The Associated Press released their preseason college football poll on Sunday and as expected, Alabama and Clemson lead the way as the nation’s top two teams. The 61 voters did not agree on too much though this season, showing that we could be in for an unpredictable 2016 season. After picking a unanimous preseason number one last season in Ohio State (LOL), the AP gave seven different teams first-place votes. That is the most since 1998 and the first of a few mistakes the poll made this week.
Alabama and Clemson should stand alone.
The two teams that played for a national championship are on top of the poll but five other teams received first-place votes. You can easily make an argument for either team but I find it hard to believe that someone could think Oklahoma (4), Florida State (5), LSU (1), Ohio State (1) and Michigan (1) is better than both Alabama and Clemson. The best argument may be against the depth of the Crimson Tide – if you’re comparing it to last season – but the talent level of the starters is far beyond the rest of the country. Clemson may have questions on defense but the offense returns nine starters, including the nation’s best player in Deshaun Watson. Sure, it’s tough to imagine a championship rematch but this is a preseason poll. It’s about who is best right now, not who will be the best in four months. And that belongs to Alabama and Clemson.
Georgia is not a top-20 team. (Yet.)
This could be to show respect for Nick Chubb or maybe the remains of Mark Richt’s program. However, the Bulldogs have a lot of question marks that do not seem to have answers. If there was any team in the SEC that will become too one-dimensional on offense, it will be Georgia – although, getting rid of Brian Schottenheimer was a good start. The lack of depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage can become a problem, especially for a team in this conference. Kirby Smart will be under a lot of pressure to win immediately but it may be a stretch to think Georgia is the nation’s 18th best team entering this season.
Texas A&M should be in the top 25. And maybe even the top 15.
The Aggies received 81 votes which places them in the 27 spot of the preseason poll. This is a team with Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall, Trevor Knight, Josh Reynolds, Armani Watts and many more star players that could make A&M a team that could push for an SEC or national title. There are questions surrounding depth and, of course, how Kevin Sumlin and his team can handle whatever underlying issues that caused two star quarterbacks to transfer. But this team is probably one of the top seven or eight most talented teams in the country, with only Alabama and LSU being above them in the SEC. Entering the season, the biggest question marks for A&M are on offense but during Sumlin’s four years as head coach, the Aggies have averaged 38 points per game. So I expect the team to have no issues putting up points and the defense is full of playmakers to make this team a threat and at least be a top 25 team.
Is Oklahoma really alone in the Big XII?
The Sooners made the College Football Playoff last season after winning the conference without a championship game. They sit in the third spot of the preseason poll with their four first-place votes and are apparently supposed to run away from the rest of the top-heavy Big XII Conference. TCU sits at 13 in the poll, more than 600 points behind Oklahoma. Transfer quarterback Kenny Hill is set for a great season since he will not have to go against an SEC defense every week and Gary Patterson’s team has a real chance at the conference title. Oklahoma State (21) and Baylor (23) are the other two that made it into the preseason poll. The latter may be a bit overrated with as much talent that was lost over the offseason drama. However, it is the Cowboys that I might peg as the favorites to take the conference crown from their rivals. Quarterback Mason Rudolph is my dark horse for the Heisman Trophy and the Pokes look like they have a good chance at a New Year’s Six bowl. Head coach Charlie Strong will have an improved Texas team in 2016 as well. Oklahoma may still be the favorites for the conference title but the gap is not as big as this preseason poll makes it out to be.
Caleb Turrentine is a columnist and contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.