No. 1 Alabama tops preseason AP Top 25; Oregon No. 11
With two of the best players in the country leading the way — and a championship game loss as motivation — Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason college football poll for the second straight season and ninth time overall.
Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, national defensive player of year Will Anderson Jr. and the Crimson Tide received 54 of 63 first-place votes and 1,566 points in the Top 25 presented by Regions Bank released on Monday.
Ohio State is No. 2 with six first-place votes (1,506 points) from the media panel and defending national champion Georgia is third with three first-place votes (1,455 points). Clemson is No. 4. Notre Dame rounds out the top five, setting up a tantalizing opener at Ohio State on Sept. 3.
The Tide’s preseason No. 1 ranking is the seventh in 15 years under coach Nick Saban. Since the preseason rankings started in 1950, only Oklahoma with 10 has been No. 1 in the initial poll more often than Alabama.
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.
Young was in his first season as a starter last year, playing behind an inexperienced offensive line. He was unfazed, throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Anderson was a force on the other side ball as Alabama broke in a back seven with mostly new starters. The sophomore led the nation in tackles for loss with 33 1/2, 11 1/2 more than No. 2 on the list.
No. 11 Oregon
2021 finish: 10-4, No. 22.
Key games: vs. No. 3 Georgia in Atlanta, Sept. 3; vs. No. 25 BYU, Sept. 25; vs. No. 7 Utah, Nov. 19.
Potential All-Americans: LB Noah Sewell; OL Alex Forsyth.
Outlook: Oregon is playing its first season under former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who took over when Mario Cristobal went to Miami. Lanning has a preseason quarterback competition between Bo Nix, a transfer who started three seasons at Auburn, and redshirt freshman Ty Thompson. The team is also mourning the offseason death of tight end Spencer Webb.
Ohio State brings back a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback in C.J. Stroud while at Georgia, most of the key players from one of the best college defenses of the last 25 years are now in NFL. Still, quarterback Stetson Bennett and All-America tight end Brock Bowers return to a Bulldogs offense that could be even more explosive in 2022.
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).
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