NCAA Football Preseason Rankings 2021: Expert Reactions to Coaches Poll Top 25

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2021

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 11: Najee Harris #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide holds a National Champions sign after their win over The Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Summer remains in full swing around the United States, but football season is right around the corner. And of the first harbingers of college football's return, the Coaches Poll Top 25 rankings, is finally here. 

In no surprise, 2021 college football national champion Alabama tops the list of programs expected to contend for a championship this season, earning 63 of 65 first-place votes. Clemson at No. 2, Oklahoma at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 4 and Georgia at No. 5 won't shock anyone.

In fact, those teams have landed in the top five in some order in four of the last five preseason polls. 

But there are some fresh-faced challengers hoping to dismantle the power structure of college football. Iowa State, at No. 8, earned its highest position on the list since 1991.

Cincinnati, which finished last season ranked No. 8, rounds out the Top 10. Two of its nonconference opponents, Notre Dame and Indiana, also fall within the Top 20. 

Neil Meyer @MeyerNeil6

Bearcats are ranked #10 in the USA Today AFCA coaches poll. Some interesting notes on that schedule. Non conference opponents Notre Dame and Indiana Are both in the top 20. This is going to be a fun season #bearcats #TFON

Indiana, No. 17, appears on the preseason Top 25 for the first time. 

It's an interesting poll that (hopefully) promises an interesting season ahead. Let's take a look at what college football experts think about the rankings. 


Expert Reactions to Top 25 

USA TODAY Sports @usatodaysports

Fresh faces join No. 1 Alabama in preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. But yeah, it's still 'Bama at the top. https://t.co/91SECZ52jn https://t.co/BUhDbP1nXT

While the balance of power at the top of college football is largely undisturbed, talent can be found in more unexpected places throughout the list as a whole. 

As The Athletic's Chris Vannini points out, there are three Group of Five teams in the poll: Cincinnati (10th), Louisiana (23rd) and Coastal Carolina (24th). It's the most in the College Football Playoff era. 

Chris Vannini @ChrisVannini

Three Group of 5 teams in the preseason coaches poll: Cincinnati (10), Louisiana (23), Coastal Carolina (24). That's the most G5 teams in the preseason poll in the CFP era (and only the third time with at least two)

There were some surprising omissions from the rankings. As Chris Fallica pointed out, Arizona State fell outside of the Top 25, though it did receive 90 votes, the third-most of the teams that didn't make the list. (Utah was first, at 145; Northwestern was next at 120.)

Chris Fallica @chrisfallica

Wait. @ASUFootball isn't ranked in the preseason Coaches' Poll? Alrighty then...

Michigan and Auburn also landed outside the Top 25 for the first time since 2015 and 2016, respectively.  

The Sun Belt Conference deserves a shoutout as well, as the league got its first team ranked in the preseason this year—actually, two: No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 24 Coastal Carolina.

Scott Watkins @scottwatkinsTU

Louisiana (No. 23) and Coastal Carolina (No. 24) are the first teams in Sun Belt history to land on the preseason coaches poll.

As might be expected, the SEC is the conference with the most programs in the preseason poll, with six. The Big Ten has five teams, the Big 12 has four, and the ACC and Pac-12 both have three.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that everyone, even FBS coaches, is still just making their best educated guess. 

PFF College @PFF_College

Never forget Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State 11th in his final Coaches Poll last season OSU went on the beat Clemson 49-28 in the Playoff https://t.co/WgSaJbMpM2

To wit, never forget that Dabo Swinney ranked Ohio State, which would beat Clemson 49-28 in the College Football Playoff, 11th in his final Coaches Poll last season.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.