TODAY'S PAPER
Overcast 55° Good Evening
Overcast 55° Good Evening
SportsCollegeCollege Football

Alabama begins at No. 1 in Top 25 college football poll

Alabama football coach Nick Saban talks with the

Alabama football coach Nick Saban talks with the media Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Photo Credit: AP / VASHA HUNT

Alabama is No. 1 in the preseason Top 25, the first program in 12 years to take the top spot two years in a row.

The Crimson Tide will start the season ranked in the top five of The Associated Press preseason media poll for the ninth consecutive time.

Coach Nick Saban’s program has become the surest thing in sports these days. The Tide does not always win the national championship — just half the time over the last eight years — but is always in contention. Since 2008, only once has Alabama lost more than one game before bowl season.

The Crimson Tide received 52 of 61 first-place votes from media members. Ohio State was No. 2, edging No. 3 Florida State and preventing the first 1 vs. 2 opening game since the preseason poll began in 1950. Alabama opens the season against the Seminoles in Atlanta on Sept. 2, just the fourth opener involving top-five teams and the first pitting teams ranked in the preseason top three.

Southern California, which finished last season on a nine-game winning streak and No. 3 in the country, starts at No. 4. Defending national champion Clemson begins the post-Deshaun Watson era at No. 5. Florida State received four first-place votes, Ohio State got three and USC two.

The one bit of bad news for Alabama? The Tide has failed to win the national championship the three previous times it was preseason No. 1 under Saban. The last team to start and finish No. 1 was USC in 2004, and the Trojans were ranked No. 1 the following season — the last team to do it before this year.

THE TOP 25

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Florida State

4. USC

5. Clemson

6. Penn State

7. Oklahoma

8. Washington

9. Wisconsin

10. Oklahoma State

11. Michigan

12. Auburn

13. LSU

14. Stanford

15. Georgia

16. Louisville

17. Florida

18. Miami

19. South Florida

20. Kansas State

21. Virginia Tech

22. West Virginia

23. Texas

24. Washington State

25. Tennessee

TIDE WAVE

Alabama’s remarkable run under Saban has the Crimson Tide climbing toward all sorts of AP poll milestones. This is the sixth time the Tide has been preseason No. 1, tied for fifth most.

10 — Oklahoma (1956, 1957, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2003, 2011)

8 — Ohio State (1958, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1980, 1998, 2006, 2015)

7 — Southern California (1963, 1973, 1979, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012)

6 — Alabama (1966, 1978, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017)

6 — Florida State (1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2014)

6 — Nebraska (1965, 1972, 1976, 1983, 1996, 2000)

Alabama’s streak of nine straight top-five preseason rankings is second only to Florida State, which had a run of 11 straight seasons starting in the top-five under former coach Bobby Bowden.

WE’RE NO. 2!

Ohio State is No. 2 in the preseason poll for the eighth time, one behind Oklahoma for most times starting the season second. The Buckeyes also extended the longest current streak of years appearing in the preseason Top 25 to 29. Penn State has the record at 34 from 1968-2002.

BEST SINCE ...

— No. 6 Penn State has its best preseason ranking since it was No. 3 in 1999.

— No. 8 Washington has its best preseason ranking since it was No. 4 in 1997.

— No. 9 Wisconsin has its best preseason ranking since it was No. 7 in 2007.

— No. 19 South Florida is ranked in preseason for second time. The Bulls started No. 19 in 2008.

— No. 24 Washington State is ranked in preseason for fifth time. The last time was 2002 when the Cougars were No. 11.

CONFERENCE CALL

Alabama is the only Southeastern Conference team in the top 10, but the SEC still leads the way with six teams in the Top 25. Auburn is No. 12 and LSU is right behind at 13. SEC East rivals Georgia (No. 15) and Florida (No. 17) follow and Tennessee is No. 25.

The standings:

SEC — 6

ACC — 5

Big 12 — 5

Big Ten — 4

Pac-12 — 4

American — 1

WHERE IS THIS GOING?

The goal of the preseason Top 25 is not necessarily to predict the outcome of the season as much as it is to give a snapshot of consensus heading into it. The voters take an educated guess and then go where results take them. Still, comparing the preseason poll with the final rankings in previous years can give some idea of how much change to expect. The AP analyzed the last 10 seasons of polls (2007-16), comparing the preseason rankings with the final Top 25. On average:

— 15.4 teams (61.6 percent total) started the season ranked and finished the season ranked. Those teams finished an average of 6.34 places (higher or lower) from where they were ranked in the preseason.

— 8.0 teams (80 percent total) that started the season ranked in the top 10 finished the season in the Top 25.

— 5.4 teams (54 percent total) that started the season ranked in the top 10 finished ranked in the top 10.

— 1.9 teams that started the season unranked finished ranked in the top 10.

New York Sports