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Alabama tops yet another AP preseason Top 25

The Crimson Tide begin 2021 where they left off 2020 -- the clear leaders of the pack.

For everyone outside of Tuscaloosa, take solace in this. Only once in the Nick Saban era has Alabama started and finished the same season ranked No. 1. That happened in 2017, the most improbable of Saban's six titles and counting.

The defending national champions, a 13-0 season against all Power 5 competition where they were hardly challenged at all, will begin 2021 where they left off in January, as the clear leader in the pack.

Overall, this is the fifth preseason No. 1 of the Saban era. It's also the fourth preseason No. 1 of the past six seasons and the 13th straight preseason top-five ranking. 

Oklahoma checked in at No. 2 in the 2021 preseason AP Top 25, released Monday. The Sooners were one of five teams to garner at least one first-place vote, a sign, however faint, that the chase for this year's crown may be more open than years' past. 

The Sooners' No. 2 ranking is their highest since beginning 2011 at No. 1. It's indicative that this will be an "If not now, when?" season for Lincoln Riley, as he returns Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler and a defense now built wholly in coordinator Alex Grinch's image.

Clemson is in the top five for the sixth straight season, but their No. 3 spot is the lowest since 2017. The Tigers had begun the past two seasons at No. 1, but did not win the title in either campaign. 

Ohio State is in the top five for the fifth straight season, and in the top six for the ninth straight campaign. No. 5 Georgia is in the top five for the fifth straight campaign.


Other rankings of note before we dive into the full 25:

-- Teams debuting with their highest preseason AP Top 25 raking ever: No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Cincinnati, No. 22 Coastal Carolina, No. 23 Louisiana. For Cincinnati and Coastal, this is their first preseason AP ranking. For Iowa State, it's their highest ranking ever, period. 

-- Texas A&M's No. 6 start is its highest since 1995 (No. 3).

-- No. 10 North Carolina enjoys its highest preseason rank since Mack Brown had the Tar Heels at No. 7 in 1997. 

-- No. 17 Indiana is in the preseason AP Top 25 for the third time ever. The Hoosiers began 1969 at No. 14 and 1968 at No. 13. 

-- Preseason No. 1s since 2010. Eventual champions are in parenthesis. We writers are very good at capturing the zeitgeist of the present moment and quite terrible at anticipating where the season is going. 

2020: Clemson (Alabama)
2019: Clemson (LSU)
2018: Alabama (Clemson)
2017: Alabama (Alabama)
2016: Alabama (Clemson)
2015: Ohio State (Alabama)
2014: Florida State (Ohio State)
2013: Alabama (Florida State)
2012: USC (Alabama)
2011: Oklahoma (Alabama)
2010: Alabama (Auburn)

In fact, you'd have to go back to 2004 USC to find the last preseason No. 1 to end in the place it started before 2017 Alabama. 


1. Alabama -- 1,548 total points (47 first-place votes)
2. Oklahoma -- 1,462 (6)
3. Clemson -- 1,447 (3)
4. Ohio State -- 1,393 (1)
5. Georgia -- 1,364 (3)
6. Texas A&M -- 1,223
7. Iowa State -- 1,160
8. Cincinnati -- 1,014
9. Notre Dame -- 1,009
10. North Carolina -- 999
11. Oregon -- 968
12. Wisconsin -- 743
13. Florida -- 728
14. Miami -- 663
15. USC -- 660
16. LSU -- 631
17. Indiana -- 549
18. Iowa -- 513
19. Penn State -- 456
20. Washington -- 449
21. Texas -- 350
22. Coastal Carolina -- 232
23. Louisiana -- 208
24. Utah -- 176
25. Arizona State -- 125

Some good non-conference games to peek forward to:

No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson, at Charlotte -- Sept. 4 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami, at Atlanta -- Sept. 4 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
No. 23 Louisiana at No. 21 Texas -- Sept. 4 (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
No. 18 Iowa at No. 7 Iowa State -- Sept. 11 (4:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
No. 11 Oregon at No. 4 Ohio State -- Sept. 11 (Noon ET, Fox)
No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Wisconsin, at Chicago -- Sept. 25 (Noon ET, Fox)
No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 9 Notre Dame -- Oct. 2 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)