Alabama will also be trying to run the Southeastern Conference’s streak of national championships to eight. For the second straight year, half the top 10 teams to start the season are from the SEC. Joining Alabama and Georgia are South Carolina at No. 6, Texas A&M at No. 7 and Florida at No. 10.
The Tide and Aggies meet Sept. 14 in College Station, Texas. A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel handed Alabama its only loss last year. Whether Manziel will be eligible for the rematch remains in question while the NCAA investigates the Aggies’ quarterback. ESPN has reported Manziel is under investigation for being paid to sign autographs.
No. 8 Clemson and No. 9 Louisville, led by two other Heisman-contender quarterbacks, round out the top 10. Tajh Boyd and Clemson take on Georgia at home in Week 1 and are the favorites to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are the heavy favorites to get back to the BCS for the second straight year out of the newly renamed American Athletic Conference.
McCarron also makes most of the preseason Heisman contender lists. He passed for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with only three interceptions last season. Now in his third season as a starter, McCarron is the face of the Tide.
“Last year there were other people on the offense that had a lot of leadership qualities about them. So it really wasn’t quite as important for (McCarron) to always be that guy, even though his position lends itself to that,” Saban said. “I think that’s a role he can be very good at and it will be important for our team that he is good at it.”
The second 10 in the preseason rankings starts with No. 11 Florida State. No. 12 LSU gives the SEC six teams in the rankings, more than any other conference. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both have five.
The Big 12 has four teams ranked, all between Nos. 13-20, starting with Oklahoma State. Texas is No. 15, Oklahoma is No. 16 and TCU is No. 20.
Michigan is No. 17 and Big Ten rival Nebraska is No. 18.
Boise State is No. 19, the only team from a BCS non-automatic qualifying conference to make the preseason rankings.
The final five are No. 21 UCLA from the Pac-12; No. 22 Northwestern and No. 23 Wisconsin from the Big Ten; last year’s preseason No. 1 Southern California is No. 24; and Oregon State from the Pac-12 at No. 25.