After closing out the 2015-16 season with a No. 3 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll, the highest in school history, the Stanford Cardinal maintained a top-10 ranking to start the next chapter in the college football saga, coming in at No. 8 in the preseason AP rankings.
The Cardinal, receiving their highest preseason ranking since debuting at No. 4 in the 2013 poll, also checked in as the top rated team in the Pac-12 for the first time in the David Shaw era. Stanford has now earned a spot in the initial AP poll for six consecutive seasons, coinciding with each of Shaw’s years at the helm.
Defending national champion Alabama grabbed the top spot in the poll for the third time this decade while 2015 runner-up Clemson opened at No. 2.
In total, the Pac-12 saw five of its representatives claim a spot in the initial rankings, the second-most among all conferences behind only the SEC’s six teams and one clear of the four teams from both the ACC and Big 10.
After starting last season unranked, the Washington Huskies, the top-rated Pac-12 team after Stanford, debuted at No. 14 while preseason Pac-12 South favorite UCLA checked in at No. 16. USC, in their first full season under new head coach Clay Helton debuted at No. 20. Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks received their lowest preseason ranking since the 2007 season, coming in at No. 24.
In addition to the five Pac-12 schools receiving a ranking–three from the North division and two from the South–Utah and Washington State also received votes.
Stanford will face five teams ranked in the AP preseason poll this season, with four of those matchups coming in a grueling five-week stretch beginning with a September 17 showdown at The Farm against USC, followed by road trips to Washington and UCLA, and culminating with a trek to South Bend, Indiana, to face No. 10 Notre Dame on October 15.
The preseason speculation will give way to tangible results in less than two weeks as the Cardinal kick off their 2016 season at home against Kansas State on September 2 at 6 p.m. in a Friday night game that will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.