Reigning national champion Alabama ranked atop the preseason USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll released Tuesday ahead of the 2021 college football season.
The Crimson Tide posted a perfect 13-0 record last season and are expected to seriously compete for another title despite a number of high-profile losses to the NFL led by Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones, Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle, Alex Leatherwood and Najee Harris—all of whom were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Bama is joined in the top five by Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia as voted by the 65 members of the USA Today coaches panel, which includes members from all 10 FBS conferences and independents.
Here's a look at the complete preseason Top 25:
1. Alabama (63 first-place votes)
3. Oklahoma (2)
4. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
7. Notre Dame
8. Iowa State
9. North Carolina
16. Miami (Fla.)
20. Penn State
22. Oklahoma State
23. UL Lafayette
24. Coastal Carolina
25. Ole Miss
Although Alabama is going through a significant overhaul to its starting lineup on both sides of the ball, there's still a lot of talent and leadership on the roster. It's that ability to keep the program in contention year after year despite an annual draft exodus that's helped make Nick Saban one of the greatest college football coaches in history.
Quarterback Bryce Young will take over the reins of the offense from Jones, while a quartet of seniors (Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray, Christopher Allen and Josh Jobe) will set the standard defensively.
Saban explained at Bama's Media Day on Sunday the focus will be on steady growth while getting everybody on the same page amid the widespread changes:
"And with this team—because we've got a lot of new faces especially on offense—I think we're sorta taking it one step at a time. I think if you're climbing a mountain, that's kinda how you gotta focus. The only way you're going to get to the top is one step at a time, so we're focused on what we need to do today to try to help our team get better, to try to create this mindset and the value and the principles of the organization and how people buy into it. So that's sort of where we are right now."
While the Crimson Tide (+250) are the oddsmakers' favorite to win the national title once again, there isn't a huge gap between them and Clemson (+380), Ohio State (+550), Georgia (+600) and Oklahoma (+750), according to DraftKings Sportsbook. There's a pretty steep drop off between the top five and the rest of the championship hopefuls, though.
The Tigers are going through a quarterback change of their own as D.J. Uiagalelei replaces Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick in this year's NFL draft. The Buckeyes are in the middle of a quarterback battle between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III, Quinn Ewers and Kyle McCord for the starting job.
Georgia (JT Daniels) and Oklahoma (Spencer Rattler) return their quarterbacks, which could be an advantage over the other top contenders when it comes to trying to avoid an early loss.
ESPN's Football Power Index agrees with the oddsmakers' top five, though in a slightly different order: Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia.
So the key questions will surround whether any team from outside that group can make a serious charge toward a College Football Playoff berth or which of those five teams fall short of the four-school playoff if everything remains relatively chalk in the months ahead.
The season kicks off Aug. 28 with the first full slate of games set for Sept. 4. The top Week 1 matchups include Alabama vs. Miami, Georgia vs. Clemson, Penn State vs. Wisconsin, Notre Dame vs. Florida State and LSU vs. UCLA.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).
Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), or call or text the TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789 (TN).
21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL/TN only. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.