Notre Dame has some work to do to catch up to the team that defeated the Irish in last season’s BCS championship game, Alabama, in the eyes of the voters for the Associated Press Top 25.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 14 in the AP preseason college poll, which was released Saturday. Alabama, which defeated the Irish 42-14 in the title game Jan. 7, enters the season as the top-ranked team.
The Irish finished last season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll after going 12-1.
Notre Dame enters this year without last year’s starting quarterback Everett Golson, who was suspended for the semester because of an academic issue. The Irish will turn to Tommy Rees, who started every game but the opener in 2011, to try to lead the team back to the championship game.
Notre Dame will face four teams in the preseason Top 25, with its highest ranked opponent being No. 4 Stanford. The Irish face the Cardinal in the season finale Nov. 30 at Stanford.
The Irish’s first game against a ranked opponent will come in the second week of the season when they travel to play No. 17 Michigan at 8 p.m. Sept. 7.
Notre Dame’s other games against ranked opponents are at home. The Irish play No. 16 Oklahoma at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28 and No. 24 USC at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19. The Irish open the season Aug. 31 at home against Temple.
Alabama captured the top spot in the preseason poll in a landslide. The Crimson Tide received 58 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel to easily outdistance No. 2 Ohio State. Alabama matched Florida in 2009 for the highest percentage of first-place votes received in the 63-year history of the preseason rankings. The Buckeyes received one first-place vote.
Oregon is No. 3, followed by Stanford and Georgia, which received the other first-place vote.
Alabama won its record ninth AP national championship last season, third BCS title in the last four years under coach Nick Saban, and became the first team to win back-to-back BCS championships.
The Tide is AP preseason No. 1 for the fourth time, and first since 2010. The only time Alabama started and finished No. 1 was 1978, when Bear Bryant led the Crimson Tide to the fourth of its five national championships with him as coach.
Now Saban’s Tide is trying to accomplish something Bear’s boys never could. Twice Alabama won back-to-back championships under Bryant but couldn’t get the third.
You’re in a position here where we have a lot of players that really haven’t lost much, Saban said last week. They have to really want to be good for the sake of being good.
Alabama is 49-5 over the past four seasons, with three of those losses in 2010.
For the second straight year, half the top 10 teams to start the season are from the SEC. Joining Alabama and Georgia are South Carolina at No. 6, Texas A&M at No. 7 and Florida at No. 10.
The Tide and Aggies meet Sept. 14 in College Station, Texas. A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel handed Alabama its only loss last year.
No. 8 Clemson and No. 9 Louisville round out the top 10. Tajh Boyd and Clemson take on Georgia at home in Week 1 and are the favorites to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are the heavy favorites to get back to the BCS for the second straight year out of the newly renamed American Athletic Conference.
The second 10 in the preseason rankings starts with No. 11 Florida State. No. 12 LSU gives the SEC six teams in the rankings, more than any other conference. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both have five.
The Big 12 has four teams ranked, all between Nos. 13-20, starting with Oklahoma State. Texas is No. 15, Oklahoma is No. 16 and TCU is No. 20.
Michigan is No. 17 and Big Ten rival Nebraska is No. 18.
Boise State is No. 19.
The final five are No. 21 UCLA from the Pac-12; No. 22 Northwestern and No. 23 Wisconsin from the Big Ten; last year’s preseason No. 1 Southern California is No. 24; and Oregon State from the Pac-12 at No. 25.