LSU, Alabama start at the top

Alabama and LSU played for college football’s top prize a year ago, with the Crimson Tide winning 21-0 and capturing their second national championship in the past three years.

If the 2012 preseason USA Today coaches poll is any indication, the road to the national title will once again go through Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge.

LSU will open the season No. 1 and Alabama No. 2, according to the 59 coaches who vote in the USA Today poll. You can see the entire preseason poll here.

Keep in mind that the coaches poll is one of three components used in the BCS standings, which will determine the two teams that play for the national title for the next two seasons, until the newly created playoff takes shape in 2014.

Alabama actually had more first-place votes than LSU (20 to 18), but the Tigers collected four more total points to claim the No. 1 spot.

A year ago, Alabama started No. 2 and LSU No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll. This is the third straight season that Alabama has started with a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking. The Crimson Tide were No. 5 in the preseason in 2009 when they won their first national title under Nick Saban.

LSU spent 11 straight weeks ranked No. 1 last season. This is the first time the Tigers have gone into a season ranked No. 1 since 1959. They were coming off a national championship in 1958.

The Tigers were No. 2 in the coaches preseason poll in 2007 when they last won a national title.

Not surprisingly, the SEC is well represented in the 2012 coaches preseason poll. Five of the top 10 teams are from the SEC.

Georgia is No. 6, South Carolina No. 9 and Arkansas No. 10.

This is the first time in school history that the Gamecocks have gone into a season ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Florida and Auburn give the SEC seven teams ranked in the preseason Top 25. The Gators are No. 23 and the Tigers No. 25.

For the record, there are seven SEC coaches voting in this season’s poll -- Auburn’s Gene Chizik, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, LSU’s Les Miles, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, Georgia’s Mark Richt, Alabama’s Nick Saban and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.