The time to stop talking about college football and actually start watching it is now less than a month away. But in the meantime, talking will have to do, and the preseason Amway Coaches Poll is always a good place to initiate discussion — or arguments, but we prefer to keep matters polite.
Alabama will enter the campaign with the No. 1 ranking, just as it did a year ago. The Crimson Tide were picked first by 49 of the 65 coaches on this year’s panel. Alabama has been ranked in the top five in every preseason poll since 2009.
There is, however, some bad news associated with that lofty status for Alabama fans. The Tide have been ranked first by the coaches three previous times since 1991, but none of those seasons, including last year, resulted in No. 1 finishes. Alabama did not open the campaign atop the poll in any of the four championship years of the Nick Saban era.
A lot of familiar names follow the Tide near the top of the rankings. Ohio State, a participant in the four-team College Football Playoff a season ago, will open this year at No. 2. The Buckeyes picked up five first-place votes. Four more firsts went to Florida State, which checks in at No. 3. The Seminoles and Alabama will square off on Sept. 2 in Atlanta in the season’s first blockbuster contest.
The remaining seven first-place votes went to defending national champion Clemson, but the Tigers will start 2017 at No. 5 overall. If both the ranking and No. 1 vote figures seem low, consider that Clemson is the lone top-five team that does not return its starting quarterback. Southern California wasn’t voted first on any ballots but received enough total points to open the campaign ahead of Clemson in the No. 4 spot.
The Southeastern Conference leads the power leagues with six ranked teams. Only the Crimson Tide, however, will start in the top 10. No. 12 LSU is the next highest rated SEC squad. It’s the first time the conference has placed only one team in the top 10 of the preseason coaches poll since 1991. The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference will begin with five teams in Top 25 apiece.
The Big Ten has four teams in the poll, all in the top 10. In addition to the Buckeyes, Penn State opens at No. 6, followed by No. 9 Michigan and No. 10 Wisconsin. The Pac-12 has four in the poll, led by USC and No. 7 Washington. No. 22 South Florida of the American Athletic Conference is the lone ranked representative of the Group of Five leagues.
Notable by its absence from the poll is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, coming off a disappointing 4-8 season, received the fourth most points among others receiving votes but will open the campaign outside the Top 25 for the first time since 2010.
Eddie Timanus, USA Today Sports