Bama No. 1, Heels 18th In AP Top 25

EW YORK (AP) -- Alabama will start this season where it ended last season.

The Crimson Tide is on top.

Coach Nick Saban has the Tide rolling the way Bear Bryant did in his day, first in The Associated Press preseason poll for the first time since 1978.

Alabama received 54 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,491 points to easily outdistance second-ranked Ohio State in the Top 25 released Saturday.

The Buckeyes, who have been ranked no lower than 11th in the last eight preseason polls, received three first-place votes.

Boise State is third, its best preseason ranking, following another undefeated season. Underdogs no more, the Broncos even received one first-place vote.

Florida, Alabama's Southeastern Conference rival, is fourth. Fifth-ranked Texas received a first-place vote.

The rest of the top 10 has TCU sixth, followed by Oklahoma, which received a first-place vote, Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia Tech.

The 10th-ranked Hokies face Boise State at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, on Labor Day night in the season's first huge game.

As for Alabama, Bryant was coach the last time the Crimson Tide was the AP's preseason No. 1. The Tide started and finished that 1978 season on top of the rankings, the first of two straight national championships for Alabama. The only other time Alabama was preseason No. 1 was 1966, when Bear's boys were coming off back-to-back national championships.

Saban's Tide, led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, will try to make Alabama the first program to win back-to-back AP titles three times. Oklahoma and Nebraska also have done it twice.

But please don't call Alabama the defending champion - at least not in front of its coach.

"What was accomplished by last year's team has nothing to do with this year's team. The players have to understand that," said Saban, who in three seasons has fully restored Alabama's status as an elite program. "This team has to develop an image, an identity of its own by its performance. What was accomplished last year is just a standard for somebody else to top.

"Complacency is why the mighty fall."

Saban has been trying to downplay this team's No. 1 worthiness since the morning after the Tide beat Texas 37-21 at the Rose Bowl to win the BCS championship.

Back in January he practically was lamenting the fact that his team likely would be preseason No. 1 in 2010, quick to point out that while the Tide's offense would be returning most of its stars, its dominant defense was facing major turnover.

Gone are All-Americans Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain, Javier Arenas and six other starters from last season.

Stepping in will be a cast of former five-star recruits and talented players who will be asked to expand their roles.

"We have confidence in our defensive players. I think it's more a matter of knowledge and experience and maturity that the defense is going to have to develop," Saban said.

Dont'a Hightower returns from a knee injury to fill McClain's spot at middle linebacker and defensive end Marcell Dareus, the star of the BCS title game, becomes the headliner up front - as long as an NCAA investigation doesn't sideline him.

"You can't really promote guys into leadership roles," Saban said. "I think that it's something that sort of grows, develops and happens because of personality types and respect that other players have."

Saban has little to worry about on the offensive side. Ingram and sidekick Trent Richardson will run behind an experienced line, so the ground game should continue to churn out big yards.

Greg McElroy returns for his second season as starting quarterback and he has plenty of enticing receivers, led by NFL prototype wideout Julio Jones.

"We played early on last season and at times during the season to protect the quarterback a little bit," Saban said. "We thought we had a really good defense and we could run the ball well, we could afford to do that. But I don't think that's going to be the case this year. We have too many good skill players on offense."

There's no doubting Alabama has the credentials to be No. 1, but poll history suggests the odds are against the Tide finishing on top again.

Only 10 of the 60 previous preseason No. 1 teams have won the national championship. And only two (Florida State in '99 and Southern California in '04) have held the top spot for the entire season.

The second 10 in the preseason Top 25 starts with Oregon. The defending Pac-10 champion Ducks are No. 11.

No. 12 is Wisconsin and Miami is 13th.

Southern California is No. 14. The last time the Trojans started a season outside the top 10 was 2002, Pete Carroll's second season as coach. Carroll is gone and USC is dealing with NCAA sanctions under new coach Lane Kiffin that prevent the Trojans from playing in the postseason this season.

Pittsburgh, the highest-ranked Big East team, is No. 15.

Georgia Tech, Arkansas, North Carolina, Penn State and Florida State round out the top 20.

No. 21 LSU is followed by Auburn and Georgia, giving the SEC six teams in the preseason rankings, the most of any conference. The Atlantic Coast Conference is second with five ranked teams.

Oregon State is No. 24 and West Virginia is 25.

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  • by The Pirate Lady Location: Grimesland on Sep 4, 2010 at 10:29 AM
    I love the LSU and Texas fans here! We have something in common...extreme dislike of UNC! Bud, I agree w/ you on VT, very respectful fans. Not sure who to pull for in that game, both teams are good. Sam, I would LOVE for Cowher to come here and coach the Panthers. That's been my dream for 2 years! But with his wife's passing, what do you think about the possibility of him staying in NC? Do you think Fox will leave at the end of his contract as everyone speculates? What are your thoughts on the team this year? We need to chat sometime, lol.
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:47 PM
    Dave, I was the first to type up here, THEN you came along wanting to come up with some nonsense. Your best best is to not even be up on the website if that's all you do. You want to put contradictory statements up there but yet you don't expect someone to say something back. Wow you are really lost dude. You must not have any hobbies either.
  • by Bud Location: Washington on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:15 AM
    Typical Dave, sidestepping the conflict and hard-hitting questions exposing his true hypocritical nature. I think we can assume that his failure to answer ANY of the questions shows his true colors, and they're canary yellow with a yellow background. "Uhh, I just post stuff to make you guys talk..." To me that sounds like a guy who found himself in the hotseat and is unable to defend himself. Are you going to attack USC and deadfish next Dave, to try and throw the ECU fans off your trail? "Well nobody outside of Greenville has heard of ECU!" Did we ask if they had? Does it really matter if nobody in Utah has heard of ECU? And besides, CLEARLY you as a Pennsylvania native had heard of ECU or you wouldn't have come here, so you contradict yourself! Oh, "Bud" and "Sam" are actual names, not like Anon or deadfish. Excuse us for actually signing our posts. And even if you don't take us seriously you could at least defend/justify yourself instead of hiding. What else ya got?
  • by Dave Location: Behind closed doors on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:18 AM
    Let me get this straight, I am getting flack from guys named Bud and Sam. Yet, you two wonder why I don't take you seriously. I do not use this site as a pass/fail scenario but simply as a tool to make you people write lengthy posts in order to help you get some use out of all your too precious free time.
  • by Bud Location: Washington on Aug 27, 2010 at 06:53 AM
    Wow Dave, that's the best you got? "Hey Samuel why do you bash the Triangle?" That's like asking a Steelers fan why he hates the Eagles. You can love your state but still hate/dislike various areas within it, just like people love America but hate New Yorkers cause of their ugly attitudes. Nobody loves every square inch of their home city/state/country. And we can't all be hypocrite flip-floppers like you, rooting for Penn St in football, Pitt in basketball and who knows what other contradictory teams you pull for. I bet you pull for the Penguins until they start losing and then the very next game you've got a Flyers jersey on. Or are you a closet Hurricane fan? Sorry Dave, you fail yet AGAIN! Try again please. Sam, I agree, I would pull for VT were it a different opponent but Boise St has been a consistent winner for years and might finally get their shot at a National Championship if they can first take down VT. Boise St represents all underdogs and I hope they win it all.
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Aug 27, 2010 at 06:30 AM
    Dave, also another thing, just in case if you are not familiar with the NC government, the triangle is where the majority of your in-state politicians live at, and about 90% of them are crooked. Also about 75% of them are complete morons, most of which were probably for Obama. It would'nt surprise me if PA had much better politicians but the politicians are the disgrace of NC and the triangle is where the majority of them are at.
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Aug 27, 2010 at 06:05 AM
    Dave, why I do that? It's because that's one of the few places in the state that sucks, especially Ghetto Durham and Chapel Hell. Charlotte and Wilmington are better than the triangle. What you got to know is that we have all the beaches and all the open waters. Also, every summer there are several out of state people, including from your very own PA who are impressed with the Outer Banks. We also have mountains as well, needless to mention the highest point east of the Mississippi River. How can PA beat that?
  • by Dave Location: Up there on Aug 26, 2010 at 06:00 PM
    Hey Sammy, if NC is such a wonderful state, then why is it that you constantly bash the Research Triangle?
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Aug 26, 2010 at 01:51 PM
    Bud, Dave does not realize that football is the only thing Penn State has going for them. They are a joke in basketball, baseball, and just about everything else. After JoePa is done, then they probably will end up losing to Youngstown State, Villanova, or someone like that. I will have to pull for Va.Tech against Boise as Tech and Maryland are the only ACC teams worth pulling for. Just about all my VA relatives are Tech fans and I have 3 cousins who went to Virginia Tech. This pirate fan will be supporting the Hokies in that contest.
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM
    To "me" I have two answers. #1 Way better than PA and #2 one of the greatest states in America (Virginia, Florida, and Hawaii are also on up there).

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