Football

Alabama will defend title from top spot

Alabama will start this season where it ended last season. The Crimson Tide are on top.

Coach Nick Saban has the Tide rolling the way Bear Bryant did in his day, first in The Associated Press pre-season poll for the first time since 1978.

Alabama received 54 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,491 points to easily outdistance second-ranked Ohio State in the Top 25 released Saturday.

The Buckeyes, who have been ranked no lower than 11th in the last eight preseason polls, received three first-place votes.

Boise State is third, its best pre-season ranking, following another undefeated season. Underdogs no more, the Broncos even received one first-place vote.

Florida, Alabama's Southeastern Conference rival, is fourth. Fifth-ranked Texas received a first-place vote.

The rest of the top 10 has TCU sixth, followed by Oklahoma, which received a first-place vote, Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia Tech.

The 10th-ranked Hokies face Boise State at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, on Labor Day night in the season's first huge game.

Saban's Tide, led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, will try to make Alabama the first program to win back-to-back AP titles three times. Oklahoma and Nebraska also have done it twice.

Saban tried to downplay the No. 1 ranking.

"What was accomplished last year is just a standard for somebody else to top," he said. "Complacency is why the mighty fall."

■ Only 10 of the 60 previous pre-season No. 1 teams have won the national championship.

■ Southern California is No. 14. The last time the Trojans started a season outside the top 10 was 2002, Pete Carroll's second season as coach.

■ The SEC has six teams in the rankings, the most of any conference. Arkansas is No. 17, and No. 21 LSU is followed by Auburn and Georgia.

Around the nation

Colorado: Tyler Hansen will start at quarterback in the season opener against Colorado State on Sept. 4. The junior beat out Cody Hawkins, Coach Dan Hawkins' son.

The coach flip-flopped between the two quarterbacks last season.

Nebraska: Tight end Dreu Young will undergo back surgery and could be out for the season. Young missed the season opener a year ago after having back surgery but returned to play the other 13 games, starting nine of them.

■ Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini ended his three-day media lockout Saturday. Pelini banned the media because he disagreed with the way some reporters were reporting a season-ending injury to linebacker Sean Fisher.

Virginia Tech: Coach Frank Beamer's contract was extended through the 2016 season Saturday. Beamer's current deal was set to expire at the end of 2012.

The 63-year-old Beamer is entering his 24th season with the Hokies. He is second among active coaches behind Penn State's Joe Paterno with 229 career victories.

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