Ge­or­gia starts football sea­son ranked fifth

The Covington News - - SPORTS - RALPH RUS­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW YORK — Alabama will be­gin this sea­son the way it ended the last two — No. 1.

Nick Sa­ban's two-time de­fend­ing national cham­pi­ons are top-ranked in The As­so­ci­ated Press pre­sea­son col­lege football poll, with the Crim­son Tide try­ing to be­come the first team to win three straight national ti­tles.

Much like the BCS cham­pi­onship game against Notre Dame, the vote was an Alabama land­slide. The Tide re­ceived 58 of 60 first-place votes from the me­dia panel Satur­day to eas­ily out­dis­tance No. 2 Ohio State. Alabama matched Florida in 2009 for the high­est per­cent­age of first-place votes re­ceived in the 63-year his­tory of the pre­sea­son rank­ings.

The Buck­eyes re­ceived one first-place vote.

Ore­gon is No. 3, fol­lowed by Stan­ford and Ge­or­gia, which re­ceived the other first-place vote.

Notre Dame, com­ing off a 42-14 loss in the BCS cham­pi­onship game to Alabama, is No. 14.

Alabama won its record ninth AP national cham­pi­onship last sea­son, third BCS ti­tle in the last four years un­der Sa­ban, and be­came the first team to win back-to-back BCS cham­pi­onships.

The Tide is AP pre­sea­son No. 1 for the fourth time, and first since 2010. Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the pre­sea­son poll each of the last two sea­sons. The only time has Alabama started and fin­ished No. 1 was 1978, when Bear Bryant led the Crim­son Tide to the fourth of its five national cham­pi­onships with him as coach.

Now Sa­ban's Tide is try­ing to ac­com­plish some­thing Bear's boys never could. Twice Alabama won back-to-back cham­pi­onships un­der Bryant, but couldn't get the third.

Sa­ban is hop­ing se­nior stars such as quar­ter­back AJ McCar­ron, line­backer C.J. Mosley, de­fen­sive end Ed Stinson and guard An­thony Steen have enough mem­o­ries of what went wrong for the 2010 Alabama team to avoid it hap­pen­ing in 2013.

"You're in a po­si­tion here where we have a lot of play­ers that re­ally haven't lost much," Sa­ban said ear­lier this week. "They have to re­ally want to be good for the sake of be­ing good.

Alabama is 49-5 over the past four sea­sons, with three of those losses com­ing in '10.

"Most other teams are out there say­ing we've got some­thing to prove," Sa­ban said. "Well, this team has some­thing to prove. It's a lot more dif­fi­cult not to be a lit­tle bit com­pla­cent, not to keep the same ac­count­abil­ity to be­ing suc­cess­ful that's nec­es­sary. You've got to chal­lenge your­self ev­ery day. You've got to chal­lenge each other."

Since the poll started in 1936, 10 times has a school has won con­sec­u­tive AP cham­pi­onships.

The Tide's task: com­plete the hat trick.

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