Chasing Tide: Alabama is No. 1 in preseason AP Top 25 again

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By Ralph D. Russo | The Associated Press

Alabama caput manager Nick Saban leaves the tract aft their triumph against Ohio State successful an NCAA College Football Playoff nationalist title game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, successful Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Another assemblage shot play volition commencement with everyone chasing the Tide.

Alabama is No. 1 successful The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll for 4th clip successful the past six seasons.

Coming disconnected its sixth nationalist title nether Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide enters the play loaded with imaginable replacements for the record-breakers and NFL draught picks who person moved on, including Heisman Trophy victor DeVonta Smith.

Alabama received 47 of 63 first-place votes from the sheet of sports writers and broadcasters successful the canvass presented by Regions Bank. Oklahoma is No. 2, conscionable up of No. 3 Clemson (each received six first-place votes).

Ohio State, which mislaid to the Tide successful past season’s title game, is No. 4 aft receiving a first-place vote. Georgia received 3 first-place votes and rounds retired the apical five.

The 2020 Buckeyes were emblematic of a bizarre play played done the pandemic, suiting up for lone 8 games aft the Big Ten didn’t kickoff until precocious October. The play was riddled with postponements, cancellations, and players and coaches missing games crossed the state due to the fact that of COVID-19. There was small nonconference play and nary among Power Five league teams.

Amid each the chaos and vexation was a acquainted ending: The play came to a adjacent with Alabama connected top.

Last year’s Tide staked a assertion arsenic the top squad of the Saban dynasty. Alabama went 13-0, facing 11 Southeastern Conference teams and playoff showdowns with Notre Dame and Ohio State.

“The situation is you’ve got to rebuild with a batch of caller players who volition beryllium younger, person caller roles, little experience, and however bash they respond to these caller roles?” Saban said. “That’s wherefore rebuilding is simply a tremendous challenge. That’s wherefore it’s precise hard to repeat.”

The astir almighty discourtesy successful the state mislaid Smith, backmost Mac Jones and moving backmost Najee Harris, each first-round NFL draught picks this year. The adjacent question of blue-chippers stepping into bigger roles includes moving backmost Brian Robinson, receiver John Metchie and backmost Bryce Young, a erstwhile five-star enlistee from California.

“Bryce has endless potential,” Saban said.

Since the AP started the preseason canvass successful 1950, lone 11 teams that started No. 1 besides ended the play arsenic No. 1. Alabama was the past bash it, successful 2017, the mediate play of 3 consecutive successful which the Crimson Tide took the preseason apical spot. Alabama finished 2nd successful 2016 and ’18.

No programme faces higher expectations than Alabama going into immoderate season: The Crimson Tide is the lone squad successful the state to commencement each of the past 13 seasons ranked successful the apical five.

And nary programme has been amended astatine gathering those expectations: Along with the six nationalist titles, the Tide has 3 much top-four finishes implicit the erstwhile 12 years and has ne'er ended a play ranked little than 10th.

POLL POINTS

— Alabama is present tied with Ohio State for the second-most preseason No. 1 rankings with eight. Oklahoma has the astir with 10.

— Only 2 teams person gone wire-to-wire arsenic the No. 1 squad successful the state during a season. Southern California was the past successful 2004, with Heisman Trophy victor Matt Leinart. The archetypal was undefeated Florida State successful 1999, perchance the champion squad of the Bobby Bowden era. Bowden died earlier this period astatine 91.

— No. 8 Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference is the archetypal squad from extracurricular the Power Five leagues to beryllium ranked successful the preseason apical 10 since Louisville started ninth successful 2012. That was the Cardinals’ last play arsenic a subordinate of the AAC earlier joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The defending AAC champion Bearcats person the champion preseason ranking for a non-Power Five oregon BCS league squad since Boise State was No. 5 to statesman 2011. The Broncos retired of the Mountain West finished that play No. 8.

RARITIES AND FIRSTS

— Sun Belt rivals No. 22 Coastal Carolina and No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette are ranked successful the preseason canvass for the archetypal time. It’s the archetypal clip the league has had immoderate teams ranked successful the preseason.

— No. 7 Iowa State is ranked successful the preseason for the 3rd consecutive play aft having lone 1 erstwhile quality successful the preseason canvass (1978). The Cyclones had ne'er been ranked amended than 20th to statesman a season. They besides person ne'er been ranked higher astatine immoderate constituent than the No. 8 they reached past twelvemonth connected the mode to finishing ninth.

— No. 10 North Carolina has its champion preseason ranking since being No. 7 successful 1997 during manager Mack Brown’s archetypal stint with the Tar Heels.

— No. 17 Indiana is ranked successful the preseason canvass for the archetypal clip since 1968. The Hoosiers finished past play astatine No. 12, the second-best last ranking successful programme history. Indiana has ne'er started and finished a play ranked.

CONFERENCE CALL

No. 6 Texas A&M starts with its champion preseason ranking since 1995 erstwhile the Aggies were No. 3. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad besides gives the SEC 3 teams successful the apical six, joining Alabama and Georgia.

Breakdown by conference:

SEC — 5 (Nos. 1, 5, 6, 13, 16).

Big Ten — 5 (Nos. 4, 12, 17, 18, 19).

Pac-12 — 5 (Nos. 11, 15, 20, 24, 25).

ACC — 3 (Nos. 3, 10, 14).

Big 12 — 3 (No. 2, 7, 21).

Sun Belt — 2 (Nos. 22, 23).

American — 1 (No. 8) .

Independent — 1 (No. 9).

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