GAINESVILLE — Two weeks after Florida was voted No. 1 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll, the Gators find themselves atop another major poll.
Florida is No. 1 in the Associated Press poll released on Saturday morning, receiving 58 of 60 first place votes (96.7 percent) — the most overwhelming preseason No. 1 in the history of the AP poll, which dates to 1950.
The previous highest percentage of first-place votes in the AP preseason poll was 95.4 percent for Southern Cal in 2007. The Trojans failed to win the title that year.
It is the first preseason No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for Florida since 2001 — only the second (1994) in school history.
No. 2 Texas received two first place votes. The remainder of the Top 10 is rounded out by No. 3 Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Alabama, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, Oklahoma State and Penn State (who are tied at No. 9).
The No. 1 ranking makes the Gators public enemy No. 1 for their opponents, but Florida coach Urban Meyer said it's not much different from other years. Handling the pressure that goes with being No. 1 is one of the major topics Meyer's multiple guest speakers have addressed with the team.
"Everybody has done it a little bit," Meyer said. "Lou Holtz hit it real hard. And with all due respect, since we've been here we're kind of hunted. I think (former coach Steve) Spurrier started that back in the '90s, the Gators are always the hunted. But this will be maybe a little different."
Florida knows the No. 1 ranking can be a heavy burden. The defending national champion Gators will try to become the first team since Southern Cal in 2004 to begin the season ranked No. 1 and end the season on top. Florida State is the only other team to go wire-to-wire in a season; the Seminoles did it in 1999.
Florida's players realize that now everyone will be out to get the Gators.
"Oh yeah, we know," junior offensive lineman Mike Pouncey said. "That makes us go out there and play harder and practice harder."
The only other state team to make it into the poll is No. 18 Florida State, which returned to the preseason poll after a one-year hiatus. The Seminoles were not in the AP preseason Top 25 last year for the first time since 1982.
Florida State finished 9-4 and ranked No. 21 in the final AP poll last season.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3389.