Two-time defending national champion Alabama received the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll released Thursday.
The Crimson Tide was the overwhelming selection, receiving 58 of 62 first-place votes. Ohio State was second with three first-place votes. Oregon, Stanford and Georgia rounded out the Top 5.
Alabama coach Nick Saban predictably bristled during SEC Media Days at the notion of being asked about defending consecutive national championships. Alabama has never won a BCS title when ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll.
“In the last 21 years, you as the media have only picked the right team four times to win the SEC,” he said. “Now if I was 4-17 as a coach, I’d be back in West Virginia pumping gas at my daddy’s gas station.”
All-American quarterback AJ McCarron is going for third consecutive national title and, despite losing another fistful of first-round draft picks, Saban landed the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class.
The Crimson Tide’s 118-point margin over Ohio State is the largest in the preseason coaches poll by a No. 1 team since 2005 when Southern California received 142 more points than Texas. The Buckeyes reappared in the coaches poll after they were ineligible during their 12-0 season a year ago because of NCAA sanctions.
“We appreciate the recognition, but preseason polls don’t determine who the best teams will be,” Saban told USA Today. “We aren’t entitled to anything, and this team’s achievements will be based on what they create with the quality of their play and consistency in performance.”
Five of the Top 10 teams are from the Southeastern Conference, which has won the previous seven national championships. Alabama has won three of the past four.
Texas A&M, led the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel and the only team to beat Alabama last season, came in at No. 6, its highest preseason ranking since 1995.
Rounding out the Top 10 were South Carolina, Clemson, Louisville, the only team in the poll from the new American Athletic Conference, and Florida.
No. 12 LSU gave the SEC six teams in the top 25. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are represented by five teams each and the Big 12 has four.
This is the final year that the poll will factor into determining the national championship game opponent before the College Football Playoff system begins with the 2014 season.