No. 1 Alabama tops preseason Top 25; Clemson, Georgia next

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In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban leads his team on the field before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia, in Atlanta. The AP preseason Top 25 is out, and for the third straight year Alabama is No. 1. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
By RALPH D. RUSSO , AP College Football Writer
Alabama will begin its quest for a second consecutive national championship with a rare three-peat.The Crimson Tide is just the second team to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll for three straight seasons. Alabama received 42 out of 61 first-place votes.No. 2 Clemson received 18 first-place votes. Georgia is No. 3 and Wisconsin is fourth. The Badgers received one first-place vote. Ohio State was ranked No. 5.Florida, coming off a 4-7 season, went unranked, as it did in the coaches poll released earlier this month.The preseason AP poll started in 1950 and since then only Oklahoma from 1985-87 had started No. 1 in three straight years until now.

Ring up another milestone for coach Nick Saban’s Tide dynasty. Alabama has won five national championships since 2009 and now has been No. 1 to start the season five times under Saban. Last season was the first time Saban’s team started and finished the season No. 1.

The Tide enter this season with a question at quarterback, but there appears to be two good answers from which Saban has to choose: Tua Tagovailoa won the College Football Playoff championship game for Alabama with a second-half comeback and overtime touchdown pass. Jalen Hurts has led the Tide to the national title game in each of his two seasons as a starter.

Whoever is quarterback, Alabama’s offense should be potent with running back Damien Harris working behind a powerful line anchored by tackle Jonah Williams.

The Tide’s always tough defense will have all new starters in the secondary, but defensive end Raekwon Davis and linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses are primed to be Alabama’s next All-Americans.

The machine never stops in Tuscaloosa. One again, everybody is chasing Alabama.

NO. 1 AT BEING NO. 1

The AP poll began in 1936 and Alabama is approaching the top of a very storied list:

Ohio State — 105 weeks at No. 1

Alabama — 104

Oklahoma — 101

Notre Dame — 98

Southern California — 91

Florida State — 72

Nebraska — 70

PRESEASON FAVORITES

This is Alabama’s seventh time overall being a preseason No. 1, matching USC for fourth most.

Oklahoma — 10 preseason No. 1 rankings

Ohio State — 8

Alabama — 7

USC — 7

Florida State 6

Nebraska — 6

THE OTHER CHAMPS

Central Florida was the only team in the country to go undefeated last season and — you might have heard — the school decided to declare the Knights national champions because why not? This is college football and nobody is really in charge.

UCF is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time to the start the season, coming in 21st in the preseason poll. The Knights are the highest-ranked team not in a Power Five conference, one spot ahead of Boise State from the Mountain West. If that ranking after going unbeaten seems unusually low, it is but it is not unprecedented. In the CFP/BCS era (1998-present), 19 teams have had unbeaten seasons. Three of those teams — 1998 Tulane, 1999 Marshall, 2004 Utah — were unranked in the preseason poll the next season. Not surprisingly, all those teams played outside of what were then called BCS automatic qualifying conferences. Five other teams were ranked outside the top 10, including three from outside BCS-auto bid leagues. Boise State in 2007 was No. 24 in the preseason. Utah in 2009 started 19th. TCU began 2011 at No. 14.

The only so-called power conference team to go unbeaten in the BCS/CFP era and be ranked similarly low the next season was Auburn — twice. After going 13-0 in 2004, the Tigers started 2005 ranked 16th. After Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national title, the Newton-less Tigers were ranked No. 23 to begin 2011.

NOTABLE

— No. 2 Clemson matched its best preseason ranking. The Tigers were No. 2 in 2016 and went on to win the national championship.

— No. 4 Wisconsin has its best preseason ranking since 2000, when it was also No. 4. The Badgers also had one first-place vote that year.

— No. 5 Ohio State is making it 30th straight appearance in the preseason rankings (1989-2018). Only Penn State (34) and Nebraska (33) have had longer streaks.

— No. 6 Washington has its best preseason ranking since 1997, when the Huskies were No. 4.

— No. 8 Miami has its best preseason ranking since being No. 6 to start the 2004 season.

— No. 18 Mississippi State has its best preseason ranking since 1981, when the Bulldogs were No. 14.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC — 6 (3 top 10): 1. Alabama 3. Georgia 9. Auburn 18. Miss St. 25. LSU. In “others receiving votes”, South Carolina was No. 26, Florida No. 27, Texas A&M No. 33. Kentucky also received one vote.

Big Ten — 5 (all top 15)

ACC — 4

Big 12 — 4

Pac-12 — 3

American — 1

Mountain West — 1

Independent — 1

10 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks, voters. Being unranked is perfect for Florida right now. It will motivate our team and hopefully lull some of our opponents into overconfidence.

  2. Not even sure why this poll even exists. It hasn’t been relevant for years. Even before the playoff, some other polls actually decided who played in the NC game but the AP poll didn’t count at all. Now that there is a playoff it’s even more irrelevant. It’s just the opinion of a bunch of random media hacks whom most of which know no more about college football than the average fan does. It’s a joke. I read where the AP has put out a preseason poll since 1950. They’ve only predicted the national champ 11 times. That’s less than one time in every six chances. I’m quite sure the average fan could do that.

    • it gives people something to talk about while there are no games being played. if golf has a silly season, so does football. it lasts from conference media days til kickoff. it’s all talk and practice, and no games.

  3. Watch the ticking meter for expiration to get louder in Baton Rouge and to start up in Tallahassee. Every program sometimes gets coaching hires wrong. As for our Gators, anywhere from 18th to 28th seems apt. No worries. I’ll side with Phil Steele’s “most improved team in the country” outlook. Two things I know: 1) We had a better roster a year ago than our 4-7 outcome; 2) We have superior coaching and a much more complete roster this year than last. September 1 can’t come soon enough in this Gator house.

  4. I’m happy with being just where we are, in fact we don’t deserve a ranking until we can prove we deserve one.

    At this point reading anything about college football is exciting to me, only a few days left till the first game! Even only is it’s just background noise, it’s football!

    Go Gators!

  5. These rankings are a joke…. Gators will be in top 20 by week 3….. possibly 6-1 by the off week, then we head to JAX and upset the dawgs …. It’s gonna be GLORIOUS. You folks ready to return to the mountaintop??? LOVE the doubters…..

  6. Preseason polls are preseason polls – they don’t mean anything really. The real measure of their reliability is how often the teams finish at or near their preseason rankings. What gets done on the field will determine the real winners and losers, and their final rankings. I figure the Gators win at least 8 games this season – would like to see more. It is up the the Gator football team to make this happen, and I believe they are motivated and prepared to win. GO GATORS!!!

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