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AP file photo by Sean Rayford / Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will guide college football's preseason No. 1 team for a second consecutive year.

The Clemson Tigers had never been ranked No. 1 in the Amway coaches preseason poll before last year.

Now they've gone back to back when it comes to starting a college football journey on top.

Bolstered by the return of junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers received 38 of a possible 65 first-place votes Thursday to outdistance No. 2 Ohio State, the team Clemson topped 29-23 in last season's national semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl. Clemson, which owns five consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championships and national titles in 2016 and 2018, advanced to play LSU in last season's championship game before succumbing 42-25.

Ohio State received 17 first-place votes to outpace No. 3 Alabama, which received four first-place votes. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are coming off an 11-2 season that contained losses to LSU and Auburn and did not include an invitation to the College Football Playoff for the first time since the playoff's inception in 2014.

Alabama is entering a season ranked among the top three teams for an 11th consecutive time.

The Southeastern Conference has three of the top five teams, with the Tide accompanied by Georgia and LSU. Kirby Smart's Bulldogs are No. 4, which is where they finished last season after a 26-14 dumping of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl that capped a 12-2 record.

LSU, the first SEC team ever to assemble a 15-0 record, is No. 5 and received six first-place votes despite Ed Orgeron's Tigers losing Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and 13 other players this past spring to the NFL draft.

Oklahoma, the winner of five straight Big 12 titles, is No. 6, with Lincoln Riley's Sooners followed by Penn State, Florida, Oregon and Notre Dame. The release of the rankings occurred the same day Penn State outside linebacker Micah Parsons, a projected top-10 selection in the 2021 draft, said he would opt out of the 2020 season.

Auburn is ranked No. 11, Wisconsin No. 12 and Texas A&M No. 13, giving the SEC six of the top 13 teams.

The SEC did not have any representation in the back half of the poll. Iowa State claimed the 25th and final position with 135 total points, while Tennessee and Boise State each tallied 111 to lead the other teams receiving votes. Kentucky was fourth in that category with 73.

Had Tennessee not had its Sept. 12 game at Oklahoma canceled due to coronavirus concerns, Jeremy Pruitt's Volunteers would have played half of the nation's top eight preseason teams — Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida.

Of the 65 coaches voting on this season's poll, seven are from the SEC: Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Florida's Dan Mullen, Orgeron, Pruitt, Saban and Smart.

Will Healy, the former Boyd Buchanan quarterback who is entering his second season at Charlotte, also has a vote, as does former Murray County quarterback Billy Napier, who is beginning his third season at Louisiana-Lafayette.

 

Odds and ends

Tennessee has offered a preferred walk-on opportunity to kicker JT Carver for its 2021 class. Carver is a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Westview High School in Martin, Tennessee. ... Former Georgia defensive back Divaad Wilson announced Thursday on social media he will attend Central Florida for his final two seasons of eligibility.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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