The last time a team both began and finished the season in the AP Poll No. 1 spot was in 2017, when Alabama became just the 11th of the previous 68 preseason No. 1 teams to raise the championship trophy. The Tide were just the fourth team in the past 25 years to accomplish the feat.
Of the 11 teams to start and end the year in the No. 1 spot, just six programs have done so. Oklahoma tops the list, accomplishing it four times (1956, '74, '75, and '85), while Alabama (1978, 2017) joined Florida State (1993, '99) to pull it off twice. Tennessee (1951), Michigan State (1952), and USC (2004) also held the No. 1 spot at season's start and finish.
In 2019, Clemson almost joined this list, as the Tigers opened No. 1 in the preseason rankings and reached the College Football Playoff title game. But Clemson lost to LSU in the championship.
The most common finishes for preseason favorites, since the poll's debut in 1950, has been Nos. 1 and 3 (11 times each). Thirteen preseason favorites have finished outside the top 10, including six that failed to crack the final poll.
The most recent program to hold down the No. 1 spot at season's start and finish before 2017 Alabama was USC in 2004. The Trojans also had the last unranked finish for a preseason No. 1 back in 2012.
Below is how each favorite in the annual AP preseason Top 25 finished. Twenty-three different programs have claimed the top spot in the poll's history:
|YEAR||PRESEASON NO. 1||FINAL RANK|
Oklahoma leads this list with 10 preseason No. 1 rankings and four national titles in such years. Ohio State (eight) is second on the list with Alabama joining USC (seven apiece) as the next closest in preseason No. 1 rankings, followed by Florida State and Nebraska (both with six).
Five of the past six preseason favorites have appeared in that year's respective College Football Playoff field. Alabama's 2017 squad was the first to win the national title.