williams-x; OT Jonah Williams-x; S-Deionte Thompson.

Back: QB Tua Tagovailoa; WR Jerry Jeudy; LB Dylan Moses.

Heat check: The beat goes on in Tuscaloosa.

No. 3 Ohio State (13-1)

2019 opener: vs. Florida Atlantic.

Gone: QB Dwayne Haskins; DT Dre'Mont Jones; WR Parris Campbell.

Back: RB J.K. Dobbins; DE Chase Young; S Jordan Fuller.

Heat check: Hello, QB Justin Fields, transferring from Georgia. The post-Urban Meyer era should start in the top five.

No. 4 Oklahoma (12-2)

2019 opener: vs. Houston.

Gone: QB Kyler Murray; QB Marquise Brown; OT Cody Ford.

Back: WR CeeDee Lamb; RB Trey Sermon; C Creed Humphrey.

Heat check: Big losses on offense. The Sooners are likely to be ranked behind Texas among Big 12 teams.

No. 5 Notre Dame (12-1)

2019 opener: at Louisville.

Gone: CB Julian Love; LB Te'von Coney; DL Jerry Tillery.

Back: QB Ian Book; DE Julian Okwara; DE Khalid Kareem.

Heat check: No reason the Irish shouldn't start in the top 10, though the lopsided loss to Clemson might give voters some pause.

No. 6 LSU (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Georgia Southern.

Gone: CB Greedy Williams; LB Devin White-x; RB Nick Brossette.

Back: S Grant Delpit; CB Kelvin Joseph; QB Joe Burrow.

Heat check: The Tigers are a top-10 team, but still need more consistent play out of quarterback.

No. 7 (tie) Florida (10-3)

2019 opener: vs. Miami in Orlando, Florida.

Gone: DE Jachai Polite; S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson; RB Jordan Scarlett.

Back: QB Feleipe Franks; S Brad Stewart; CB C.J. Henderson.

Heat check: Gators looked ahead of schedule in year one under Dan Mullen and could start next season borderline top-10.

No. 7 (tie) Georgia (11-3)

2019 opener: at Vanderbilt.

Gone: CB Deandre Baker; DE Jonathan Ledbetter; LB D'Andre Walker.

Back: QB Jake Fromm; RB D'Andre Swift; S Richard LeCounte.

Heat check: The Bulldogs should be loaded again to make another run at Alabama in the SEC, starting in the top five.

No. 9 Texas (9-4)

2019 opener: vs. Louisiana Tech.

Gone: DE Charles Omenihul, LB Gary Johnson; RB Tre Watson.

Back: QB Sam Ehlinger; S B.J. Foster; WR Collin Johnson.

Heat check: The Longhorns could start next season in the top 10 and actually deserve it.

No. 10 Washington State (11-2)

2019 opener: vs. New Mexico State.

Gone: QB Gardner Minshew II; RB James Williams; OT Andre Dillard.

Back: S Skyler Thomas; Davontavean Martin; RB Max Borghi.

Heat check: The Cougars will have to prove it with a new quarterback, but there is a lot coming back that could get them ranked in the high teens.