AP Top 25: Alabama tops Oklahoma, Clemson in preseason college football rankings

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The first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season is here. And unsurprisingly, the defending national champions are ranked No. 1.

Alabama, on the heels of its sixth national title in 14 seasons under Nick Saban, opens the season at No. 1. The Crimson Tide, the preseason No. 1 for the fourth time in the past six seasons, are ranked ahead of several other programs who have made multiple trips to the College Football Playoff: No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Ohio State.

While Alabama received 47 first-place votes, Oklahoma and Clemson received six apiece. The Sooners narrowly edged the Tigers for No. 2 in the rankings, earning 1,462 points in the poll compared to 1,447 for Clemson. At No. 4, Ohio State received just one first-place vote. The Buckeyes lost to Alabama in last year's CFP title game. 

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 11: Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban hold the trophy as they celebrate on the stage with Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10), Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6), Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Landon Dickerson (69) and Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Christian Barmore (58) after the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes at the College Football Playoff National Championship football game on January 11, 2021 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
After winning the national title in 2020, Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country to open the 2021 season by the Associated Press. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Next in line are two more SEC teams — No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Texas A&M. The Bulldogs were the recipients of three first-place votes.

Rounding out the top 10 are Iowa State at No. 7, Cincinnati at No. 8, Notre Dame at No. 9 and North Carolina at No. 10.

Iowa State is coming off arguably the best season in program history and returns almost all of its starters from that team. This is ISU's best preseason ranking ever. 

Cincinnati had an undefeated regular season last fall before losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. According to the AP, Cincinnati is the first team from outside the Power Five conferences to be ranked in the preseason top 10 since Louisville (then in the AAC) was No. 9 in 2012. 

Notre Dame also went unbeaten in the regular season before losing to Clemson in the ACC title game and to Alabama in the CFP semifinal. North Carolina, meanwhile, has seen its talent level ascend quickly under Mack Brown and is led by Sam Howell, one of the top quarterbacks in the country. This is UNC's best preseason ranking since 1997 during Brown's first stint as the Tar Heels' head coach. 

Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC lead with 5 teams apiece

The Pac-12’s first appearance in the Top 25 comes courtesy of Oregon at No. 11. The Ducks are one of five Pac-12 teams to crack the Top 25. Joining Oregon are USC at No. 15, Washington at No. 20, Utah at No. 24 and Arizona State at No. 25.

The SEC and Big Ten also have five teams apiece in the Top 25. For the SEC, there are the three teams in the top 10 (Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M) followed by Florida at No. 13 and LSU at No. 16.

For the Big Ten, there is a big gap between Ohio State at No. 4 and the rest of its ranked teams. Wisconsin is second in line at No. 12, followed by Indiana at No. 17, Iowa at No. 18 and Penn State at No. 19. This is the first time Indiana has been ranked in the preseason poll since 1968. 

The ACC and Big 12, meanwhile, have three ranked teams each.

For the ACC, it’s No. 3 Clemson, No. 10 North Carolina and No. 14 Miami. Notre Dame, a temporary ACC member in 2020, will return to its status as an independent program in 2021. For the Big 12, it’s No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 7 Iowa State and No. 21 Texas. Oklahoma and Texas, of course, have accepted invitations to leave the Big 12 for the SEC once the Big 12’s media rights deal expires in 2025.

The Sun Belt is also well-represented with two members near the bottom of the rankings: No. 22 Coastal Carolina and No. 23 Louisiana. Before this year, the Sun Belt had never had any of its teams ranked in the preseason poll. 

Full AP preseason Top 25 rankings

  1. Alabama (47 first-place votes)

  2. Oklahoma (6)

  3. Clemson (6)

  4. Ohio State (1)

  5. Georgia (3)

  6. Texas A&M

  7. Iowa State

  8. Cincinnati

  9. Notre Dame

  10. North Carolina

  11. Oregon

  12. Wisconsin

  13. Florida

  14. Miami

  15. USC

  16. LSU

  17. Indiana

  18. Iowa

  19. Penn State

  20. Washington

  21. Texas

  22. Coastal Carolina

  23. Louisiana

  24. Utah

  25. Arizona State

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State 107, Ole Miss 106, TCU 40, Liberty 36, Auburn 32, North Carolina State 14, Michigan 12, Northwestern 8, Boise State 7, Nevada 7, Brigham Young 6, Ball State 6, Houston 5, Boston College 5, UCF 5, West Virginia 3, UAB 2, Army 2, UCLA 2

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