The preseason AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank looks familiar.
For the seventh time in the last 15 years under Nick Saban, Alabama opens the season as the AP’s top-ranked team. Overall, it’s the ninth time Alabama has begun the schedule as the national favorite.
This time, it wasn’t even close.
Alabama claimed 54 of 63 first-place votes, way ahead of No. 2 Ohio State with six No. 1 votes and defending national champion Georgia with three.
It’s the second straight preseason No. 1 for Alabama. Overall, the Crimson Tide trails only Oklahoma, which has been the preseason No. 1 10 times since the poll’s 1950 introduction.
This marks the third season Regions is the sponsor of the AP Top 25. Each week, we’ll share the latest results on Doing More Today. Regions has no role in selecting teams (nor is Doug Segrest a writer for the Associated Press). Instead, a panel of 63 sports journalists from across the nation vote weekly.
More From Ralph Russo of the AP
The Crimson Tide started last season No. 1 and finished ranked No. 2 after losing the national championship game to the Southeastern Conference rival Bulldogs.
Alabama coach Nick Saban recently called 2021 a rebuilding season for his Tide dynasty, which has won six national titles over the last 13 years. He has a point.
Ohio State brings back a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback while at Georgia, most of the key players from one of the best college defenses of the last 25 years are now in NFL.
Texas A&M, which finished last season unranked despite handing Alabama its only regular-season loss, starts this season No. 6.
Defending Pac-12 champion Utah is seventh, the best preseason ranking in school history. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan is No. 8 after making the playoff for the first time last season.
No. 9 Oklahoma is the highest-ranked Big 12 school, one spot ahead of defending league champion Baylor.
Alabama has been in the preseason top five in each of last 14 seasons and in the preseason top three in 13 straight. The Tide’s 31st preseason top-five ranking this year matches Ohio State for the most in poll history.
Turning preseason No. 1 into a national championship has proved tricky throughout history, even for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide has gone on to win the national championship after starting No. 1 just once under Saban and twice overall.
Since the AP preseason began in 1950, there have been 11 preseason No. 1 teams that also finished the season top ranked. Alabama was the last to do it (2017).
Rarities and Streaks
- 13 North Carolina State is ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2003. The Wolfpack matched their best preseason ranking. They were also 13th in 1975.
- 17 Pitt is in the preseason rankings for the first time since 2010.
- 20 Kentucky is making its first preseason poll appearance since 1978.
- 22 Wake Forest made the preseason rankings for the first time since 2008.
- Ohio State is ranked in the preseason for the 34th straight season, breaking a tie with Nebraska (1970-2002) and Penn State (1968-2000) for the longest such streak in poll history.
- Texas A&M has the second-best preseason ranking for a team that finished the previous season unranked. Ohio State was No. 3 in the 1972 preseason poll after being unranked at the end of the 1971 season and Notre Dame also started No. 6 in 1983 after finishing unranked in 1982.
How did the seasons work out of those teams? Ohio State went 9-2 and finished the season No. 9. The Irish went 7-5 and unranked again.
Notable Left outs
- LSU with new coach Brian Kelly will start the season unranked for the first time 2000, Saban’s first of five seasons as coach of the Tigers.
- Florida and Florida State are both unranked to start the season, which has not happened since 1974.
Five schools ranked in the preseason poll have head coaches starting their first full seasons leading their teams: Notre Dame (Marcus Freeman), Oklahoma (Brent Venables), No. 11 Oregon (Dan Lanning), No. 14 USC (Lincoln Riley) and No. 16 Miami (Mario Cristobal).
This is the second time in the last five seasons that five teams with new coaches were ranked in the preseason, according to research done by Sportradar. It also happened in 2018, but before that season that type of representation in the preseason poll for teams with new coaches was a rarity.
You have to go all the way back to 1990 when six schools with coaches entering their first full season appeared in the preseason Top 25, according to Sportradar. That list includes some notable names: Gary Moeller, Michigan; Ken Hatfield, Clemson; Gene Stallings, Alabama; Jack Crowe, Arkansas; Paul Hackett, Pittsburgh; and John Jenkins, Houston.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com.