By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer
Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll for the first time this season, replacing preseason No. 1 Clemson after the Tigers had a close call.
Alabama received 29 of 61 first-place votes Sunday from the media panel as the Tigers’ one-point victory at North Carolina gave the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank the first shake-up at the top this season. Clemson slipped to No. 2 and received 18 first-place votes.
The last time a No. 1 team won and dropped was Ohio State on Nov. 7, 2015, after the Buckeyes beat Minnesota 28-14 at home. The No. 1 team has won and dropped in the rankings 90 times since the AP poll started in 1936, including four times when there was a tie for No. 1.
No. 3 Georgia received four first-place votes. Ohio State moved up to No. 4 and received seven first-place votes. LSU was No. 5 and Oklahoma sixth. No. 7 Auburn received three first-place votes.
The last time five or more teams received first-place votes during the regular season was Nov. 1, 2015: No. 1 Ohio State (39); No. 2. Baylor (six); No. 3. Clemson (six); No. 4. LSU (five); No. 5. TCU (four); and No. 7. Alabama (one).
At the other end of the rankings, No. 24 SMU is ranked for the first time since the program received the so-called death penalty for NCAA rules violations in 1987 and did not compete for two seasons.
Alabama has now been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last 12 seasons, extending its own record. The second-longest streak belongs to Miami, which had a string of seven consecutive seasons with an appearance at No. 1 from 1986-92.
This is the 119th time Alabama has been No. 1, most of any school in poll history, and the 88th time it has been top-ranked under coach Nick Saban since he took over in 2007. Only Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Southern California have more total appearances at No. 1 than Alabama has under Saban.
SMU’s appearance in the rankings is historic, considering where that program has been. After returning from the death penalty in 1989, the Mustangs managed one winning season (6-5 in 1997) over the next 20 years.
The program had an uptick under June Jones from 2009-12, going to four straight bowl games and topping out at eight victories. There has been only one winning season since. Under second-year coach Sonny Dykes, the Mustangs are playing their best ball since the Pony Express days of Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the early 1980s.
“Given our history, SMU’s history, being a very successful program for a long time like it was in the ’70s and ’80s, and then obviously having the death penalty, it’s just been a long climb back,” Dykes told the AP on Sunday. “I think it probably means more to our fanbase and the SMU people than it does to others because it has been a long climb back. I think it gives our program some credibility.”
SMU is not a national championship contender like it was back in its hey-day, but the Mustangs head into the second month of the season looking like a team that should push for an American Athletic Conference crown. An influx of transfers, including quarterback Shane Buechele from Texas and linebacker and leading tackler Richard McBryde from Auburn.
Dykes said SMU has 65 new players, including scholarship freshman, walk-ons and transfers.
“When you have an influx of that many new people, it can mess your culture up a little bit,” Dykes said. “That’s what I worried about a little bit.”
Things have clicked. The Mustangs (5-0) are off to their best overall start since 1983, are 3-0 on the road and 10-4 in their last 14 games overall.
— No. 22 Wake Forest also ended a long run of being outside the rankings. The Demon Deacons (5-0) of the Atlantic Coast Conference are ranked for the first time since Oct. 18, 2008. Wake’s Top 25 drought was the third-longest among Power Five schools, behind Indiana (last ranked in 1994) and Purdue (2007).
The next three longest streaks of being unranked among Power Five conference teams are Kansas (2009), Illinois (2011) and Rutgers (2012).
— No. 20 Arizona State retuned to the rankings after beating California at home on Friday.
— No. 21 Oklahoma State is ranked for the first time since the final poll of 2017.
— Cal took a big tumble, from No. 15 to out of the rankings after its first loss.
— USC is out again after losing at Washington.
— Kansas State had a one-week stay, falling out after losing at Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M is barely hanging on in the rankings. The only two-loss team to be ranked — the Aggies lost to Clemson and Auburn — is tied with Michigan State for the final spot in the rankings.
SEC — 6 (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 25).
Big Ten — 5 (Nos. 4, 8, 12, 14, 25).
Pac-12 — 4 (Nos. 13, 15, 17, 20).
ACC — 3 (Nos. 2, 22, 23).
Big 12 — 3 (Nos. 6, 11, 21).
American — 2 (Nos. 18, 24).
Mountain West — 1 (No. 16).
RANKED vs. RANKED
No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won their last four games by at least 41 points.
No. 7 Auburn at No. 10 Florida. The SEC has five teams ranked in the top 10 and Auburn still has to play all the rest.
No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan. The Wolverines can right their season.
FULL AP TOP 25
||Ohio State (5-0)||5||1,324|