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Looking Back at Every Athlon Sports' College Football Preseason No. 1

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The Athlon Sports top 25 countdown is complete, and Ohio State is in a familiar spot.

The Buckeyes finish the countdown where they ended last season at No. 1, but they’re also Athlon’s preseason No. 1 for the fourth time since our first rankings in 1976. Only three teams have been Athlon’s preseason No. 1 more than Ohio State — Florida State (eight times), USC (six) and Oklahoma (five).

Selecting a preseason No. 1 is no easy task. After all, no one spends a ton of time thinking about the preseason No. 2 or No. 3. The top spot has a special place. The preseason No. 1 is as much a prediction for the future — a national championship — as it is a starting point.

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Does the preseason No. 1 always win the national championship? No. Far from it. Six of our preseason No. 1 teams have won the national title, but many more have come close, falling short by one game or one play. Half of our preseason No. 1 teams have finished in the top five. Only one, Lane Kiffin’s 2012 USC team, fooled everybody by earning preseason No. 1 honors and finishing unranked in the AP poll with a 7-6 record and a loss in the Sun Bowl.

You can’t win them all. Just don’t tell Ohio State. 

Year

Athlon Preseason No. 1

AP Finish, record, bowl result

2015

 

2014

No. 5, 13-1, lost Rose Bowl

2013

No. 7, 11-2, lost Sugar Bowl

2012

NR, 7-6, lost Sun Bowl

2011

No. 1, 12-1, won BCS Championship Game

2010

No. 10, 10-3, won Capital One Bowl

2009

No. 3, 13-1, won Sugar Bowl

2008

No. 1, 13-1, won BCS Championship Game

2007

No. 3, 11-2, won Rose Bowl

2006

No. 11, 11-3, lost Fiesta Bowl

2005

No. 2, 12-1, lost Rose Bowl

2004

No. 1, 13-0, won Orange Bowl

2003

No. 3, 12-2, lost Sugar Bowl

2002

No. 21, 9-5, lost Sugar Bowl

2001

No. 3, 10-2, won Orange Bowl

2000

No. 5, 11-2, lost Orange Bowl

1999

No. 1, 12-0, won Sugar Bowl

1998

No. 2, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl

1997

No. 18, 8-4, won Aloha Bowl

1996

No. 9, 10-2, won Citrus Bowl

1995

No. 4, 10-2, won Orange Bowl

1994

No. 6, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl

1993

No. 1, 12-1, won Orange Bowl

1992

No. 4, 10-1-1, won Cotton Bowl

1991

No. 6, 10-2, lost Rose Bowl

1990

No. 4, 10-2, won Blockbuster Bowl

1989

No. 8, 9-2-1, won Rose Bowl

1988

No. 3, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl

1987

No. 3, 11-1, lost Orange Bowl

1986

No. 13, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl

1985

No. 1, 11-1, won Orange Bowl

1984

No. 14, 9-4, won Liberty Bowl

1983

No. 2, 12-1, lost Orange Bowl

1982

No. 10, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl

1981

No. 12, 9-3, won Bluebonnet Bowl

1980

No. 15, 9-3, lost Fiesta Bowl

1979

No. 2, 11-0-1, won Rose Bowl

1978

No. 9, 9-3, won Sugar Bowl

1977

No. 7, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl

1976

No. 6, 9-2-1, won Orange Bowl