Alabama and Auburn are no strangers to going into seasons ranked in the Top 10 — just not at the same time.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 6 Tigers share that lofty preseason billing in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1995 and only the fourth time ever in the storied rivalry.
It’s the Tigers’ highest preseason ranking since coming in No. 4 in 2006.
”We haven’t even talked about it,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. ”Last year nobody picked us to do anything, and so we don’t get wrapped up in that.”
The only other times the dual Top 10 rankings happened were in 1964 and 1975.
Both of those involved likely the most revered coaches in the respective programs’ history — Alabama’s Paul ”Bear” Bryant and Ralph ”Shug” Jordan, both Hall of Famers.
The high rankings aren’t a surprise. If the four-team playoff had been in place last season, the two might have met in a semifinal rematch of one of last season’s most thrilling games.
Auburn won 34-28 when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown on the final play.
Coincidentally, Auburn struggled in `64 and `75 while Alabama lived up to the billing.
The Crimson Tide won a second national title under Bryant after opening at No. 6 in 1964. Jordan’s Auburn team went 6-4 after opening at No. 8.
Alabama captured an SEC championship after opening the `75 season at No. 2. Auburn started out ranked seventh but fell to 4-6-1.
Both teams won eight games in 1995.
The Tide has much more experience at trying to live up to the Top 10 mantle, having opened ranked that high 32 times.
The Tigers have done it 15 times but have sometimes been at their best when little was expected.
Led by quarterback Nick Marshall, Auburn opened last season unranked and played for a national title. The 2010 national champs started out ranked 22nd while the 1957 team that won Auburn’s other national title wasn’t ranked.
Tommy Tuberville’s 2004 team went from 17th to second by season’s end.
Recent history indicates the No. 2 ranking is a good spot for Alabama. That’s where the Tide’s 2011 and 2012 national title teams opened. The 2009 team that brought Nick Saban’s first title to Tuscaloosa began at No. 5.