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Fifth Quarter’s Preseason Top 25 for 2021

by CJ Olson

Photo credit: Crimson Tide Photos/Alabama athletics

Fifth Quarter is excited to announced that we will be producing a college football top 25 every week this season!

Many of the Fifth Quarter writing and social staff will be submitting their rankings. This will serve as Fifth Quarter’s official preseason top 25.

Preseason Top 25 List:

With all of that being said, our preseason rankings are complete, and here’s the list:

  1. Alabama (14)
  2. Clemson (2)
  3. Oklahoma (6)
  4. Georgia (1)
  5. Ohio State
  6. Iowa State
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Cincinnati
  10. Oregon
  11. North Carolina
  12. Florida
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Miami
  15. Indiana
  16. Iowa
  17. USC
  18. LSU
  19. Penn State
  20. Coastal Carolina
  21. Washington
  22. Louisiana
  23. Texas
  24. Ole Miss
  25. Arizona State


Breakdown by Conference:

SEC: 6

Big Ten: 6

ACC: 3

Big 12: 3

Pac-12: 3

Sun Belt: 2

Independents: 1

AAC: 1

Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West: 0


There are a few drop-offs between some rankings.

Looking at this graph of each team’s vote totals should help to understand where these drop-offs occur.

Drop-off No. 1: Alabama: Clear No. 1

The first separation worth noting is that Alabama has the respect of the Fifth Quarter pollsters.

14 of the 23 voters had Alabama first, and 20 of the 23 voters had the Crimson Tide in the top two.

Drop-off No. 2: Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State are all bunched together

Between those four teams, there is not all that much separation.

These top four teams, plus Alabama, account for all of the first- and second-place votes, as well as 22 of the 23 third-place votes.

Drop-off No. 3: Nos. 6-11 have a steady difference before the graph falls off

Iowa State, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Oregon, and North Carolina account for the six next teams, and there is not much separation for these teams.

All of these teams received at least one vote at No. 6 or higher.

Drop-off No. 4: Some think top 10, some think unranked

Florida, Wisconsin, Miami, Iowa, Indiana, and USC comprise the teams ranked from 12th to 17th.

This is where some of the rankings start to get a little murky.

Every school in this group received at least one top-10 vote, and all but Florida was also left completely off of some ballots.

Miami, Iowa, Indiana, and USC were even left off of multiple ballots.

Of course preseason rankings can be so volatile. It is essentially a guess at how teams will perform. But it is interesting to note that by No. 12, there has started to be great debate over where a team should be ranked – if at all.

Drop-off No. 5: Not sure what to make of these teams

LSU, Penn State, Coastal Carolina, Washington, and Louisiana are the teams from No. 18 to No. 22.

For LSU and Penn State, voters essentially gave them a pass for incredibly disappointing 2020 seasons.

For Coastal Carolina and Louisiana, however, there might have been some concern about whether strong 2020 seasons were flukes or whether those teams are as strong as they seem.

All of these teams received at least one vote at 11th or better, but they also were left off of at least three of the 23 total ballots.

Drop-off No. 6: They’re probably top 25, right?

Texas and Ole Miss almost round out our top 25. They come in at No. 23 and 24, respectively.

This is an interesting drop-off because they are only separated by two points. Yet, somehow they got there very differently.

Eight more voters left Texas off their ballot compared to Ole Miss – an 11-3 difference.

The 88 voting points that Texas did receive from the 12 voters that included it means that the average ballot that did include Texas had the Longhorns between 18th and 19th.

Texas’ 11 unranked votes are also the highest number of unranked votes for a top-25 team.

Contrast that to Ole Miss, who received 86 voting points.

The 86 voting points from the 20 voters that included the Rebels means that Ole Miss was only put at an average of 22nd on the ballots where it was included.

Drop-off No. 7: Arizona State sneaks in

The Arizona State Sun Devils round out the top 25 with a whole 30 voting points.

A majority of voters felt like the Sun Devils were worthy of a ranking, being ranked by 15 of the 23 voters.

However, the best they could do on an individual ballot was 18th. Seven of their 15 votes came at either No. 24 or No. 25.

Drop-off No. 8: Lurking in the shadows

There were a few left unranked that are definitely on Arizona State’s heels for the bottom of the rankings.

Liberty, Oklahoma State, Michigan, UCF, and Utah are all teams within striking distance of the Sun Devils, according to our rankings.

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