Georgia argued -- unsuccessfully -- that it deserved a chance to play for the national championship last season. If the coaches who vote in the USA Today poll are correct, the Bulldogs will win that argument come January.
Coming off an 11-2 season that included a 41-10 thrashing of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl and returning 17 starters, Georgia was selected as the No. 1 team in the USA Today preseason coaches poll released Friday. The Bulldogs received 22 first-place votes and 1,438 points to edge Southern California for the top spot. The Trojans had 14 No. 1 votes and 1,430 points.
"Being No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll does have significance, since it's one-third of the formula to decide who plays in the national championship game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a news release. "But the postseason poll is the one that is the most important.''
Ohio State, which lost to LSU and Florida in the past two BCS championship games, is ranked third. Oklahoma and Florida round out the top five.
LSU is ranked sixth, giving the SEC three of the top six. Missouri, West Virginia, Clemson and Texas complete the top 10.
The Big Ten has four other teams in the top 25 -- Wisconsin at No. 12, Illinois at No. 19, Penn State at No. 22 and Michigan at No. 24.
To reach the BCS title game, Georgia will have to navigate a schedule that includes games against No. 5 Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 11 Auburn, No. 16 Arizona State and No. 18 Tennessee.
Southern Cal and Ohio State will quickly find out if they are national title contenders. They meet Sept. 13 in Los Angeles.
The Associated Press poll will debut Aug. 16.
FROM NEWS SERVICES