USC atop AP poll with Alabama, LSU close behind
LSU is ranked No. 3 behind top-ranked USC and defending BCS champion Alabama in the Associated Press preseason football poll that was released Saturday.
The Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 in the USAe_SClBToday Coaches preseason poll, likely would have been No. 1 in the AP poll as well if All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu had not been dismissed from the team.
USC earned the top spot in The AP preseason football poll for the seventh time in school history and the first time in five seasons. The Trojans received 25 of a possible 60 first-place votes from a media panel in a close vote. USC received 1,445 points.
The Crimson Tide had 17 first-place votes and 1,411 points, and LSU, which plays host to Bama on Nov. 3 in Tiger Stadium, got 16 first-place votes and 1,402 points. Oklahoma was fourth with one first-place vote, and Oregon was fifth. No. 8 Michigan received the only other first-place vote.
The AP said the Tigers “were poised to start the season No. 1” before Mathieu got kicked off the team Aug. 10.
After Mathieu’s dismissal, reportedly for multiple failed drug tests, the AP extended the voting deadline. LSU had received 28 of a possible 60 first-place votes. USC was a close second with 22 first-place votes and Alabama was third with nine.
In the USA Today coaches’ poll, which was released Aug. 2, LSU was followed by No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 USC.
Apparently Mathieu’s dismissal didn’t affect the votes of the two Louisiana voters in the poll — Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett and Garland Gillen of WWL-TV in New Orleans — both of whom voted the Tigers’ No. 1.
LSU, though, attracted relatively disparate votes elsewhere. Ray Ratto of the ComcastSportsNet in San Francisco had the Tigers No. 10, the lowest ranking e_SClBfor any of the top three teams in the poll. The Tide’s lowest ranking was No. 9 and the Trojans was No. 6.
Oklahoma was fourth with a single first-place vote and Oregon was fifth. Michigan, at No. 8, received the only other first-place vote.
Rounding out the top 10 in the AP rankings, Georgia was No. 6, followed by Florida State and Michigan. No. 9 South Carolina and No. 10 Arkansas give the Southeastern Conference half of the first 10 teams.
For the Trojans, their return to national championship contention comes just two years after the program was hit by NCAA sanctions that seemed crippling at the time.
“To be handed down what they said could be a death penalty, could take USC 10 years to come back from, then to have this recognition and be preseason No. 1 is very exciting for our fans because a lot people thought two years ago that this would not be possible for USC,” coach Lane Kiffin told the AP.
USC went 8-5 in 2010, then charged back to 10-2 last season. And when star quarterback Matt Barkley decided to stick around for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft, the Trojans, free from the bowl ban, were set to make a run at No. 1.
And USC is once again trendy in Los Angeles.
USC and Oregon could meet in the Pac-12 title game.
And Trojans-Ducks might be only the second-biggest game of the day on Nov. 3.
That will also be the day of Round III of Alabama-LSU, after the Tide and Tigers played twice last season, the second time in the BCS title game.
Alabama won the rematch 21-0 to take its second national title in the last three seasons under coach Nick Saban. The Tide are rebuilding on defense, but return quarterback A.J. McCarron and one of the best offensive lines in the country.
LSU has a new quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, who the Tigers hope will give the passing game more punch, and much of last year’s fearsome defense is back — except Mathieu.
His departure was met with mixed reaction by voters, but in a tight race for No. 1, it made a difference.
“Tyrann Mathieu’s a terrific player, but I don’t think the overall effect will change LSU’s results,” said John Silver from the Journal Inquirer of Connecticut, who did not change his ballot after the Mathieu news. “I don’t think a corner can make that big of a difference. It hurts them, but at the margins.”
Seth Emerson of The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph dropped LSU from No. 1 to No. 3, behind Alabama and USC.
“On the one hand, he wasn’t exactly known as a lock-down cornerback and LSU has plenty of other talent. On the other hand, I was in the Georgia Dome last year when Mathieu single-handedly turned the tide of the SEC championship,” Emerson wrote on his blog. “He’s a dynamic player. There’s a reason he was fifth in the Heisman voting. That’s why I moved LSU to third, but not any further down.”
Advocate sportswriter Les East and the Associated Press contributed to this report.