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College football teams with most AP Top 25 preseason rankings appearances

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There have been regular AP Top 25 college football rankings since 1936, but the preseason poll is a newer innovation, first appearing in 1950.

Then as now, the polls have been dominated by the same blue blood programs that have helped define the sport since the beginning.

Including in the 2022 preseason, which saw Alabama rank as the near-consensus No. 1 team in the top 25 rankings, followed by Ohio State, Georgia, and Clemson.

RELATED: AP Top 25 College Football Preseason Rankings Announced

Which schools have received the most attention in the preseason to date? Let's take a look at the teams that have made the most top 25 preseason appearances.

College football rankings: Teams with most AP Top 25 preseason poll appearances

10. Tennessee

tennessee vols football 1998 champions

Appearances: 42

Pct of polls: 57.5%

Average ranking: 11.9

Highest ranking: No. 1

Recent seasons haven't been kind to the Volunteers, but this program has been a staple of preseason polls, including in recent years. Tennessee placed No. 25 a year ago and in 2017 and was as high as No. 9 back in 2016. The school also placed in every AP preseason ranking from 1971 through 2008, including a stretch of eight straight preseasons in the top 10, from 1995-2002.

9. Nebraska

Nebraska had a share in three college football national championships during the 1990s under Tom Osborne.

Appearances: 46

Pct of polls: 63.0%

Average ranking: 8.3

Highest ranking: No. 1

Another big-time college football brand fallen on hard times lately, the Cornhuskers debuted at No. 24 in the 2019 poll, but haven't ranked in the top 10 since 2010, when NU came in at No. 8 (and finished at No. 22). Nebraska enjoyed a run of top 10 preseason appearances for seven straight years in the 1970s, and astonishingly never fell below No. 15 in the first polls at all from 1968 to 2002.

8. Penn State

penn state football

Appearances: 48

Pct of polls: 65.8%

Average ranking: 11.1

Highest ranking: No. 1

A mixed bag of results for the Nittany Lions in the last decade, including three top 10 preseason debuts but also four straight years when the school didn't rank at all. Penn State was a regular in the preseason top 25 during the Joe Paterno years, including 20 appearances inside the top 10 and only one year (2003) when it didn't rank. PSU placed No. 7 in the 2020 poll and No. 6 in 2017.

7. Michigan

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, one of the most successful coaches in college football history.

Appearances: 51

Pct of polls: 69.9%

Average ranking: 7.7

Highest ranking: No. 1

Michigan has been a reliable fixture in the preseason Top 25 polls, including 15 straight years when the school appeared in the top 10. The Wolverines have been kept out of the preseason poll only five times this century, including in 2021, when the team enjoyed a renaissance, beating Ohio State, winning the Big Ten title, and making its first College Football Playoff appearance.

6. Texas

earl campbell texas football

Appearances: 55

Pct. of polls: 75.3%

Average ranking: 9.1

Highest ranking: No. 2

Texas kicked off the 21st century on a hot streak in the preseason rankings, placing inside the top 10 in 10 of the first 11 years of the new millennium. Reaching those high spots in the polls has been tougher since then, as the Longhorns weren't ranked in four of six years from 2011 to 2016, but has placed in the top 25 in each of the last five years, including a No. 10 ranking in 2019.

5. Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban has built arguably the greatest dynasty in college football history.

Appearances: 56

Pct. of polls: 76.7%

Average ranking: 7.2

Highest ranking: No. 1

Few if any schools have performed as well as the Crimson Tide in the preseason rankings, and not just in the Nick Saban era, either. Alabama didn't feature in the debut polls only six of the years since 1950, with four of those coming from 2002 to 2007. Since then, the Tide has been in the top 10 all but one year (2008) and has been No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 every preseason since 2009. Bama was also in the top 10 for eight straight years in the 1960s, and 12 out of 13 years in the 70s and 80s.

4. Notre Dame

notre dame football joe montana

Appearances: 59

Pct. of polls: 80.8%

Average ranking: 9.1

Highest ranking: No. 1

Notre Dame was the first-ever preseason No. 1 team in college football history when the AP debuted the initial pre-kickoff poll in 1950. And the Irish were regulars inside the top 10 for most of the years through the 1980s. ND won the national championship in 1988 (preseason No. 13) and enjoyed eight-straight top 10 debuts in the 1990s. It's been a mixed bag in the 21st century, including in 2012, when the Irish played for the BCS title despite not being ranked in the preseason top 25.

3. USC

USC was king of college football in the mid 2000s, winning two national championships under Pete Carroll.

Appearances: 61

Pct. of polls: 83.6%

Average ranking: 9.8

Highest ranking: No. 1

The Men of Troy were unstoppable for a generation in the preseason rankings, opening up in the top 10 every year save one from 1963 to 1985 and has appeared in every single preseason AP poll from '63 until 2018. Added in there was a seven-year stretch of top 10 appearances in the Pete Carroll era from 2003 to 2009. USC stormed back in 2017 as the No. 4 team prior to kickoff.

2. Oklahoma

oklahoma sooners football

Appearances: 64

Pct. of polls: 87.7%

Average ranking: 6.6

Highest ranking: No. 1

The preseason polls have been good to the Sooners, especially in recent years, as the team has placed inside the top 10 in all but three years of the 21st century. Notably, one of the years it didn't was the year it won the national championship: in 2000, when OU debuted as the No. 19 team. Even the two other years Oklahoma didn't start in the top 10, it finished there: in 2013 (started No. 16, ended No. 6) and 2015 (started No. 19 and finished No. 5)

1. Ohio State

ohio state football woody hayes

Appearances: 69

Pct. of polls: 94.5%

Average ranking: 8.3

Highest ranking: No. 1

A dominant string of preseason appearances for the Buckeyes, especially in recent years, having made the initial top 10 in the rankings every year since 2013. Ohio State ranked in the preseason top 10 over 15 of 18 years from 1969 to 1987 and in 20 years of Woody Hayes' legendary tenure.


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