The Associated Press college football poll debuted on Sunday, and at first glance, it might look like the SEC has been knocked off its perch.
Ohio State is the first-ever unanimous No. 1, receiving all 61 first-place votes. Both Baylor and TCU are ranked in the top four. And the Big 10, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 have as many teams in the top eight as the SEC.
But look again, and you’ll see that the SEC has still drawn plenty of respect from the pollsters despite a lackluster finish to last season. The conference, which won seven straight national championships from 2006 to 2012, features eight teams in the inaugural AP Top 25, the most of any league in college football.
SEC teams in the AP poll:
3. Alabama (1,322)
6. Auburn (1,192)
9. Georgia (991)
14. LSU (675)
17. Ole Miss (563)
18. Arkansas (410)
24. Missouri (219)
25. Tennessee (114)
Alabama might not have a quarterback yet, but the Crimson Tide find themselves ranked in the preseason top-5 for the seventh straight year under Nick Saban. That’s the third longest streak behind Florida State (11, 1990-2000) and Oklahoma (8, 1974-1981).
Despite losing four of five at the end of last season, Auburn still comes in at No. 6 in the initial poll. That’s what the addition of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp can do. That and having a quarterback like Jeremy Johnson running the offense.
Auburn, along with LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee, all finished with eight or fewer wins last year. Yet, there’s plenty of preseason hype behind all four teams and especially at Arkansas and Tennessee where the Razorbacks and Vols have been tabbed by some as darkhorse contenders in their respective decisions.
Just missing out on the poll were Mississippi State (100) and Texas A&M (61). The Bulldogs return arguably the SEC’s top quarterback in Dak Prescott, and the Aggies are not so different than Auburn -- a high-octane offense and a new high-profile coordinator (John Chavis) to fix the defense.