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Alabama No. 1 again in preseason AP top 25 poll

Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press top 25 poll released Monday, becoming just the second team to ever begin a season at the top three straight years. Only Oklahoma (1985-87) had pulled off that feat until the Crimson Tide, which received 42 of 61 first-place votes.

Clemson, which garnered 18 first-place votes, came in at No. 2. Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Washington, Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn and Penn State rounded out the top 10, respectively. The Badgers received one first-place vote.

Five SEC teams begin the season ranked, matching the Big Ten for the most of any conference. Mississippi State starts at No. 18, its highest preseason ranking since 1981, while LSU rounded out the poll at No. 25.

Central Florida, the highest-ranked non-Power Five program, begins the season at No. 21 after being the nation’s only undefeated team last season, which resulted in the school claiming a national championship after its Peach Bowl upset of Auburn. No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 Notre Dame, No. 13 Stanford, No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 USC, No. 16 TCU, No. 17 West Virginia, No. 19 Florida State, No. 20 Virginia Tech, No. 22 Boise State, No. 23 Texas and No. 24 Oregon also made an appearance in the poll.

They’re all chasing Alabama, which is coming off its second national championship in three seasons and its fifth under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide has its usual cast of contributors it lost to the NFL Draft — Alabama set a school record with 12 draft picks this year — but has a proven track record under Saban of plugging and playing with a roster full of blue-chip recruits without much of a dropoff. The Crimson Tide haven’t won fewer than 11 games since 2010 and have either shared or outright won the SEC West championship each of the past six seasons.

The biggest question for Alabama is who starts at quarterback? Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa emerged late last season after coming on at halftime of the national championship game and igniting a rally that ended with a walk-off touchdown pass to lift the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia. Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts, who will be a junior this season, has led the Crimson Tide to two straight national title game appearances and is 26-2 as a starter.