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UF No. 4, Tide tops in AP poll

Alabama running back Mark Ingram, center, and his Crimson Tide teammates start 2010 where they ended 2009, at No. 1.

Associated Press

Alabama running back Mark Ingram, center, and his Crimson Tide teammates start 2010 where they ended 2009, at No. 1.

Apparently neither the nation's coaches nor sports writers are buying the notion that Florida is in a rebuilding year.

The Gators have a quarterback that has never started and an unproven receiving corps, and are trying to replace key starters on defense, but none of that seems to matter to poll voters.

Florida is No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason poll, released Saturday.

UF is looking up at one of its biggest rivals. Defending national and SEC champion Alabama is No. 1 in voting by a panel of 60 media members.

The Gators are the highest-ranked state team, and one of three in the top 25. Miami, which has eight starters returning on defense, is ranked 13th in its first appearance in the preseason poll since 2006, when the Hurricanes were 12th. Florida State, in its first season under coach Jimbo Fisher, is ranked 20th. USF did not receive any poll votes.

For the Gators, their spot does not matter right now.

"That means absolutely nothing, because we've still got to play the season,'' senior defensive end Justin Trattou said. "What we do during the season is going to determine our roles.''

Last year the Gators were the defending national champions and opened the season at No. 1.

Alabama, which went 14-0 to win the national title last season, is atop the preseason poll for the first time since 1978. The Tide received 54 of 60 first-place votes and 1,491 points to easily outdistance second-ranked Ohio State.

The Buckeyes received three first-place votes and extended their record for most preseason poll appearances to 57 since the first poll in 1950.

Boise State is third, its best preseason ranking, after another undefeated season. Underdogs no more, the Broncos received one first-place vote. They are the only Western Athletic Conference team ranked.

After Florida, which received 1,237 points, No. 5 Texas received one first-place vote. The Longhorns, coming off a loss in the national title game, are the highest-rated Big 12 team.

TCU is sixth, its highest preseason spot and the highest ever for the Mountain West. Rounding out the top 10 are Oklahoma, which received one first-place vote; Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia Tech.

The Hokies, the top ACC team, face Boise State at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, on Labor Day night in the season's first huge game.

As for Alabama, Bear Bryant was coach the last time the Crimson Tide was the Associated Press' preseason No. 1. The Tide started and finished that 1978 season on top of the rankings, the first of two straight national championships for Alabama. The only other time Alabama was preseason No. 1 was 1966, when it was coming off back-to-back national titles.

This Tide team, coached by Nick Saban and led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, will try to make Alabama the first program to win back-to-back Associated Press titles three times. Oklahoma and Nebraska have done it twice.

"What was accomplished by last year's team has nothing to do with this year's team," Saban said. "The players have to understand that. This team has to develop an image, an identity of its own by its performance. What was accomplished last year is just a standard for somebody else to top.

"Complacency is why the mighty fall."

Poll history suggests the odds are against the Tide finishing on top again.

Ten of the 60 preseason No. 1 teams have won the national title. Only two (Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004) have held the top spot for the entire season.

At No. 8, Nebraska has its highest preseason ranking since 2001, when the Cornhuskers started No. 4.

Notable for its absence from the top 10 is USC, which is No. 14. The last time the Trojans started a season outside the top 10 was 2002, Pete Carroll's second season as coach.

The second 10 in the poll starts with Oregon, the defending Pac-10 champion.

Pittsburgh is the highest-ranked of two Big East teams in the poll, at No. 15. West Virginia is No. 25.

The SEC has six ranked teams, the most of any conference. The ACC is second with five.

Times staff writers Antonya English and Greg Auman contributed to this report.

UF No. 4, Tide tops in AP poll 08/21/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 21, 2010 9:14pm]
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