For the first time, the Clemson Tigers are No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25. The Tigers won the program’s second national title in three seasons behind freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in January. Clemson now can claim equal standing with Alabama at the top of the sport.
The Crimson Tide, coming off a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship, is No. 2. Clemson received 52 first-place votes and Alabama received the other 10 from the media. Clemson stops a record-tying string of three straight years in which Alabama was preseason No. 1.
Georgia, Alabama’s SEC rival, is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Ohio State.
Seven Big Ten teams (No. 5 OSU, No. 7 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 19 Wisconsin, No. 20 Iowa, No. 24 Nebraska) are ranked — the most of any conference — plus Northwestern and the Gophers (7) received votes.
Clemson’s rise under coach Dabo Swinney has been uncommon in college football. The school won the national championship in 1981, but mostly it had resided on a tier well below the traditional national powers. Clemson was usually good and sometimes excellent, but never this.
Last season’s championship made Clemson just the 12th school with at least three AP titles since the poll started in 1936.
The Tigers enter 2019 with a 15-game winning streak and eight straight double-digit victory seasons. Since 2015, when they lost the national championship game to Alabama, the Tigers are 55-4.
Nick Saban’s Alabama dynasty, with five national titles in a 10-year span, finally has met its match. The Tide is also 55-4 in the past four seasons.
Clemson and Alabama have split the past four national championships, played in the last four playoffs and are poised to make it five straight. This will be the third time since 2016 the Tigers and Tide have started the season Nos. 1 and 2 in the Top 25. Beginning with 2015, when Alabama and Clemson occupied the top two spots in the last four AP polls of the season, the Tide and Tigers have been Nos. 1 and 2 in some order 22 times.
• No. 24 Nebraska had not been ranked in the preseason since 2014, the program’s longest drought since 1955-59. The ranking also ends a string of 32 straight polls in which Nebraska had not been ranked, dating to the final one of the 2016 season. That is also the longest run of unranked teams the Huskers have had since the late ‘50s.
• No. 21 Iowa State is making its second appearance in the preseason poll. The Cyclones were No. 20 in 1978.