I'd be fairly surprised if they stick with exactly 18mp and don't call 18.5 "19mp" for marketing reasons, because the mp count is one of the main specs that will appear in every comparison list - or else they wouldn't have put a minor mp upgrade in the 5d3.
Not unprecedented. The T3i/600D and T2i/550D have the same MP count, as do the 30D and 20D.
right. Moreover, the above example also have the same production sensor. As for historical precident, the Rebels tyically "lead" the XXD in the introduction of new sensors. For example, while the 30D was resting on its 8MP laurals, Canon introduced the 10MP Sensor to the Rebel, and this "lead" remained for about a year before the 40 got it -- but then Canon introduced the 12MP sensor to the Rebel to "regain the lead". The notable excption to this "Rebel leads" practice is that for about 6 months, the 50D did "lead" with 15MP but then the 7D intro'd with the 18MP sensor and this trickeled down to, you guessed it, the Rebel -- before the 60D got it.
my conclusion is that Canon uses the Rebels as proving ground for new sensors and turns over this product line more rapidly, due to market pressure and the entry level customer requiring rapid refresh cycles.
What is unusual this time is that we have already 2 Rebel generations with the same sensor which itself is 3 years old (because 7D got it first). In my opinion, it would be unusual to introduce a third Rebel update with the same sensor and it is unusual for a 1.6x sensor to last that long in the first place. Yes, the rapid, MP-war driven pace at which sensors were introduced has calmed down, but my observation is that the Rebel life cycle is still designed to be short, compared to other bodies.
so - just from historical extrapolation the weight of evidence suggests a new sensor in the Rebel. the CR sources are likely more reliable than my opinion, so I remain confused as to why Canon would intro this one without being able to market some progress re: the sensor.