NEW YORK (AP) — Alabama will begin this season right where it ended the last two: No. 1.
Nick Saban’s two-time defending national champions are atoop The Associated Press preseason college football poll, with the Crimson Tide trying to become the first team to win three straight national titles.
Much like the BCS championship game against Notre Dame, the vote was an Alabama landslide. The Tide received 58 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel Saturday to easily outdistance No. 2 Ohio State. Alabama matched Florida in 2009 for the highest percentage of first-place votes received in the 63-year history of the preseason rankings. The Buckeyes received one first-place vote.
Oregon is No. 3, followed by Stanford and Georgia, which received the other first-place vote.
Notre Dame, coming off a 42-14 loss in the BCS championship game to Alabama, is No. 14.
Alabama won its record ninth AP national championship last season, third BCS title in the last four years under Saban, and became the first team to win back-to-back BCS championships.
The Tide are first in the AP preseason poll for the fourth time overall and first since 2010. Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll each of the last two seasons. The only time Alabama started and finished No. 1 was 1978, when Bear Bryant led the Crimson Tide to the fourth of their five national championships with him as coach.
Now, Saban’s Tide are trying to accomplish something Bear’s boys never could. Twice Alabama won back-to-back championships under Bryant but couldn’t get the third.
Saban is hoping senior stars such as quarterback A.J. McCarron, linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive end Ed Stinson and guard Anthony Steen have enough memories of what went wrong for the 2010 Alabama team to avoid it happening in 2013.
“You’re in a position here where we have a lot of players that really haven’t lost much,” Saban said earlier this week. “They have to really want to be good for the sake of being good.
Alabama is 49-5 over the past four seasons, with three of those losses coming in 2010.
“Most other teams are out there saying we’ve got something to prove,” Saban said. “Well, this team has something to prove. It’s a lot more difficult not to be a little bit complacent, not to keep the same accountability to being successful that’s necessary. You’ve got to challenge yourself every day. You’ve got to challenge each other.”
Since the poll started in 1936, 10 times has a school has won consecutive AP championships. The Tide’s task: complete the hat trick.
Alabama will also be trying to run the Southeastern Conference’s streak of national championships to eight. For the second straight year, half the top 10 teams to start the season are from the SEC. Joining Alabama and Georgia are South Carolina at No. 6, Texas A&M at No. 7 and Florida at No. 10.
No. 8 Clemson and No. 9 Louisville, led by two other Heisman-contender quarterbacks, round out the top 10. Tajh Boyd and Clemson take on Georgia at home in Week 1 and are the favorites to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are the heavy favorites to get back to the BCS for the second straight year out of the newly renamed American Athletic Conference.
The second 10 in the preseason rankings starts with No. 11 Florida State. No. 12 LSU gives the SEC six teams in the rankings, more than any other conference. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both have five.
The Big 12 has four teams ranked, all between Nos. 13-20, starting with Oklahoma State at 13th. Texas is No. 15, Oklahoma is No. 16 and TCU is No. 20.
Michigan is No. 17 and Big Ten rival Nebraska is No. 18.
Boise State is No. 19, the only team from a BCS non-automatic-qualifying conference to make the preseason rankings.
The final five are No. 21 UCLA from the Pac-12; No. 22 Northwestern and No. 23 Wisconsin from the Big Ten; last year’s preseason No. 1 USC at No. 24; and Oregon State from the Pac-12 at No. 25.
The teams just outside the top 25 were Michigan State, Baylor, Virginia Tech, Miami and Arizona State.