Nebraska unseated defending national champion Florida State as the nation’s top-ranked football team in the preseason, while Notre Dame failed to make the top 25 for the first time in 14 years.
The Associated Press Top 25 preseason college football poll was released Saturday, and Nebraska coach Frank Solich was clearly pleased that his Cornhuskers will start the season on top for the sixth time since 1950, when the AP released its first preseason poll.
“We appreciate the fact that enough people think so highly of our program to put us at No. 1,” Solich said. “We finished very strongly at the end of last year and felt we could play with anyone in the country. How it all plays out this year, we’ll see.”
Earning the coveted top spot is a somewhat ominous note for Nebraska fans, however: The Cornhuskers have won four AP national titles since then, but none in years they started No. 1.
One of the Closest Votes
Coming off a strong 12-1 season and No. 3 final ranking, the defending Big 12 champion Huskers received 36 first-place votes and 1,732 points from the 71 sports writers and broadcasters on the AP panel.
The Seminoles, 12-0 last season and the first team to be ranked No. 1 from start to finish, collected 29 first-place votes and 1,720 points. The 12-point difference is one of the closest — the tightest preseason poll was 1994 when Florida edged Notre Dame by two points.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden wanted the top spot for one reason — ”to see how long we could go wire-to-wire and keep it going.
“It’s nice to be No. 2, though. You want to stay visible,” he said. “If you’re in the Top 10, you’re visible. Other than that, it really doesn’t matter until January.”
Where’s Notre Dame?
Conspicuous by its absence is Notre Dame, unranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 1986.
Notre Dame was 5-7 last season, and coach Bob Davie understands why the Irish are not in the rankings.
“But we’ve probably been ranked a few times just on name only when maybe we didn’t deserve to,” he said . “We’re just not going to get all bent out of shape about it.”
Alabama, the defending Southeastern Conference champion, is No. 3 — the Crimson Tide’s highest preseason ranking since a No. 2 start in 1993. The Tide received three first-place votes and 1,570 points.
For a complete list of the rankings, see below.
Big Ten Earns Most Spots
Wisconsin, the two-time Rose Bowl winner and defending Big Ten champion, is No. 4 with its highest preseason ranking. The Badgers had one first-place vote. Texas, ranked No. 7 had two first-place votes.
The Big Ten leads all conferences with seven teams in the preseason Top 25: Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State and Michigan State.
The Southeastern and Big 12 conferences have five each—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi in the SEC, and Nebraska, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Colorado in the Big 12.
Nebraska is in the Top 25 for a record 309th consecutive time, with Florida State second in consecutive polls at 183. Since 1969, the Huskers have failed to be ranked in an AP poll only three times — they’ve been in 483 of the last 486 polls.
Nebraska is led by rugged quarterback Eric Crouch, who threw for 1,269 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for 889 yards and 16 TDs. The offense returns nine starters, and the top three running backs — Dan Alexander, Correll Buckhalter and Dahrran Diedrick — combined for 1,830 yards and 16 TDs. On defense, middle linebacker Carlos Polk leads a crew that replaces six starters.
Florida State’s Chris Weinke is back for a final season, and the 28-year-old quarterback should have a star-studded support staff. Travis Minor, along with Jeff Chaney and Nick Maddox, lead the running backs, and Anquan Boldin has Peter Warrick-type speed and versatility at wide receiver. The defense will be anchored by ends Jamal Reynolds and David Warren.
The first AP regular-season poll will be released Monday, Aug. 28.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.