Alabama coach Nick Saban celebrates after the 2013 BCS Championship last season. The Crimson Tide beat Notre Dame 42-14.(Photo: Eileen Blass, USA TODAY Sports)
Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY Sports
The votes are in for the preseason USA TODAY Sports football coaches poll, and it probably won't come as a surprise that Alabama will enter the 2013 season exactly where it ended the last two.
The Crimson Tide were the overwhelming choice for the No.1 ranking, topping 58 of 62 ballots.
"We appreciate the recognition, but preseason polls don't determine who the best teams will be," Alabama coach Nick Saban told USA TODAY Sports. "We aren't entitled to anything, and this team's achievements will be based on what they create with the quality of their play and consistency in performance."
Indeed, another national championship will be a long battle for the Tide if perceptions of the Southeastern Conference are born out. Alabama heads a group of six ranked SEC squads, all in the top 13. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have five ranked teams each.
History is also not on the side of Alabama. The Tide never have won a national title after being preseason No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll. Their titles under Saban came after preseason rankings of fifth, second and second.
Some other notable facts and figures from this poll:
- Alabama owns the longest active streak of appearances at 81 consecutive polls, the last 33 in the top five.
- Alabama's margin of 118 poll points on No. 2 Ohio State is the biggest preseason lead for No. 1 since Southern California's 142-point edge on Texas heading into the 2005 season. That year, those squads held the top spots for the entire campaign and staged an epic BCS finale in the Rose Bowl, where the Longhorns prevailed on Vince Young's end-zone dash.
- Four teams among the top 10 enter 2013 with their highest preseason ranking since USA TODAY Sports took over administration of the coaches poll in 1991. They are No. 4 Stanford, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Clemson and No. 9 Louisville. At No. 3, Oregon matched its best start.
- At No. 16, Oklahoma has its lowest preseason ranking since it started at No. 20 in 2000. That year, the Sooners went on to beat Florida State for the BCS title.
- Virginia Tech, Alabama's opening opponent and tied for sixth in most appearances in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll, is missing from the preseason rankings from the first time since 2004.
Past performance doesn't guarantee future success, as investors - and Saban - like to say, but that still might prove to be good news for the Buckeyes. Ohio State was ineligible for votes in the coaches poll last season while under NCAA sanctions. But three coaches took note of the Buckeyes' 12-0 campaign in 2012 and voted them No. 1. The final No. 1 nod went to Texas A&M, which opens the season ranked sixth, its best start since opening at No. 3 in 1995.
Louisville, the lone ranked team from the newly formed American Athletic Conference, can attribute its lofty expectations to a convincing Sugar Bowl victory against Florida.
"We played very well in that game," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "So now everyone is going to expect you to play each game the way you played in that game. ... So it's about us making sure we maintain our focus. And the preparation has to be there, the commitment has to be there."