Florida starts where it finished

Published 11:18 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

NEW YORK — As Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators prepare to make a run at their third national title in the last four seasons, the defending champions have already made some history.

Florida is No. 1 in The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25 released Saturday, followed by Texas, Oklahoma, Southern California and Alabama. But the Gators are in a class by themselves, the most overwhelming preseason No. 1 in the history of the media poll.

Florida received 58 of the 60 first-place votes, or 96.7 percent. Texas got the other first-place votes.

The previous highest percentage of first-place votes for the AP preseason poll, which started in 1950, was 95.4 percent for USC in 2007. Those Trojans got 62 of 65 first-place votes — and didn’t play for the national title.

Ten preseason No. 1s have won the national championship. If the Gators can become the 11th, they will have put together one of the great runs in college football history. Only one program since 1950 can claim three national championships in four years; Nebraska won it all it 1994 and 1995, then earned a split title in 1997.

With expectations soaring in Gainesville, Fla., coach Urban Meyer has been on a mission to keep his team’s eyes on the small prizes — to heck with history.

‘‘There’s a lot of guys getting patted on the back and being told how good they are,’’ Meyer said in a recent telephone interview. ‘‘Their only focus is on survival to the next day and working hard in practice.

‘‘I don’t want them to even think about that kind of stuff. Our goal is to get to Atlanta’’ for the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The rest of the top 10 includes two Big Ten powerhouses (No. 6 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State) and the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion (No. 7 Virginia Tech).

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press preseason college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, 2008 records, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and final ranking:

Record Pts Pvs

1.Florida(58) 13-1 1,498 1

2.Texas(2) 12-1 1,424 4

3.Oklahoma 12-2 1,370 5

4.SouthernCal 12-1 1,313 3

5.Alabama 12-2 1,156 6

6.OhioSt. 10-3 1,113 9

7.VirginiaTech 10-4 1,054 15

8.Mississippi 9-4 1,047 14

9.OklahomaSt. 9-4 989 16

9.PennSt. 11-2 989 8

11. LSU 8-5 914 —

12. California 9-4 746 —

13. Georgia 10-3 714 13

14. BoiseSt. 12-1 659 11

15. GeorgiaTech 9-4 593 22

16. Oregon 10-3 587 10

17. TCU 11-2 521 7

18. FloridaSt. 9-4 307 21

19. Utah 13-0 289 2

20. BYU 10-3 267 25

21. NorthCarolina 8-5 261 —

22. Iowa 9-4 229 20

23. NotreDame 7-6 225 —

24. Nebraska 9-4 207 —

25. Kansas 8-5 134 —

Others receiving votes: Oregon St. 122, Illinois 105, Pittsburgh 103, Michigan St. 100, Rutgers 83, Texas Tech 76, West Virginia 57, Cincinnati 44, Clemson 42, Miami 40, East Carolina 30, Tennessee 15, Arizona 13, N.C. State 10, Boston College 9, Auburn 7, Cent. Michigan 7, UCLA 7, Northwestern 5, Missouri 3, South Florida 3, Southern Miss. 3, Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 2, Arkansas 1, Houston 1, Nevada 1, Troy 1, Tulsa 1.