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Why is Alabama a national championship contender? The conversation begins and ends with Nick Saban, who's won five national titles, including four with the Crimson Tide. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Next up: Statesman Preseason Top 25 college football poll

Our countdown starts with No. 25 team Wednesday

Posted July 5th, 2017

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SEC media days roll out next week, the Big 12 taps the hype machine in two weeks, teams report to camp in late July, and kickoff to the 2017 college football season is barely eight weeks away.

While fans count the days, the American-Statesman will crank up its ninth annual Preseason Top 25. Fifteen members of the staff voted, and we’ll reveal the poll with a day-by-day package on each team, starting with No. 25 on Wednesday and wrapping up with No. 1 on July 29.

We don’t want to give away too much yet, although it’ll come as no surprise that the Usual Suspects — Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, etc. — own positions of prominence.

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Las Vegas puts the Crimson Tide at 3-1 to win the national championship, followed by Ohio State, 8-1; Florida State and USC, 9-1; and Oklahoma, 10-1.

Locally, one of the most fascinating things to watch will be the connection between Texas, South Florida and Houston. Follow us closely here:

Charlie Strong left a whopping 17 returning starters behind for Tom Herman, including preseason All-America left tackle Connor Williams and a bevy of potential all-conference performers.

Strong inherits 16 experienced starters, including star quarterback Quinton Flowers, at South Florida, and will be favored to win the AAC. Strong won at Louisville but couldn’t win at Texas, so South Florida is the rubber match for him.

Major Applewhite, the former Longhorn getting his first head coaching gig at Houston, welcomes 15 starters from the Herman regime, including standout defensive tackle Ed Oliver, plus former five-star quarterback Kyle Allen, a Texas A&M transfer.

Strong, Herman and Applewhite. Who will be highest ranked? Who will win the most games in 2017?

And what to make of Kevin Sumlin? He’s produced three straight 8-5 seasons at Texas A&M, making this a critical year to show some upward movement. But will the Aggies get any Top 25 love? They must replace the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Myles Garrett, and groom a new quarterback.

Is this the year Oklahoma State supplants Oklahoma in the Big 12? They each have star quarterbacks, Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield, but the Sooners have an untested head coach in Lincoln Riley.

RELATED: Lincoln Riley discusses taking over the Oklahoma program

In 2016, the American-Statesman preseason poll nailed it at the top with No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama. The other two playoff teams fooled us a bit: We had Ohio State No. 7 and Washington No. 17.

This year a record number of teams — 42 — received votes from our panel, up from 37 last year, so there is more diversity of opinion deep in the Top 25 field.

To whet the appetite, let’s end this by disclosing our First Four Out for ’17: Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, TCU and Washington State. So bring on No. 25 on Wednesday.

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