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

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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.

ECU transfer QB Kurt Benkert moves on to Virginia

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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On April 25, East Carolina announced that Kurt Benkert had decided to transfer out of the Pirates football program.  Less than a week later, the quarterback has found himself a new football home.

On Twitter Sunday afternoon, Benkert confirmed that he will be enrolling at Virginia and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Cavaliers.  Beckert also acknowledged his decision in a text message to 247Sports.com.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Beckert said in a portion of the brief text.

As Beckert is headed to UVa. as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Hoos immediately in 2016.  Not only that, but he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Beckert was named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, but sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  In Charlottesville, Beckert will join a competition that includes returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

Mark Richt continues to be the classiest of acts in college football

Mark Richt gestures after being introduced as the new University of Miami NCAA college football head coach, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015,  in Coral Gables, Fla.  (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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In my seven-plus years at CFT, I’ve never been shy in expressing my absolute and utter respect for Mark Richt, whether it was for an honorable against-the-grain stance on transfers or honoring a high school football player who tragically drowned before he could become a walk-on at Georgia or myriad other things.  Sunday, Richt solidified that respect.

As you may know, Richt and UGA parted ways this offseason, with the head coach ultimately moving on to Miami to take over his alma mater’s football program.  As expected, his departure from Athens was classy.

Just as expected, one of Richt’s returns to his old stomping grounds further showed his class.

Not to be outdone, Richt’s replacement showed his class as well.

Bravo to both head coaches.  Sometimes, most times, being classy is the absolute right move — even as Richt’s successor could take some lessons from his predecessor when it comes to transfers.

Ohio State draftees to sign contracts worth in excess of $110 million

Urban Meyer
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Forget about going shirtless at a satellite camp or a sleepover or climbing up a tree or any of the like; this is what you call a recruiting pitch.

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, a dozen former Ohio State Buckeyes were drafted.  While OSU failed to break its own record for most picks in a single draft, the 12 selections in the first four rounds were the most ever.

And, not surprisingly, those players are going to get paid.

According to PennLive.com‘s David Jones, those players will sign contracts that could be worth a total of $120 million.  Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch has the number pegged slightly lower at $111,462,707.  Either way, that’s a lot of cash — and a lot dollar signs for Urban Meyer to flout in front of potential recruits.

Of course, not all of that money is guaranteed, although the guaranteed dollars involved aren’t too shabby either.  From the Dispatch:

Just the signing bonuses alone, which range from Bosa’s projected $17,017,226 to Jones’ $383,393, have an expected total of $60,526,660. Unless a player does something to cause his contract to be voided, signing bonuses are theirs to keep.

Regardless of how you spin it, former Buckeyes did quite well financially the last couple of days.  And, as Jones alludes to when it comes to James Franklin and Penn State specifically and the Big Ten in general, Meyer and the Buckeyes are in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the conference — a fact that will no doubt come up on the vast expanses of the recruiting trail.

The good news for Franklin and Penn State: They had three of those 11. The bad news for them and everyone else in the league: Urban Meyer is probably preparing a recruiting flyer right now with a 9-figure dollar amount printed in big bold numbers.

Veteran NFL assistant reportedly to fill Alabama’s coaching vacancy

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Buffalo Bills
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On the same day some details emerged on an Alabama assistant’s “resignation,” that assistant’s potential replacement has been identified.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Karl Dunbar is expected to be hired as the Tide’s new defensive line coach.  Dunbar would replace Bo Davis, who “resigned” Friday amidst allegations of potential NCAA violations.

Dunbar served as Nick Saban‘s strength & conditioning coach at LSU from 2001-02, and then returned to Baton Rouge as Les Miles‘ line coach in 2005 after spending two years (2003-04) in the same position at Oklahoma State.

Most of Dunbar’s coaching career, though, especially recently, has come at the NFL level.

From 2006-11, Dunbar was the line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and then held the same job with the New York Jets from 2012-2014.  Hired by Rex Ryan to coach the Buffalo Bills’ line in 2015, Dunbar was fired in March of this year.

Dunbar is a former NFL defensive lineman who played for Arizona in 1994-95, when Ryan was one of his Cardinals assistant.