The Crimson Tide were the overwhelming top choice in the poll, conducted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Alabama received 46 percent of the votes, followed by Texas (27 percent), Ohio State (13 percent), Oregon (8 percent) and Notre Dame (3 percent).
Florida State, LSU and Oklahoma also received votes. In all, eight schools received votes for which school has the best resources (infrastructure, budget, fan support, etc.) to win a national title.
Alabama received a bigger percentage of the vote from the Power 5 conference coaches. More than one-half of the coaches from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) who voted chose Alabama (51 percent), followed by Texas (26 percent), Ohio State (11 percent), Oregon and Notre Dame (6 percent each).
The coaches from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt) voted Alabama (42 percent) as the top choice. The next most popular choices were Texas (27 percent), Ohio State (15 percent) and Oregon (8 percent).
Of the 128 FBS coaches, 93 participated in this week's poll.
NEW ORLEANS -- LSU running back Kenny Hilliard will miss the final two games of the regular season because of a shoulder injury, a person familiar with the situation said Friday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the coaching staff had not released specifics about the injury. The person said Hilliard has not been ruled out for any possible bowl game.
On Twitter, Hilliard had referenced the injury, saying: "Gotta get healthy." Earlier Friday, he said it was going to be a "lay low weekend."
Hilliard had 434 yards and six touchdowns for the No. 17 Tigers (7-3, 3-3, No. 20 AP) before injuring his shoulder and leaving last Saturday's game against Alabama (No. 5 CFP, No. 4 AP).
LSU plays at Arkansas on Saturday. The Tigers then have an open date before closing their season at Texas A&M (No. 24 CFP) on Thanksgiving Day.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Hilliard has been part of a four-back rotation with Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Darrell Williams. Hilliard was one of the featured runners during LSU's winning touchdown drive against then-No. 3 Mississippi on Oct. 25. The drive was highlighted by his 16-yard gain in which he used his free hand to throw down 6-foot-5, 243-pound defensive end Carlos Thompson along the LSU sideline.
Against Alabama, however, Hilliard carried only three times for 15 yards early in the game before sitting out the remainder of a 20-13 overtime loss.
Alabama Crimson Tide
2015 nonconference opponents: Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe, Charleston Southern
Alabama follows its traditional nonconference scheduling pattern in 2015: a big-name Power 5 opener at a neutral site -- this time Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas -- and three gimmes against small-school teams that will not mount much of a challenge. It's not the most challenging schedule, but combined with what should be another difficult SEC West slate, it's hard to envision the selection committee penalizing Alabama for its schedule.
2015 nonconference opponents: Louisville, Jacksonville State, San Jose State, Idaho
Much like cross-state rival Alabama, the Tigers will challenge themselves right out of the gate with a Power 5 opener at a neutral site (Louisville in Atlanta). The rest of the nonconference schedule seems extremely winnable. As with Alabama, the Tigers will face an FCS opponent (Jacksonville State). One game that might help Auburn's strength of schedule is San Jose State, which has been mediocre this season, but occasionally ranks among the better Group of 5 programs. There's no road trip similar to this year's Kansas State game on the 2015 schedule to ramp up Auburn's schedule strength, but this is not bad.
2015 nonconference opponents: New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida State
Any nonconference schedule that includes Florida State can't be criticized too heavily. Considering how FSU hasn't lost since losing to the Gators in November 2012, that game will certainly buoy Florida's 2015 schedule. Beware of East Carolina, however. The Pirates are on the verge of playing in their fourth consecutive bowl game and will be capable of giving the Gators a challenging game. Their presence on the schedule could help with the selection committee should Florida take care of business in the SEC East -- particularly since the Gators also host Ole Miss and visit LSU next season.
2015 nonconference opponents: Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, at Georgia Tech
The first three games -- Louisiana-Monroe, FCS Southern and FBS newcomer Georgia Southern -- are nothing special. Georgia Southern has given some FBS teams fits through the years with its option running game and even defeated a downtrodden Florida team last season, but the Eagles' presence on the schedule will not sway the selection committee much. We never know what to expect from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are 8-2 this season but have typically hovered around .500 by the time the UGA game arrived in recent years. Georgia's nonconference schedule won't help much, but non-division games against Auburn and Alabama should.
2015 nonconference opponents: McNeese State, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky
This isn't the weakest nonconference slate among the SEC's likely playoff contenders, but it's not going to help the Tigers' playoff chances much. Facing FCS McNeese State, a relatively new FBS program in Western Kentucky and MAC cellar dweller Eastern Michigan won't impress anyone on the selection committee. A trip to Syracuse is somewhat ambitious, although the Orange will need to be better than the .500 club they usually are for that game to compel committee members. In addition to its SEC West slate, LSU will visit South Carolina and host Florida, which could help its cause.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
2015 nonconference opponents: at Southern Miss, Northwestern State, Troy, Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs will have to hope they clean up in the SEC West again next season because this nonconference schedule is not going to help their cause. Then again, their nonconference schedule this season (USM, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin) is a joke and the Bulldogs are ranked No. 1. It’s hard to argue against a team that is undefeated in the SEC West, so they get the benefit of the doubt for now. But if State is on the bubble for a No. 4 spot in this season or next, its nonconference schedule will hurt its case.
2015 nonconference opponents: Southeast Missouri State, at Arkansas State, UConn, BYU
On Thursday, Missouri announced it would play BYU at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium next season, which beefs up the Tigers' otherwise unimpressive slate. Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Tigers have played only one team that could be described as a big-name nonconference opponent (Arizona State in 2012). Otherwise, they tend to stick to mediocre Power 5 programs (such as Indiana, which beat Missouri this season) and home-and-home series with Group of 5 teams such as Toledo, UConn and Arkansas State. Although that philosophy won't wow the selection committee, it's producing lots of wins for Missouri.
Ole Miss Rebels
2015 nonconference opponents: Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State, New Mexico State, at Memphis
In-state rivals seem to share scheduling philosophies, don't they? As with Auburn and Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are playing highly similar nonconference slates in 2015. There is a road game against a regional rival (Ole Miss at Memphis, Mississippi State at Southern Miss), an FCS opponent (UT-Martin for Ole Miss, Northwestern State for MSU) and then a couple of middling Group of 5 programs. Fresno State might help Ole Miss' cause a bit. The Bulldogs have been a better-than-average program in the recent past, although they have not been particularly good this season.
Texas A&M Aggies
2015 nonconference opponents: Arizona State, Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina
It will be interesting to see how the selection committee views Texas A&M's schedule should the Aggies be in contention for a playoff spot. They open with a neutral-site game against Arizona State in Houston, and that game should boost A&M's strength of schedule. However, the Aggies play outside the state of Texas only once between the opener and their Nov. 21 trip to Vanderbilt, when they visit Ole Miss on Oct. 24. Will they face criticism for not challenging themselves more away from Texas? Possibly, but there are still some difficult games on the schedule.
Here are four key storylines to watch as kickoff approaches:
Snow Tigers: The weather could become a major storyline in this game, and it will be interesting to see whether it impacts the style of play in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
As of Thursday afternoon, the weather forecast for Saturday’s game called for temperatures in the 20s at kickoff along with a 10 percent chance of snow.
If that prediction comes through, it would be the coldest game in Les Miles’ tenure as the Tigers’ coach. To date, the coldest temperature at kickoff since Miles arrived at LSU in 2005 was 43 degrees for a 2005 game at Ole Miss. The Tigers have played just three games under Miles in which the temperature was 50 degrees or cooler at kickoff (the others were 47 degrees for a 2012 game at Arkansas and 50 degrees for a 2008 home game against Troy).
It could also be the coldest LSU game from at least the last 40 years. According to LSU’s online archive of box scores, the coldest temperature at kickoff since 1974 was 31 degrees for the 1992 LSU-Arkansas game in Fayetteville. The Tigers played 28 games in that timespan when the temperature was 50 degrees or cooler at kickoff and just seven when it was 40 or cooler.
Run and run some more: If it does snow, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see two run-heavy teams rely even more heavily on the ground game.
ESPN Stats & Information reports that LSU has run the ball an SEC-high 67 percent of the time this season, and its rushing success seems to have a correlation to its wins and losses. The Tigers are 5-0 when they rush for at least 200 yards and 2-3 when they do not.
Likewise, Arkansas has run for more than 200 yards in all four of its wins, but it has broken the 200-yard mark just once in its five losses (in an overtime loss to Texas A&M).
So if Arkansas’ backfield duo of Jonathan Williams (137 carries, 877 yards, 10 TDs) and Alex Collins (134-840, 10 TDs) enjoys more success moving the ball on the ground than LSU’s Leonard Fournette (152-736, 7 TDs) and Terrence Magee (81-447, 3 TDs), the Razorbacks are likely the favorite to win. LSU senior Kenny Hilliard (87-431, 6 TDs) is questionable to play after injuring his shoulder against Alabama last Saturday.
Loading the box: The worse the weather, the more likely it will be that the two defenses crowd the line of scrimmage to defend the run. That would be nothing new for the three top running backs in this game.
Fournette (67) has the most carries of any SEC back against defenses with eight or more defenders in the box. Williams (59) and Collins (56) are next in line behind the Tigers’ star freshman.
ESPN Stats & Information reports that Fournette is averaging 4.1 yards per carry against defenses with eight or more men in the box and 5.4 yards per carry against seven or fewer defenders.
LSU defense trending upward: It didn’t seem like it at the time, but the Tigers’ 41-7 loss to Auburn was a turning point in their season – particularly for their run defense.
In LSU’s first three games against Power 5 opponents (Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Auburn), the Tigers surrendered 289.3 rushing yards per game. In the last four games (Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama), LSU gave up 109.3 rushing yards per game.
They have done an excellent job of shutting down drives in a hurry, too. Overall, LSU has forced 46 three-and-outs this season, which is tied for third in the FBS. Of those 46 three-and-outs, 18 came in the last four games – seven of which were by Alabama last week.
Defensive end Danielle Hunter (24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) was a key figure in that four-game stretch, as were weakside linebacker Kwon Alexander (31 tackles, 5 TFLs), middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith (30 tackles, 2 TFLs) and defensive end Jermauria Rasco (28 tackles, 2 TFLs).
In the last three games, LSU’s defense has allowed just two touchdowns in regulation: passes by Ole Miss and Alabama. The Tigers haven’t surrendered a rushing touchdown since the first quarter of the Florida game on Oct. 11.
This is put-up-or-shut-up time for the unbeaten Bulldogs, who earned their No. 1 ranking by beating three straight top-10 teams this season. Winning at Alabama, where it has won twice since 1957, is a different animal entirely for a program with a history filled with long periods of mediocrity -- and worse.
This is where the Bulldogs can truly prove they belong among the sport’s heavyweights, much like Cam Newton and the 2010 Auburn team did when it won in Tuscaloosa en route to the BCS championship. In fact, there are several similarities between 2014 Mississippi State and 2010 Auburn, as identified by AL.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky on Thursday.
Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have made a habit of winning games like this, especially at home, which might be why the MSU program turned to a superhero to provide the theme for its pregame hype video. In the video, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman character says, "I’m not afraid, I’m angry."
The Bulldogs probably need to summon all the anger inside of them to make it through this weekend unbeaten. Never mind beating LSU in Tiger Stadium or outlasting Auburn in Starkville, this is the biggest test of their season, and most college football prognosticators expect them to fail.
They will either prove them right or they’ll prove that they’re legit, just like Newton and Auburn did in 2010.
Around the SEC
The last time Missouri and BYU met -- as they will next November according to a scheduling arrangement announced Thursday -- was when BYU quarterback Steve Young led the Cougars past Mizzou in the 1983 Holiday Bowl.
The Tennessean’s Matt Slovin asks if Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs can lead the Vols (4-5) to a bowl game. They might need a win against Kentucky on Saturday to keep their hopes alive.
Texas A&M receivers Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones returned to form in last week’s upset win at Auburn.
His Florida State team edged Auburn 34-31 in last season’s BCS championship game despite Auburn gaining 449 yards of total offense. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt gets another shot at the Tigers on Saturday.
Former LSU football and baseball player and MLB all-star Alvin Dark died Thursday at age 92.
The State’s "Big Game Graphic" reminds us that Florida was averaging 255 yards per game and 17.5 points per game before Treon Harris became the Gators’ starting quarterback, and 437 yards and 36 points in the two games since he entered the starting lineup.
Tweet of the day
Best recruiting classes in the past 10 years
TBD San JosÚ St Auburn TBD Ole Miss Florida TBD Alabama Georgia TBD Eastern Kentucky Kentucky TBD Eastern Michigan LSU TBD Vanderbilt Middle Tennessee TBD South Carolina Missouri TBD Arkansas Tennessee TBD Mississippi State Texas A&M