No. 1 Alabama tops preseason AP Top 25; Ohio State, Georgia next

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With two of the best players in the country leading the way – and a championship game loss as motivation – Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason college football poll for the second straight season and ninth time overall.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, national defensive player of year Will Anderson Jr. and the Crimson Tide received 54 of 63 first-place votes and 1,566 points in the Top 25 presented by Regions Bank released.

Ohio State is No. 2 with six first-place votes (1,506 points) from the media panel and defending national champion Georgia is third with three first-place votes (1,455 points). Clemson is No. 4. Notre Dame rounds out the top five, setting up a tantalizing opener at Ohio State on Sept. 3.

The Tide’s preseason No. 1 ranking is the seventh in 15 years under coach Nick Saban. Since the preseason rankings started in 1950, only Oklahoma with 10 has been No. 1 in the initial poll more often than Alabama.

The Crimson Tide started last season No. 1 and finished ranked No. 2 after losing the national championship game to the Southeastern Conference rival Bulldogs.

Alabama coach Nick Saban recently called 2021 a rebuilding season for his Tide dynasty, which has won six national titles over the last 13 years. He has a point.

Young was in his first season as a starter last year, playing behind an inexperienced offensive line. He was unfazed, throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns.

Anderson was a force on the other side ball as Alabama broke in a back seven with mostly new starters. The sophomore led the nation in tackles for loss with 33 1/2, 11 1/2 more than No. 2 on the list.

Ohio State brings back a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback in C.J. Stroud while at Georgia, most of the key players from one of the best college defenses of the last 25 years are now in NFL. Still, quarterback Stetson Bennett and All-America tight end Brock Bowers return to a Bulldogs offense that could be even more explosive in 2022.

Texas A&M, which finished last season unranked despite handing Alabama its only regular-season loss, starts this season No. 6.

Defending Pac-12 champion Utah is seventh, the best preseason ranking in school history. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan is No. 8 after making the playoff for the first time last season.

No. 9 Oklahoma is the highest-ranked Big 12 school, one spot ahead of defending league champion Baylor.

POLL POINTS

Alabama has been in the preseason top five in each of last 14 seasons and in the preseason top three in 13 straight. The Tide’s 31st preseason top-five ranking this year matches Ohio State for the most in poll history.

Turning preseason No. 1 into a national championship has proved tricky throughout history, even for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide has gone on to win the national championship after starting No. 1 just once under Saban and twice overall.

Since the AP preseason began in 1950, there have been 11 preseason No. 1 teams that also finished the season top ranked. Alabama was the last to do it (2017).

RARITIES AND STREAKS

– No. 13 North Carolina State is ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2003. The Wolfpack matched their best preseason ranking. They were also 13th in 1975.

– No. 17 Pitt is in the preseason rankings for the first time since 2010.

– No. 20 Kentucky is making its first preseason poll appearance since 1978.

– No. 22 Wake Forest made the preseason rankings for the first time since 2008.

– Ohio State is ranked in the preseason for the 34th straight season, breaking a tie with Nebraska (1970-2002) and Penn State (1968-2000) for the longest such streak in poll history.

– Texas A&M has the second-best preseason ranking for a team that finished the previous season unranked. Ohio State was No. 3 in the 1972 preseason poll after being unranked at the end of the 1971 season and Notre Dame also started No. 6 in 1983 after finishing unranked in 1982.

How did the seasons work out of those teams? Ohio State went 9-2 and finished the season No. 9. The Irish went 7-5 and unranked again.

NOTABLE LEFTOUTS

– LSU with new coach Brian Kelly will start the season unranked for the first time 2000, Saban’s first of five seasons as coach of the Tigers.

– Florida and Florida State are both unranked to start the season, which has not happened since 1974.

NEWBIES

Five schools ranked in the preseason poll have head coaches starting their first full seasons leading their teams: Notre Dame (Marcus Freeman), Oklahoma (Brent Venables), No. 11 Oregon (Dan Lanning), No. 14 USC (Lincoln Riley) and No. 16 Miami (Mario Cristobal).

This is the second time in the last five seasons that five teams with new coaches were ranked in the preseason, according to research done by Sportradar. It also happened in 2018, but before that season that type of representation in the preseason poll for teams with new coaches was a rarity.

You have to go all the way back to 1990 when six schools with coaches entering their first full season appeared in the preseason Top 25, according to Sportradar. That list includes some notable names: Gary Moeller, Michigan; Ken Hatfield, Clemson; Gene Stallings, Alabama; Jack Crowe, Arkansas; Paul Hackett, Pittsburgh; and John Jenkins, Houston.

CONFERENCE CALL

For the fourth straight season, the Southeastern Conference has three teams in the top six.

The Atlantic Coast Conference matched its best showing in the preseason poll with five teams. The ACC has reached that number four previous times.

SEC – 6 (Nos. 1, 3, 6, 19, 20, 21).

ACC – 5 (Nos. 4, 13, 16, 17, 22).

Big Ten – 4 (Nos. 2, 8, 15, 18).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 9, 10, 12).

Pac-12 – 3 (Nos. 7, 11, 14).

American – 2 (Nos. 23, 24).

Independents – 2 (Nos. 5, 25).

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.