Graphic by Mike Meredith

Alabama will begin the 2021 season at the top spot in our college football rankings, landing cleanly at No. 1 ahead of Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia in the Preseason CBS Sports 130. The comprehensive ranking of every FBS team comes via extensive polling of experts across CBS Sports and 247Sports, and it is updated weekly throughout the season.

After winning the national championship for the sixth time in a dozen years under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide have been consistently sean as the top team in the nation entering next season, including during our post-spring top 25 polling this May. Voters are so confident in quarterback Bryce Young and the depth of the Alabama program that not even the departure of a record-tying six first-round NFL Draft picks could shake the current order of power in college football. 

In fact, the entire top six remained in identical positions from our pulse-testing rankings a few months ago. While Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State all have new starters replacing first-round quarterbacks, the unsettled and (more) unproven situation with the Buckeyes contributes to the gap, which is occupied by an Oklahoma team with a Heisman Trophy favorite under center in Spencer Rattler, giving the Sooners national championship aspirations. 

There are some adjustments that have been made to the rankings over the last few months thanks to a combination of intel from media days, player movement and deeper analysis into the upcoming season. Texas A&M, LSU and Penn State all moved up two spots, while Texas moved down two. Utah, Ole Miss and Louisiana cracked the top 25, which they just missed in May. 

The most dramatic adjustments since we last convened for the CBS Sports 130 (in the 2020 postseason) include Oregon soaring from No. 31 to No. 9, Wisconsin jumping from outside the top 30 to No. 13, and LSU making an even bigger leap from No. 52 to No. 14. Penn State, like LSU, came from outside the top 50 thanks to a five-loss season in 2020 and made its own impressive ascension, landing at No. 17.  

BYU (No. 10), Northwestern (No. 12) and Coastal Carolina (No. 13) all finished inside the top 15 in the final rankings last year, but none of those three programs landed in the top 25 of this year's preseason rankings. Coastal Carolina still has a strong ranking at No. 31 followed by Northwestern at No. 37 and BYU at No. 45. 

College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week during the season. Those votes are averaged together for our rankings. You can check out the top 25 below (along with some notable movers) and teams ranked 26-130 at the bottom of the page.

Preseason CBS Sports 130, top 25

RankTeam2020 Record2020 Rank
4Ohio State7-12
6Iowa State9-39
7Texas A&M9-16
8North Carolina8-417
10Notre Dame10-24
15Miami (FL)8-322
17Penn State4-554
23Ole Miss5-551
24Arizona State2-242
  • No. 14 LSU (+38): A narrative has been in place suggesting that the house wasn't exactly in order at LSU last season. Staff changes were made, and now coach Ed Orgeron has a chance to get things in line before concerns start to mount in how this program has handled the national championship hangover. On paper, this is a team that can play with anyone in the country and contend for a national championship, so whether the results are closer to the team's ceiling or its floor (6-7 wins) remains among the biggest wildcards in the SEC championship picture. 
  • No. 17 Penn State (+37): Now on his third offensive coordinator in as many years, quarterback Sean Clifford is tasked with meeting high expectations thanks to Penn State becoming a trendy pick as one of the year's top bounce-back candidates following a 4-5 showing in 2020. The roster is talented. With injuries and opt-outs playing a huge role in last season's struggles, a deeper dive into the results shows a team that wasn't outplayed by too many of its opponents. 
  • No. 23 Ole Miss (+28): The highs and lows of Ole Miss football made for an entertaining 2020, but there's been growing belief the Rebels might be more than just a great viewing product in 2021. Matt Corral edged out JT Daniels as the All-SEC first team quarterback in preseason voting, and more folks around college football are starting to believe this is a group poised for a step forward in Year 2 under coach Lane Kiffin. 

Teams ranked 26-130

Notable movers detailed below.

26. Oklahoma State
27. UCF
28. Michigan
29. TCU (+12): If Oklahoma and Iowa State are going to start the year on the Big 12's top tier, who belongs in that dark horse tier as a contender for the conference title? Texas might be your first answer, but TCU has young budding talent at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. They're not deep enough to dominate the entire Big 12 schedule, but the Horned Frogs are good enough to wind up in the title picture near the end of the season.
30. Auburn
31. Coastal Carolina
32. Boise State
33. Liberty
34. NC State
35. Kentucky (+15): With three new head coaches in the SEC East, it's Mark Stoops -- now in his ninth year leading the Wildcats -- who has become the most-tenured coach at his current position in the division. Five straight bowl appearances and three straight bowl wins have create a fine reputation that can help keep a high floor on these rankings, and I think that's what we see here with a mid-30s starting point for UK. 
36. UCLA
37. Northwestern
38. West Virginia
39. Virginia Tech
40. Memphis
41. PIttsburgh
42. Boston College
43. Appalachian State
44. Nevada
45. BYU (-35): Zach Wilson isn't the only notable departure for Kalani Sitake. Five players got selected in the NFL Draft, the most for BYU since 2002, and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes left to take the same job at Baylor under coach Dave Aranda. BYU also welcomes back the Pac-12 foes it did not play in 2020, so there's some expectation that a step back in the win count could be coming for the Cougars.
46. Minnesota
47. Missouri
48. Stanford
49. Wake Forest
50. Ball State (-26): The Cardinals have nearly an entire recruiting class of super seniors, including top-five contributors on both sides of the ball from last season's conference championship-winning team. But our voters are clearly resetting the deck and not consistently rewarding teams for what they accomplished last year. 
51. Nebraska
52. Florida State
53. SMU
54. Colorado (-24): The Buffaloes were one of the real surprises last season, and Karl Dorrell was one of the few winners in a year where the Pac-12 struggled to make as much of a splash with its much-delayed campaign. Jarek Broussard is a first-team all-conference running back, but our voters aren't respecting the results of 2020 with this ranking. 
55. Mississippi State
56. Tulsa
57. Virginia
58. Purdue
59. Kansas State
60. San Diego State
61. Arkansas
62. San Jose State
63. UAB
64. Toledo
65. Louisville
66. Texas Tech
67. Baylor
68. Tennessee
69. California
70. Marshall
71. Air Force
72. Houston
73. Wyoming
74. Michigan State
75. Tulane
76. Washington State
77. Maryland
78. UTSA
79. Fresno State
80. Rutgers
81. Illinois
82. Army West Point
83. Oregon State
84. Buffalo
85. Louisiana Tech
86. Georgia Tech
87. FAU
88. East Carolina
89. Western Michigan
90. Duke
91. Hawaii
92. Ohio
93. South Carolina
94. Arizona
95. Troy
96. Syracuse
97. Georgia State
98. Central Michigan
99. Georgia Southern
100. Navy
101. Western Kentucky
102. Colorado State
103. Miami (OH)
104. Kent State
105. Vanderbilt
106. Eastern Michigan
107. New Mexico
108. Arkansas State
109. Southern Miss
110. South Florida
111. Rice
112. Temple
113. Kansas
114. Middle Tennessee State
115. Charlotte
116. Utah State
117. FIU
118. North Texas
119. UConn
120. Texas State
121. Northern Illinois
122. South Alabama
123. UNLV
124. New Mexico State
125. Akron
126. Louisiana-Monroe
127. UTEP
128. Bowling Green
129. Old Dominion
130. UMass