Alabama is the best team in college football heading into the 2016 season, at least according to USA Today's Amway Coaches Poll, which released its preseason rankings Thursday.
Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State and Ohio State follow Alabama in the season-opening Top Five. The rankings were based on the votes from 64 FBS head coaches.
Here's a look at the complete Top 25 breakdown from USA Today:
|Amway Coaches Poll: 2016 Preseason Rankings|
Alabama is the reigning national champion thanks to a thrilling 45-40 victory over Clemson in the title game back in January. The oddsmakers have also installed the Tide as a favorite to repeat with 11-2 odds to begin the campaign, per Odds Shark.
Yet, Alabama head coach Nick Saban stated last month he doesn't agree with that outlook. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com noted the coach of five national championship winners believes the Tigers are the team to beat thanks to their dynamic quarterback.
"How can they not pick Clemson? Deshaun Watson is the most dominant player in college football since Cam Newton," Saban said, per McMurphy.
Of course, coaches of title contenders are always looking for ways to manage expectations at this point of the summer. Saban understands the dangers of putting too much pressure on the shoulders of his players before they play a single game.
The Crimson Tide do have some question marks, though. The biggest one is at quarterback, where junior Cooper Bateman will need to fend off challenges from David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts to fill the void left by Jake Coker.
Meanwhile, Clemson has the talent to make another run to the title game, in large part due to the presence of the aforementioned Watson. He made steady progress during his outstanding 2015 campaign, and there's every reason to think that will happen again.
Head coach Dabo Swinney hasn't been focusing on the big picture with his team during the offseason, though. Thayer Evans of Campus Rush noted he's instead returned to the basics to make sure sloppy mistakes don't pop up:
There are certain things you don't control, but it starts with doing the little things right. Don't get bored with doing that. If you go back into the championship game, I pulled up a few plays and I put this video up there [for the team]. It had nothing to do with the opponent. Like up three points in the fourth quarter [when we're] on their 40-yard line and they really hadn't stopped us all day and we fumbled the exchange. Ball-handling. So this spring when we're doing ball-handling, it's important, man. It's national championship important. Those things didn't have anything to do with the opponent, but they impacted the game and were 100 percent within our control. When we tell our guys, their eyes need to be on this, here's why. It's just little things because if we focus on that, we know we're good enough.
One other team that is sure to generate attention this season is Michigan. The Wolverines ranked fourth in total defense last season. The unit has the potential to become even more dangerous if Jabrill Peppers can come into his own as a ball hawk.
Off the field, Jim Harbaugh continued to show during the offseason that he's not afraid to tangle with the nation's most prominent coaches. The Michigan head coach engaged in verbal warfare with Saban concerning satellite camps and caused a stir on social media in the process:
Coach Harbaugh @CoachJim4UM
"Amazing" to me- Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly "amazing."2016-6-1 00:17:13
And that's just a small dose of the numerous stories that have made headlines since Alabama captured the championship about seven months ago.
The stage is set for an entertaining season. Between all of the high-profile programs in the Top 10 and the sleepers that are always lurking in the shadows at the outset, it should be quite a battle to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff.