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Tide a near unanimous No. 1 in preseason AP Top 25 poll


If the headline sounds familiar, there’s a reason.

In addition to being a near unanimous preseason No. 1 team in this year’s USA Today coaches poll, Alabama received all but two first-place votes in this year’s preseason Associated Press top 25 poll. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Tide are overwhelming favorites to get back to the BCS championship game, the final one before the start of College Football Playoff.

It’s the fourth time Alabama has been voted a preseason No. 1 team by the AP. However, only three times in the past 31 years have the AP preseason No. 1 team won a national title (Florida State in 1993 and ’99; USC in 2004).

Ohio State, the team many feel will challenge for a BCS title in 2013, received a No. 2 ranking with one first-place vote. Pac-12 North foes Oregon and Stanford come in a No. 3 and No. 4, and Georgia rounds out the top five with the final first-place vote. South Carolina comes in at No. 6, Texas A&M — currently with Johnny Manziel — ranks at No. 7, Clemson at No. 8, BCS title dark horse Louisville checks in at No. 9, and the Florida Gators finish out at No. 10.

The SEC leads all conferences with six teams in the poll, five of which are in the top 10. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have five teams each, with the Big 12 placing four teams. The ACC has two representatives, while the AAC and Mountain West each have one. And if you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, you’re not (completely) crazy. Nineteen of the teams featured in the AP and USA Today poll are in the exact same spots.

Below is the full top 25 poll with first-place votes in parentheses.

1. Alabama (58)
2. Ohio State (1)
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. Georgia (1)
6. South Carolina
7. Texas A&M
8. Clemson
9. Louisville
10. Florida
11. Florida State
12. LSU
13. Oklahoma State
14. Notre Dame
15. Texas
16. Oklahoma
17. Michigan
18. Nebraska
19. Boise State
20. TCU
21. UCLA
22. Northwestern
23. Wisconsin
24. USC
25. Oregon State

Others receiving votes: Michigan St. 95, Baylor 92, Virginia Tech 86, Miami 85, Arizona St. 53, Kansas St. 43, Fresno St. 36, Vanderbilt 19, Washington 17, Northern Illinois 16, Mississippi 11, Utah St. 8, Georgia Tech 6, Arizona 3, Cincinnati 3, North Carolina 3, Penn St. 2, BYU 1.

Some other notes from this year’s preseason poll:

— Alabama’s 58 first-place votes match Florida in 2009 for the highest percentage in poll history.

— In the past five years, four AP preseason No. 1 teams finished 10th or lower.

— Alabama is No. 1 in an AP poll for the sixth straight year. Since the poll began in 1936, only Miami (1986-92) has accomplished that feat.

— This is the seventh time that Ohio State has been named the No. 2 preseason team in the AP poll.

— Oklahoma State’s No. 13 preseason rank is the lowest a Big 12 team has been ranked to the start the season in conference history. Says something about how wide open the conference looks to be this year.

— Stanford (No. 4), South Carolina (No. 6) and Louisville (No. 9) have their highest AP preseason rankings in history.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press
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Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press
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Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.