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.

Iowa linebacker announces transfer

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been known to have a program that could play some solid defense more often than not, but the depth at linebacker just got a bit more shallow this Memorial Day weekend. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Garbutt has announced he is leaving the program.

“After prayer, consulting with my family and Coach Ferentz, I have made the decision to leave the University of Iowa,” Garbutt announced in a statement on Twitter. “I am thankful for my years as a Hawkeye and will continue to support the franchise.”

Garbutt went on to announce he will make a decision after going through a recruiting process. No timeline for his decision was announced.

Garbutt still has three more years of eligibility remaining, although he has already burned one redshirt year after joining the Class of 2015 at Iowa. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the upcoming 2017 season and lose a year of eligibility in the process. He would be available to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a lower division football program.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.