In a way, the 2016 season will pick up where 2015 left off: Alabama is No. 1 and Clemson is 2.
The defending national champion Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 for the fifth time overall and third time under coach Nick Saban.
The Tide received 33 of 61 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,469 points in the poll released Sunday. No. 2 Clemson, which lost a thrilling College Football Playoff championship game to Alabama in January, received 16 first-place votes and 1,443 points. This is the first time since 1992 that the teams that ended the previous season at Nos. 1 and 2 in the AP poll began the next season in the same spots. Miami and Washington did it that season.
Oklahoma is No. 3 in the preseason poll and received four first-place votes. No. 4 Florida State had five first-place votes. No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Michigan all received one first-place vote. A year after Ohio State became the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the history of the AP poll, seven teams received first-place votes, the most in the preseason since 1998.
Stanford is No. 8, followed by No. 9 Tennessee and No. 10 Notre Dame.
Alabama has won an unprecedented four national championships in the last seven seasons, but none has come when the Tide started No. 1 (2010 and 2013). That’s one of a couple of trends the Tide will be trying to buck this season. The last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship was Southern California in 2004. Alabama is the fourth straight defending champ to start the next season No. 1.
“It’s basically human condition to get satisfied with success,” said the 64-year-old Saban, who is 105-18 at Alabama. “There’s a lot of books written on how to be successful. There’s not a lot of books written on how to stay successful.”
The Tide need to replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and defensive All-Americans Reggie Ragland and A’Shawn Robinson and will be breaking in a new quarterback, but the next wave of four- and five-star recruits is ready to step up. In Calvin Ridley, Alabama has one of the best receivers in the country, and linebacker Reuben Foster and pass rusher Tim Williams will anchor another potentially dominant defense.
Clemson returns quarterback Deshaun Watson, a Heisman finalist whose 2016 campaign essentially started with a magnificent performance against Alabama in the championship game, and nine other offensive starters. The Tigers face tough opposition in their own division with Florida State.
The Tigers and Seminoles give the Atlantic Coast Conference two top five teams in the preseason poll for the first time in the history of the conference.