The 2014 Associated Press Preseason Top 25 was released Sunday afternoon, and there is a familiar feel at the top.
Florida State, fresh off its national championship in January, was named the preseason No. 1 by a wide margin, receiving 57 of a possible 60 first-place votes. Expectations are high for the Seminoles, who return Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in an effort to become the first ACC team to successfully defend a title.
Florida State had been named preseason No. 1 most recently in 1999, a year in which it went wire-to-wire atop the rankings, ending in a national championship. No preseason No. 1 has finished better than 10th since 2009, when Alabama went from fifth to first. Southern California was the last team to win the national championship after being preseason No. 1, in 2004. This is the sixth time the Seminoles have earned the distinction, and account for two of the 10 times a preseason No. 1 has won the title.
Checking in at No. 2 with one first-place vote is Alabama, which has been in the top two of the preseason ranking in each of the past five years. Quarterback Jacob Coker, who lost out on the starting gig to Winston at Florida State a year ago, is competing with Blake Sims to lead the Tide into a season where they will look to bounce back from losing their final two games of last season. Each of the past two times that Alabama has been the preseason No. 2, it was won the national championship (2011, ’12)
Oregon extends its streak of appearing in the top five of the preseason poll to four consecutive years. The Ducks, led by Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota, their quarterback returning for his senior season, received one first-place vote and will start the season as No. 3. Oregon was also third to begin 2013 and '11, and it has not finished a season outside the top 11 since 2007. The College Football Playoff will be on the Ducks’ minds this season, after they missed out on a BCS bowl for the first time in five years last season.
Oklahoma, which is No. 4 in this year’s poll, has appeared in the preseason poll in every season since 2000, the second-longest active streak in the nation. The Sooners were the recipients of the final first-place vote, and came in just 10 voting points behind Oregon. The only school with a longer streak of appearing in the preseason poll is Ohio State, which ranks No. 5. The Buckeyes have a record 60 appearances in the history of the Associated Press poll, and have not missed out on one since 1998.
Last year’s runner-up, Auburn, was nowhere near preseason polls a year ago, having gone winless in the SEC in 2012, but a league championship and 12-2 season in 2013, along with returning quarterback Nick Marshall, brings plenty of eyes to the preseason No. 6 Tigers this season. That makes this season’s edition of the Iron Bowl the regular-season game that will feature two teams with the highest combined preseason rankings.
The rest of the top 10 features some teams that are a bit less familiar with this sort of expectation heading into a season. UCLA is No. 7, somewhere it has not been before a season since 1998, and in the top 10 for the second time since 1990. Following the Bruins are the Spartans of Michigan State, whose No. 8 ranking marks its first preseason top 10 since they were No. 3 in 1967. South Carolina is ranked ninth, its third top 10 in a row. Baylor rounds out this year’s top 10, with its highest preseason spot since 1957. The Bears are in the preseason rankings for just the fifth time and the first time since 1986.
Stanford makes its fourth consecutive preseason poll appearance, coming in at No. 11. Georgia will start its effort to rebound from 2013’s injury-ridden campaign at No. 12. The Bulldogs have not missed a preseason poll since 2001, which was when LSU started its active streak of appearances, which continued with its No. 13 ranking this season.
Preseason poll regulars follow with Wisconsin at No. 14, Southern California at 15 and Clemson at 16. Notre Dame, the only non-Big 5 conference team in the Top 25, ranks No. 17, followed by Mississippi making its first appearance since 2009, Arizona State (first since 2008) and Kansas State to round out the top 20.
Completing the Top 25 are Texas A&M, Nebraska, North Carolina, Missouri and Washington, which is in its first preseason poll since 2003.
The SEC tied its own record with eight of its teams included in the preseason ranking. Auburn is scheduled to play all seven of its ranked conference counterparts this season. Unranked Florida is scheduled to play both No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama this season, the first team to play the top two in the preseason poll since Penn State in 2010. The Pac-12 has the second-most teams in the poll most with six, which is a record for the conference.