Alabama started last season as the nation’s No. 1 team and ended it as the No. 1 team, so there was little surprise when the Associated Press unveiled its preseason top 25 on Monday afternoon: For the third straight season, the Crimson Tide stood atop the rankings. Alabama becomes just the second program to ever be ranked No. 1 in three straight AP preseason polls. Oklahoma entered the 1985-87 seasons as the nation’s top team but finished the season No. 1 just once over that span, in 1985. The Sooners ended up No. 3 in the other two seasons.
Clemson, Georgia, Wisconsin and Ohio State follow the Crimson Tide in the top 5. Washington, Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn and Penn State complete the top 10.
It’s the fifth time Alabama has entered the season ranked No. 1 under Coach Nick Saban, though last year was the only one of those seasons in which the Tide won the national title.
Coming off an unbeaten season in which it cheekily claimed a share of the national title, Central Florida is the highest ranked team from outside the Power 5 conferences at No. 21, with Boise State of the Mountain West following at No. 22. Every other spot in the poll is filled by a major-conference program.
As noted by Brett McMurphy, a high AP preseason ranking has been a pretty accurate predictor of national-championship success: Since 2004, only No. 22 Auburn in 2010 and No. 11 Florida State in 2013 won titles when ranked outside the preseason top 7. However, McMurphy also pointed out that only two of the previous 14 preseason No. 1 teams — Southern Cal in 2004 and Alabama last season — ended up as the national champion.
Some other poll tidbits:
— No. 9 Auburn, No. 12 Notre Dame, No. 14 Michigan and No. 25 LSU each lead the way with five games vs. other teams in the preseason top 25. The Wolverines’ schedule is particularly nightmarish, with Notre Dame to open the season plus four games against top 11 teams.
— There’s always a team that fails to live up to expectations:
— Mississippi State enters the season at No. 18, its highest preseason ranking since entering the 1981 season at No. 14.
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