Jon Wilner’s preseason top-25 poll: Alabama at No. 1, with Notre Dame and Utah lurking

The following poll was submitted to the Associated Press final week and shall be up to date with every group’s rating when the preseason ballot is launched Aug. 15.

During the season, my poll shall be revealed on the Hotline every Sunday morning.

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Also thought-about (alphabetical): Air Force, Boise State, Coastal Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Northern Illinois, Penn State, San Diego State, Tennessee, Texas, UCF, Utah State, UTSA and Washington State

1. Alabama: The schedule features a Week Two go to to Texas and tough league journeys to Arkansas and Ole Miss. But there’s no date with Georgia — at the least till linebacker Will Anderson and a stellar Tide protection suffocate the Bulldogs within the SEC championship sport on the best way to yet one more nationwide title for Nick Saban.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes introduced in mastermind Jim Knowles, previously of Oklahoma State, to solidify a wobbly protection. Even marginal enchancment shall be sufficient to contend for the playoff given the firepower on the opposite facet of scrimmage. Of word: OSU opens the season at residence towards Notre Dame, which final visited Columbus in 1995.

3. Georgia: There was nothing one-hit about Georgia’s success final yr — this system has received at the least 11 video games in every of the previous 4 non-COVID seasons. But returning to the 2021 heights shall be terribly tough with an overhauled protection and a special dynamic: For the primary time since 1980, the Dawgs are the hunted.

4. Notre Dame: New coach Marcus Freeman inherits a stocked roster from Brian Kelly however faces a tough schedule: It begins with a visit to Ohio State, ends with a go to to USC and contains Clemson (residence) and BYU (in Las Vegas). If the Irish can survive with one loss, a playoff berth awaits.

5. Utah: Expectations are increased than ever following the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl thriller. The Utes return quarterback Cam Rising, tailback Tavion Thomas, veteran strains and a gifted secondary. Win the opener at Florida (7 p.m. ET kickoff), and the playoff hunt awaits.

6. Texas A&M: Is this the yr the Aggies break by way of within the SEC West? Nope. The schedule is just too tough, and the beginning 22 is just too inexperienced. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s stellar recruiting lessons want a tad extra seasoning earlier than A&M is able to unseat Alabama.

7. Oklahoma: A brand new head coach (Brent Venables) and new quarterback (Dillon Gabriel, from UCF) start a brand new period in Norman. But we venture a well-known ending: With the Sooners because the final group standing in what must be a aggressive, entertaining Big 12 race.

8. Michigan: The defending Big Ten champions — not a phrase typically connected to the Wolverines — have a comfortable non-conference schedule, manageable league lineup (no Wisconsin) and veteran offense, all of which ought to translate to at the least 9 wins … however not one other convention title.

9. Clemson: Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled final season and should play to the extent of his Southern California friends at Alabama (Bryce Young) and Ohio State (CJ Stroud) to ensure that the Tigers to return to the playoff stage. An early-November journey to South Bend looms giant.

10. Cincinnati: The Bearcats should efficiently change quarterback Desmond Ridder and their stellar cornerbacks with a purpose to contend for one more playoff berth. We ought to know early whether or not they’re succesful, because of the opener at Arkansas.

11. USC: Offseason additions on the ability positions have made USC related, however the anticipated soar to nationwide rivalry is determined by the play of the offensive and defensive strains. Count the Hotline as skeptical. Lincoln Riley wants yet another yr of roster retooling earlier than making a critical run on the CFP.

12. Baylor: The Bears improved from 2-7 throughout the COVID season to 12-2 final yr below Dave Aranda, with a Big 12 title in tow. We count on some backsliding this fall, partially due to a schedule that features journeys to BYU, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas.

13. Florida: Our prime sleeper choose, to the extent {that a} program with a number of nationwide titles might be thought-about a sleeper. First-year coach Billy Napier ought to get the Gators rotated shortly, even when a impolite welcome awaits him within the opener towards Utah.

14. Mississippi: Fresh off a 10-win season, the Rebels are positioned to take care of their trajectory below Lane Kiffin. USC switch Jaxson Dart ought to take over for Matt Corral, the protection is stocked with returnees, and the schedule lends itself to at the least eight wins.

15. Houston: The American appears like a three-team race with the Cougars, Cincinnati and UCF. We just like the Bearcats (narrowly) and provides Houston the sting over UCF primarily based on stability at quarterback with returnee Clayton Tune. Next yr, all three will make their Big 12 debuts.

16. Oregon: A stout entrance seven and veteran offensive line are causes to consider rookie coach Dan Lanning can keep the extent of success reached below his predecessor, Mario Cristobal. But the X issue is switch quarterback Bo Nix, whose Auburn profession was a combined bag.

17. Wake Forest: Seven starters return from one of many nation’s greatest offenses, together with quarterback Sam Hartman. Is that sufficient to win the ACC? Not with out some semblance of competence on protection.

18. Pittsburgh: No Kenny Pickett and no Jordan Addison doesn’t imply the Panthers haven’t any likelihood to defend their ACC title. The quest begins with former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, who should play like he did as a freshman, method again in 2019.

19. Oklahoma State: We count on modest regression after the 12-win season, partly due to the rugged league street schedule however largely due to the retooling required on protection following the departure of coordinator Jim Knowles.

20. Brigham Young: The Cougars shall be exhausting pressed to achieve the 10-win mark once more this season after buying and selling gimme wins towards so many Pac-12 opponents for daunting challenges towards the likes of Liberty and Utah Tech.

21. Fresno State: Jeff Tedford is again in cost after a two-year absence; quarterback Jake Haener is again after a visit into the switch portal; and consequently, the Bulldogs must be again atop the Mountain West. Game to look at: Week Three at USC.

22. N.C. State: Don’t ignore the Wolfpack because the potential ACC champion if Clemson leaves the door ajar — we see little distinction between Wake Forest, Pitt, NCSU and even Miami. Bottom line: Every yr head coach Dave Doeren returns is a victory in Raleigh.

23. Wisconsin: Significant attrition on each side of scrimmage and an erratic returning quarterback (Graham Mertz) go away us questioning if the Badgers can return to the 10-win mark that was once an annual prevalence in Madison.

24. Arkansas: After a shocking uptick in coach Sam Pittman’s second yr, the Hogs are properly positioned for one more profitable season. Their chief impediment: The division.

25. UCLA: The schedule is loaded with non-conference cupcakes, options eight residence video games and places an eight- or nine-win season properly inside attain for the Bruins. The protection has been overhauled, which isn’t essentially a nasty factor.

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