Georgia is finally the preseason No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.
For two consecutive years, our coaches panel voted Alabama into the top preseason ranking only to watch the Bulldogs claim the national championship and No. 1 in the final poll of the season.
Maybe Georgia’s second No. 1 preseason ranking in the 33-year history of USA TODAY adminsitering the coaches poll will be more fruitful than their last.
Georgia topped the 2008 preseason poll only to be leap-frogged by Southern California (sixth in this year’s poll) after their opener. The Bulldogs defeated Georgia Southern by 24 points, but USC blasted Virginia 52-7 on their home turf. Georgia ended the season ranked 10th.
Winning a championship, of course, doesn’t rest on what a panel of 66 head coaches at Football Bowl Subdivision schools say in August, but the outcomes of these past 32 years offer some intriguing insights.
How many preseason No. 1s have finished No. 1
The 2008 Georgia team isn’t alone in falling short of our coaches’ preseason predictions.
Since USA TODAY began its relationship with the poll in the 1991 season, the coaches’ preseason No. 1s have become postseason No. 1s just four times – about 13% of the preseason polls. Only twice have teams held the No. 1 position throughout: Florida State in 1999 and Southern California in 2004.
SEC conference teams lead with most weekly No. 1 rankings
In the 511 coaches’ polls taken since 1991, a Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference team ranked No. 1 in nearly two-thirds of the votes.
Until Georgia’s run in the 2021 season, only 10 schools had double-digit weeks in first place: Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Southern California.
For more than 7½ years (since Nov. 15, 2015), Clemson or an SEC team topped the the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.
After back-to-back titles, Georgia starts at the top
Much of the SEC’s dominance can be linked to the Crimson Tide. Alabama held a weekly No.1 ranking in nearly every season since their 2008 campaign. Since Nov. 2, 2008, they’ve been first in half of the polls.
Still, it’s been the years where they’ve started at No. 2 or lower where they have brought home the national championship trophy and finished atop the coaches’ poll. In the past two seasons, Alabama has started the year ranked No. 1 and fell short of the national title.
That leaves Georgia to try and three-peat and break the five-year streak of preseason No. 1 disappointments.
Where post-season No. 1 teams started
Since the start of the College Football Playoff national championship in 2014, no team ranked 7th or lower in the preseason has won the national championship.
So which teams are likely in the mix this year? Here’s the coaches’ poll top 10.