Alabama, Clemson lead college football preseason coaches poll

The top-ranked teams in any preseason college football rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, as things can change drastically as soon as the first weekend. However, the initial 2021 release for the USA Today coaches poll came on Tuesday, and it’s pretty clear who’s still on top on the NCAA gridiron.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Alabama Crimson Tide earned 63 of 65 first-place votes to open at No. 1, followed by the Clemson Tigers at No. 2. With the remaining two first-place votes, Oklahoma took the third spot, and Ohio State checked in with a top-four spot.

Here’s a full look at the coaches poll’s top 25, compared to Sportsnaut’s own college football rankings, which you can read here:

RankingCoaches Poll’s Top 25 TeamSportsnaut’s Top 25 Team
4Ohio StateLSU
5GeorgiaTexas A&M
6Texas A&MGeorgia
7Notre DameOhio State
8Iowa StateIndiana
9North CarolinaCincinnati
11FloridaIowa State
12OregonNorth Carolina
14USCNotre Dame
16MiamiCoastal Carolina
19TexasOklahoma State
20Penn StateUL Lafayette
22Oklahoma StateWisconsin
23UL LafayetteOregon
24Coastal CarolinaNorthwestern
25Ole MissPenn State

Key takeaways from first coaches poll release of 2021

Key takeaways from first coaches poll release of 2021
Dec 26, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) runs the ball in for a touchdown as Coastal Carolina Chanticleers safety Alex Spillum (10) defends during the second half of the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so not a lot of crazy deviation between the coaches poll and Sportsnaut’s custom top 25 college football rankings, save for a few spots.

Important to note here is that Northwestern was essentially ranked 27th by the coaches poll, as the Wildcats were second in the “Also receiving votes” category, while the Malik Willis-led Liberty Flames were fifth.

As you can see from our latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft and our top 10 college quarterback rankings, Willis is highly regarded as a potential future franchise QB. If he plays up to expectations this year, there’s no reason Liberty can’t be a top-25 team, especially on the heels of a 10-1 campaign last year.

So now that the less significant differences are out of the way, let’s break down the biggest chasms between Sportsnaut and the coaches poll:

  • Oregon ranked No. 24 and 12
  • LSU ranked No. 4 and 13
  • Indiana ranked No. 8 and 17
  • Coastal Carolina ranked No. 16 and 24
  • Notre Dame ranked No. 14 and seventh

The Oregon Ducks at 12th jumps out as way too high. They don’t have a certain QB situation, and other than star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, is there anything else to be legitimately excited about?

Next: Considering how well the Indiana Hoosiers have built up their program in recent years, and the fact that most are overreacting to LSU’s 5-5 mark from a season ago, it seems wise to err on the side of optimism for both teams.

Again, Notre Dame is highly regarded in a preseason poll, and despite top-five finishes in two of the last four years, the Fighting Irish have finished 11th in the other two seasons. They also lost long-tenured QB Ian Book to the NFL, along with multiple starters on the offensive line and three key players on their front seven defensively.

Coastal Carolina was a tremendous surprise in 2020, thanks largely to the play of precocious signal-caller Grayson McCall, whose dual threat skill set helped the Chanticeleers to an undefeated regular season. Their only blemish was a FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl game loss to — let’s bring it full circle — Willis and Liberty.

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