Preseason College Football Rankings 2021: Experts React to AP NCAA Top 25 Poll

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2021

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The AP Top 25 poll, released every college football preseason and incorporating the weekly votes of a panel of 62 sports writers and broadcasters from around the country, is now the United States' longest-running college football poll. 

Its close cousin, the USA Today coaches poll, was released last week, and while there weren't many surprises in the Top Four (which were, in order, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State), there were some fresh names further down the list, such as the Cincinnati Bearcats at No. 10 and Indiana Hoosiers, making their first-ever appearance in that poll, at No. 17. 

In the first AP poll of the preseason, there were similarly few surprises at the top. The top four of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State is identical to the coaches poll. 

In the AP poll, Cincinnati moved up to No. 8 overall, and North Carolina landed the No. 10 spot. 

The full AP Top 25 is below, followed by a roundup of notable expert reactions to the early rankings. 


Full AP Top 25 Poll

1. Alabama

2. Oklahoma

3. Clemson

4. Ohio State

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. Iowa State

8. Cincinnati 

9. Notre Dame

10. North Carolina

11. Oregon

12. Wisconsin

13. Florida

14. Miami 

15. USC

16. LSU

17. Indiana

18. Iowa

19. Penn State

20. Washington 

21. Texas 

22. Coastal Carolina

23. Louisiana-Lafayette

24. Utah

25. Arizona State

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State 107, Ole Miss 106, TCU 40, Liberty 36, Auburn 32, North Carolina State 14, Michigan 12, Northwestern 8, Boise State 7, Nevada 7, Brigham Young 6, Ball State 6, Houston 5, Boston College 5, UCF 5, West Virginia 3, UAB 2, Army 2, UCLA 2


Expert Reactions

One of the most obvious differences between last week's coaches poll and the AP Top 25 is that Arizona State just made it into the latter but was left off the former. 

ESPN's Peter Burns had the bold take that not only should Arizona State have been left off the AP poll, as well...but that Kentucky, a program many regard as strong yet which received no votes among the panel of AP poll voters, should have come in at No. 25.

Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN

1st AP Poll feels about right except they should have flipped the following teams: Bama & Georgia Florida & LSU Louisiana & Texas Arizona State & Kentucky https://t.co/l956vA1n8N

Iowa State's ranking of No. 8 in the coaches poll was its highest position on the list since 1991. On the AP poll, it sits at No. 7, indisputably a Top 10 program, as Ben Visser of the Cedar Rapids Gazette noted. 

Ben Visser @BenVisser43

Iowa State checks in at No. 7 in the AP Poll. The Cyclones are undisputedly a preseason top-10 team (they were No. 8 in the coaches poll) . https://t.co/VPx9MmP4pX

As Pete Byrne, a sports director for CBS and Fox in South Bend, Indiana, pointed out, Notre Dame has a difficult schedule this season; four of its opponents are in the Top 15. 

Pete Byrne WSBT @PeteByrneSports

#NotreDame starts the season ranked 9th in the AP Poll. ND opponents Cincinnati(8), North Carolina (10), Wisconsin (12) &USC (15) all in the Top 15. Indiana begins 17th. Full poll here: https://t.co/iWrPNXuEqq

With the caveat that the AP poll is "largely meaningless," Bryan Ives nevertheless noted that Clemson is ranked in the AP Top Five for the 57th straight week, which approaches a record:

Bryan Ives @awaytoworthy

Remember, AP Polls are largely meaningless. However, a note or two on the three ranked ACC teams. No. 3 Clemson is ranked in the AP top-5 for the 57th straight week. That is 39 weeks longer than any other active streak (Alabama, 18) and 11 shy of the record (Alabama, 68) (1/3)

The sports writers and broadcasters who vote in the AP poll were cooler on UCF than the coaches who vote in the coaches poll; the program received 29 votes in the latter but just five in the former. 

Jason Beede @therealBeede

Like the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, #UCF is receiving votes in the 2021 preseason AP Top 25 Poll. After receiving 29 votes in the Coaches Poll, the Knights only get 5 votes in the AP Poll. The full poll: https://t.co/ra66nv0yaM https://t.co/c7mRlU9xsi

In all, the balance of power seemed to be less obvious to the voters of the AP poll than to the coaches. As The Athletic's Chris Vannini pointed out, five teams received first-place votes in the AP: Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia. (Alabama, of course, had far and away the most, with 47. The next highest were Oklahoma and Clemson, tied with six.)

In the coaches poll, only two teams received first-place votes. 

Chris Vannini @ChrisVannini

The AP Poll is out. Five teams receiving first-place votes compared to two in the Coaches Poll. https://t.co/oX8DziVNhU https://t.co/AL6JNXPBfI

Even though power is shifting in NCAA football, and even though some worry that Alabama's high-profile departures could weaken the team, the Crimson Tide is used to being on top. As Chris Fallica noted, this marks the 100th week under Nick Saban that the Tide has been No. 1 in the AP poll.

Chris Fallica @chrisfallica

If, as expected, Alabama is No. 1 in the Preseason AP Poll, it will mark the 100th week under Nick Saban that the Tide has been ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll.

The top five of the AP poll will be delightful to watch ebb and flow during this college football season.