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.
The Crimson Tide started last season No. 1 and finished ranked No. 2 after losing the national championship game to the Southeastern Conference rival Bulldogs.
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.
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. A&M stumbled toward the finish line, with losses to Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi and Mississippi State. It finished 2021 with an 8-4 regular season record.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher arguably generated the most headlines of the offseason when he and Saban got in a war of words over NIL and player recruitment. This is Fisher’s fifth season in College Station.
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.
Houston is No. 24 in the poll. It’s the first time the Cougars have been ranked in the preseason AP poll since 2016. Houston was a surprise success in 2021, winning 12 games. They were recently voted by media to win the American this season.
Preseason AP Poll
2. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
6. Texas A&M
12. Oklahoma State
13. North Carolina State
15. Michigan State
16. Miami (FL)
21. Ole Miss
22. Wake Forest