NCAA

No. 1 Alabama tops preseason Top 25; Clemson, Georgia next

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No. 1 Alabama tops preseason Top 25; Clemson, Georgia next

Alabama will begin its quest for a second consecutive national championship with a rare three-peat.

The Crimson Tide is just the second team to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll for three straight seasons. Alabama received 42 out of 61 first-place votes.

No. 2 Clemson received 18 first-place votes. Georgia is No. 3 and Wisconsin is fourth. The Badgers received one first-place vote. Ohio State was ranked No. 5.

The preseason AP poll started in 1950 and since then only Oklahoma from 1985-87 had started No. 1 in three straight years until now.

Ring up another milestone for coach Nick Saban's Tide dynasty. Alabama has won five national championships since 2009 and now has been No. 1 to start the season five times under Saban. Last season was the first time Saban's team started and finished the season No. 1.

The Tide enter this season with a question at quarterback, but there appears to be two good answers from which Saban has to choose: Tua Tagovailoa won the College Football Playoff championship game for Alabama with a second-half comeback and overtime touchdown pass. Jalen Hurts has led the Tide to the national title game in each of his two seasons as a starter.

Whoever is quarterback, Alabama's offense should be potent with running back Damien Harris working behind a powerful line anchored by tackle Jonah Williams.

The Tide's always tough defense will have all new starters in the secondary, but defensive end Raekwon Davis and linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses are primed to be Alabama's next All-Americans.

The machine never stops in Tuscaloosa. One again, everybody is chasing Alabama.

NO. 1 AT BEING NO. 1

The AP poll began in 1936 and Alabama is approaching the top of a very storied list:

Ohio State -- 105 weeks at No. 1

Alabama -- 104

Oklahoma -- 101

Notre Dame -- 98

Southern California -- 91

Florida State -- 72

Nebraska -- 70

PRESEASON FAVORITES

This is Alabama's seventh time overall being a preseason No. 1, matching USC for fourth most.

Oklahoma -- 10 preseason No. 1 rankings

Ohio State -- 8

Alabama -- 7

USC -- 7

Florida State 6

Nebraska -- 6

THE OTHER CHAMPS

Central Florida was the only team in the country to go undefeated last season and -- you might have heard -- the school decided to declare the Knights national champions because why not? This is college football and nobody is really in charge.

UCF is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time to the start the season, coming in 21st in the preseason poll. The Knights are the highest-ranked team not in a Power Five conference, one spot ahead of Boise State from the Mountain West. If that ranking after going unbeaten seems unusually low, it is but it is not unprecedented. In the CFP/BCS era (1998-present), 19 teams have had unbeaten seasons. Three of those teams -- 1998 Tulane, 1999 Marshall, 2004 Utah -- were unranked in the preseason poll the next season. Not surprisingly, all those teams played outside of what were then called BCS automatic qualifying conferences. Five other teams were ranked outside the top 10, including three from outside BCS-auto bid leagues. Boise State in 2007 was No. 24 in the preseason. Utah in 2009 started 19th. TCU began 2011 at No. 14.

The only so-called power conference team to go unbeaten in the BCS/CFP era and be ranked similarly low the next season was Auburn -- twice. After going 13-0 in 2004, the Tigers started 2005 ranked 16th. After Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national title, the Newton-less Tigers were ranked No. 23 to begin 2011.

BUCKEYE QUESTIONS

Urban Meyer's uncertain status as Ohio State coach cost the Buckeyes some points in the AP poll, and probably at least one rankings spot.

The AP asked voters whether Meyer being on administrative leave as Ohio State investigates what he knew about domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach influenced how they voted in the preseason poll. Thirteen voters responded saying the uncertainty caused them to move Ohio State down.

"It's hard not to bump Ohio State down a tick," said Andy Greder of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press. "It's an undoubted distraction. I feel like going through fall camp without your head coach only adds to it. I gave Wisconsin a corresponding slight bump up."

Ohio State had 1,256 points, 15 behind Wisconsin (1,271). No. 3 Georgia had 1,350 points.

The deadline for voters to submit preseason ballots was Aug. 13. The AP allowed voters to adjust their votes if any major news happened in college football from the deadline until Aug. 15 at noon ET.

NOTABLE

-- No. 2 Clemson matched its best preseason ranking. The Tigers were No. 2 in 2016 and went on to win the national championship.

-- No. 4 Wisconsin has its best preseason ranking since 2000, when it was also No. 4. The Badgers also had one first-place vote that year.

-- No. 5 Ohio State is making it 30th straight appearance in the preseason rankings (1989-2018). Only Penn State (34) and Nebraska (33) have had longer streaks.

-- No. 6 Washington has its best preseason ranking since 1997, when the Huskies were No. 4.

-- No. 8 Miami has its best preseason ranking since being No. 6 to start the 2004 season.

-- No. 18 Mississippi State has its best preseason ranking since 1981, when the Bulldogs were No. 14.

CONFERENCE CALL

Big Ten -- 5 (all top 15)

SEC -- 5 (3 top 10)

ACC -- 4

Big 12 -- 4

Pac-12 -- 4

American -- 1

Mountain West -- 1

Independent -- 1

No. 13 Virginia Tech upset by winless Old Dominion, backup QB

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No. 13 Virginia Tech upset by winless Old Dominion, backup QB

NORFOLK, Va. -- This was supposed to be a relatively easy road trip for Virginia Tech. Cross the state, connect with some its fans and maybe a few recruits there, and pick up a routine victory against Old Dominion.

The Monarchs and their backup quarterback turned the Hokies first visit to their stadium into maybe the most notable victory in school history -- in any sport.

Blake LaRussa came off the bench to throw for 495 yards and four touchdowns to lead Old Dominion to a 49-35 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech on Saturday in the Hokies' first game at the cross-state school that restarted its football program in 2009.

LaRussa, who entered the game on ODU's second series, completed 30 of 49 and rushed for a touchdown to lead the 28-point underdog Monarchs (1-3) to a stunning win over the Hokies (2-1) from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Tech started the season with a decisive victory as an underdog against Florida State and now the Hokies are on the receiving end of what will likely be one of the biggest upsets of the season.

"I told them, `I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible,'" Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said about his team. "When everybody told you you didn't have any chance in that first game, and all you did was work your tails off.' And then now we get all feeling good about ourselves and we got brought back down to earth. We got what we deserved."

Jeremy Cox's 40-yard touchdown run with 1:34 remaining sealed the stunner. After the game, the ODU faithful stormed the field.

Longtime ODU coach Bobby Wilder called it "one of the biggest moments in Hampton Roads sports history."

Virginia Tech beat ODU 38-0 in Blacksburg last year. This was the second meeting of a scheduled 13 over 14 seasons, including six in Norfolk.

The Hokies led 28-21 after a 72-yard touchdown pass from Josh Jackson to Damon Hazelton with 32 seconds left in the third quarter, but ODU scored on its next two possessions, taking a 35-28 lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by Cox with 9:57 to go - the Monarchs' first lead of the game.

Things got worse for Virginia Tech, as Jackson went down with a lower leg injury on the first play of the ensuing drive. Backup quarterback Ryan Willis led the Hokies on a 75-yard march that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cunningham with 7:15 remaining, tying the game at 35.

But the Hokies simply had no answer for ODU. LaRussa polished off a 75-yard drive with a beautiful 29-yard fade pattern to Jonathan Duhart for a touchdown with 5:11 left that put ODU ahead to stay.

"At night when you dream about this game, this is what you picture," Monarchs wide receiver Travis Fulgham said.

Led by LaRussa and Cox, ODU finished with 632 yards against a Virginia Tech team that has prided itself on defense for decades under coordinator Bud Foster. Cox rushed for 130 yards.

"Very disappointed in how we competed," Foster said. "I just didn't think we competed for balls. We played just poor technique. We weren't ready to play is the bottom line and I take full responsibility for that."

Steven Peoples paced the Hokies with a career-high 156 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Jackson threw two touchdown passes before leaving with the injury. Fuente did not have an immediate update on Jackson's condition.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia Tech: The Hokies looked flat coming off an unscheduled open week courtesy of Hurricane Florence, which forced last Saturday's cancellation of Virginia Tech's game against East Carolina. The Hokies' defense looked nothing like the unit that had given up just 20 points combined in the first two games.

Foster will have to shore up a banged-up secondary as Tech heads into ACC play.

ODU: The Monarch appear to have found a leader in LaRussa, who came into the game with 183 yards passing as a reserve, but surpassed that in the first half. The 5-foot-11 LaRussa showed uncanny accuracy against Virginia Tech's man coverage, taking advantage of the 6-foot-3 Duhart and 6-3 Travis Fulgham (188 yards). He may just be the spark the Monarchs needed after getting off to a dismal 0-3 start that included losses to Liberty, FIU and Charlotte.

UNDISCIPLINED HOKIES

Frustrations boiled over at several points throughout the second half for the Hokies, who ended up being penalized seven times for 95 yards. The cluster of penalties included four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which drew the ire of Fuente.

"It's inexcusable," Fuente said. "What happened was we got in the middle of a real game - a real competitive game and things weren't going our way, and that's how we responded. And that's inexcusable.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Virginia Tech could very likely be unranked on Sunday when the new AP poll is released.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: The Hokies open ACC play next Saturday when they take on Duke in Durham, North Carolina.

ODU: The Monarchs travel to East Carolina.

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College football AP Top 25 Poll: LSU soars, Virginia Tech stays put

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College football AP Top 25 Poll: LSU soars, Virginia Tech stays put

LSU surged to No. 6 in The Associated Press college football poll after its second victory of September against a highly ranked team, and Wisconsin tumbled to No. 18 after becoming the first top-10 team to be upset by an unranked team.

Top-ranked Alabama strengthened its hold on No. 1 on Sunday , receiving a season-high 58 first-place votes from the media panel. Clemson slipped out of the No. 2 spot for the first time this season. Georgia moved up a spot to second behind the Crimson Tide, giving the Southeastern Conference the top two teams in the ranking. Clemson is third with three first-place votes, followed by No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Oklahoma.

LSU has now gone from No. 25 to start the season to No. 6 in three weeks.

The Tigers beat Miami, the preseason No. 8, in Week 1 in Arlington, Texas, and then knocked off Auburn on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn slipped from No. 7 to No. 9.

Wisconsin's loss to BYU was Saturday's most surprising result. The Badgers were three-touchdown favorites but missed a last-second field goal to tie and lost 24-21 in Madison. The Big Ten had five teams in the top 14 to begin the seasons and three (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin) have already lost.

BYU's reward was being ranked No. 25.

PAC-12 SLOP

The Big Ten drew a lot of attention for having a rough Saturday, with half the league losing nonconference games. The Pac-12, more specifically the Pac-12 South, also had a rough one -- though much of the damage was done after a lot of East of the Mississippi bedtimes.

Southern California fell out of the ranking after its second straight loss, a thumping at Texas. The Trojans have now been outscored 54-17 the last two weeks. Arizona State also fell from the ranking when it could not back up its nice home win against Michigan State, losing at San Diego State.

Within the conference, Utah was beaten at home by Pac-12 North power No. 10 Washington, thwarting the Utes' chances of being ranked. UCLA dropped to 0-3 under Chip Kelly and Arizona finally managed to get coach Kevin Sumlin a victory -- by beating Southern Utah of the FCS.

Colorado is the lone unbeaten Pac-12 South team. Looks bleak, but just two seasons ago the landscape was similar for the division. After opening-week losses by USC and UCLA to start 2016, the Pac-12 South had no ranked teams. Ultimately, Colorado, the eventual Pac-12 South champ, and Utah moved into the ranking and finished in the Top 25. USC made a late-season surge behind Sam Darnold, too.

UP

The other big mover in the right direction this week was Oklahoma State. The Cowboys jumped nine spots to No. 15 after an impressive 44-21 victory against Boise State, which tumbled out of the rankings after being No. 17.

Oklahoma State began the season unranked after being ranked at the end of the last three seasons.

IN

Three teams moved into the ranking for the first time this season, with Boston College making its return to the Top 25 for the first time since 2008.

The Eagles beat Wake Forest on Thursday night to improve to 3-0 behind a dynamic offense led by running back A.J. Dillon and blossoming quarterback Anthony Brown. BC has not won more than seven games since 2009. The 2008 team won nine and the ACC Atlantic Division but was last ranked on Nov. 30 of that year.

-- No. 22 Texas A&M is ranked for the first time since November 2016.

-- No. 25 BYU is ranked for the first time since September 2015.

CONFERENCE CALL

The SEC has the top two teams in the AP poll for the 23rd time since 2006. Alabama was either No. 1 or 2 in all of those. The conference with the next most 1-2 appearances in the poll since 2006 is the Big Ten with eight.

SEC -- 6.

Big Ten -- 5.

Big 12 -- 4.

ACC -- 4.

Pac-12 -- 3.

Independent -- 2.

American -- 1.

Week 4 College Football AP Top 25

1. Alabama 3-0 (58 votes, no change from last week)

2. Georgia 3-0 (No. 3 last week)

3. Clemson 3-0 (3 votes, No. 2 last week)

4. Ohio State 3-0 (No change from last week)

5. Oklahoma 3-0 (No change from last week)

6. LSU 3-0 (No. 12 last week)

7. Stanford 3-0 (No. 9 last week)

8. Notre Dame 3-0 (No change from last week)

9. Auburn 2-1 (No. 7 last week)

T-10. Penn State 3-0 (No. 11 last week)

T-10. Washington 2-1 (No change from last week)

12. West Virginia 2-0 (No. 14 last week)

13. Virginia Tech 2-0 (No change from last week)

14. Mississippi State 3-0 (No. 16 last week)

15. Oklahoma State 3-0 (No. 24 last week)

16. UCF 2-0 (No. 18 last week)

17. TCU 2-1 (No. 15 last week)

18. Wisconsin 2-1 (No. 6 last week)

19. Michigan 2-1 (No change from last week)

20. Oregon 3-0 (No change from last week)

21. Miami 2-1 (No change from last week)

22. Texas A&M 2-1 (Not ranked last week)

23. Boston College 3-0 (Not ranked last week)

24. Michigan State 1-1 (No. 25 last week)

25. BYU 2-1 (Not ranked last week)

Dropped from the rankings: Boise State, USC, Arizona State

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