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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.

Oregon St. assistant Brent Brennan hired as head coach at San Jose St.

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San Jose State athletics
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After a few years away, Brent Brennan is coming back to one of his college coaching homes.

San Jose State announced Wednesday afternoon that the 43-year-old Brennan has been hired as the program’s new head football coach.  Brennan will replace Ron Caragher, who was dismissed late last month after four seasons with the Spartans.

From 2005-2010, Brennan was an assistant at SJSU under both Dick Tomey and Mike MacIntyre.

“We want to recruit high-character young men that are tough and love to play football and also take their academics seriously,” Brennan said. “We’re going to help them grow from young men into men and put a product on the field that anybody who has a connection with Spartan football can be proud of.”

In between stints at SJSU, Brennan spent the 2011-16 seasons at Oregon State.  He coached wide receivers in each of his seasons with the Beavers.

This will be Brennan’s first head-coaching job at any level.

“We are thrilled to have Brent back at San José State. He is an exceptional football coach and one of the most respected recruiters in the country. His coaching background and ties to San José State make Brent a perfect fit,’ athletic director Gene Bleymaier said.

The Spartans went 4-8 in Caragher’s last season.

Oregon makes hiring of Willie Taggart official

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Willie Taggart of the South Florida Bulls during a 3rd quarter timeout against the Florida State Seminoles at Raymond James Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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And now it’s officially official.

Wednesday morning, myriad reports surfaced that Oregon was set to name Willie Taggart as its next head coach.  A few hour later, the Ducks confirmed that they have plucked Taggart from USF to replace the dismissed Mark Helfrich.

Taggart, who will be introduced at a press conference Thursday, will be the first of the 33 head coaches at UO to be African-American.

“We are thrilled to welcome Willie, his wife, Taneshia, their sons, Willie Jr. and Jackson, and their daughter, Morgan,” UO athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement. “Willie places an emphasis on ensuring a positive student-athlete experience and on winning, and his previous stops have proven his success at both. We have a very bright future under his leadership.”

In his fourth season with the Bulls, Taggart has seen his win total increase every year, going from two in his first season in 2013 to four to eight to a 10-win season this year that has another game to go. Taggart won’t this season through, however, as USF announced that co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist has been named as the Bulls’ interim head coach and will guide the team through their preparation for the Birmingham Bowl matchup with South Carolina.

Taggart has also been the head coach at Western Kentucky. After a 2-10 start, he guided the Hilltoppers to a pair of seven-win seasons before leaving for the Bulls.

The 40-year-old assistant also comes to Eugene with experience in the Pac-12, serving as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at North rival Stanford from 2007-09.

“I am grateful for the trust that President Schill and Rob Mullens have put in me to be the next head coach of the Oregon football program, and I thank them for the opportunity,” Taggart said. “Oregon has a strong national presence and a proud recent history of playing among the nation’s elite, and I look forward to the challenge of upholding the excellence. I can’t wait to get started.”

Taggart will be taking over a program that went from winning 13 games and appearing in the first-ever College Football Championship game following the 2014 season to nine wins in 2015 before bottoming out out with a 4-9 campaign in Helfrich’s third and final year at the helm.

LSU DC Dave Aranda becomes highest-paid assistant ever

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When it was revealed that Dave Aranda would likely remain at LSU when Ed Orgeron was named the permanent head coach, it was thought the defensive coordinator could become the highest-paid assistant in college football.  Wednesday, that became a reality.

LSU announced earlier today that Aranda has signed a new three-year contract that runs through March of 2020 and includes the additional title of associate head coach.  The deal will also be worth  total of $5.5 million — $1.8 million in 2017, with bumps to $1.85 million and $1.9 million the last two years of the deal.

“My family loves Baton Rouge. We are excited to build on what we’ve started. LSU is a special place,” Aranda said in a statement. “Our outstanding student-athletes, the passion of our fans, the first class facilities and the commitment to excellence from the administration makes LSU one of the premier programs in college football and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

The deal still needs the approval of LSU’s Board of Supervisors, although that’s expected to be a mere formality.

The $1.8 million will, at least at the moment, make Aranda the highest-paid assistant coach in the history of college football, trumping the $1,6 million Will Muschamp pulled in as the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2015.  The highest-paid assistants in 2016 were Texas A&M DC John Chavis ($1.56 million), Clemson DC and Broyles Award winner Brent Venables ($1.43 million) and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin ($1.4 million).  Aranda was fourth at $1.315 million per the USA Today salary database.

At the end of the regular season, Aranda’s Tiger defense was sixth nationally in scoring (16.4 points per game) and 13th in total defense (323.0 yards per game).  The former was second in the SEC behind Alabama, the latter third behind ‘Bama and Florida in the conference.

The leader of the Tide defense, Jeremy Pruitt, was 12th in the country in pay at $1 million and will likely be in line for a raise at season’s end.

Michigan’s Jake Butt named Mackey Award TE of the Year

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26:   Jake Butt #88 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Marshon Lattimore #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after catching a pass during the first half of their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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For the second time today, a Michigan Wolverine has taken home a major college football award.

This morning, the Paul Hornung Award announced Jabrill Peppers as its 2016 winner.  Not long after, the John Mackey Award named Peppers’ teammate Jake Butt as the 2016 recipient of its award, handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Butt was a semifinalist for the 2015 award won by Arkansas’ Hunter Henry.  He’s the first Michigan player to win the Mackey.

“It’s a great honor first and foremost, especially for this team,” a statement from Butt began. “One thing Coach [Jim] Harbaugh says, ‘A rising tide raises all ships.’ So it’s great to win this award. I want to thank the guys in this group; this is our award, really it’s not a one-man award. I really thank everyone on this team, this coaching staff, my position coach Jay Harbaugh, my family and everyone that’s helped me achieve this great award. I’m really appreciative of that.”

Butt’s 3.6 receptions per game tied for 10th amongst tight ends.  he was one of three finalists for the award, and was joined by Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.