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University of Tennessee Martin vs University of Missouri football

Mizzou coach Barry Odom encourages the Tigers before the 2018 season opener. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

By just a few votes, the Missouri football missed out on opening the season in the Associated Press Top 25. The Tigers, coming off an 8-5 campaign, earned the most AP poll points among teams that didn’t finish in the Top 25 of the preseason poll. With 117 poll points, Missouri came in just behind No. 25 Stanford with 141 points.

Missouri last appeared in the AP preseason top 25 in 2015, checking in at No. 24. That season, Gary Pinkel’s last coaching the Tigers, came unraveled after a 3-0 start and ended with a 5-7 record. Here’s some promising poll trivia for Mizzou: The team’s two best seasons this century began outside of the AP poll, both 2007 and 2013, when the Tigers won 12 games, reached their conference championship game and played in January bowl games.

Mizzou has started the season in the AP Top 25 just four other times since the 1980s: No. 18 in 2004, No. 6 in 2008, No. 21 in 2011 and No. 24 in 2014.

Mizzou peaked at No. 14 on two AP ballots, according to the site CollegePollTracker.com: Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News and Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald.  The Tigers were on another 22 ballots, ranging from No. 17 to 25, and were unranked by 38 voters.

The Tigers didn’t receive a single vote in the Amway Coaches’ Poll released last month because of the NCAA sanctions slapped on the program in January. The American Football Coaches Association has a rule that its members are not allowed to vote for teams under significant sanctions, including a postseason ban. For that reason, USA Today, which compiles and publishes the weekly coaches poll, leaves sanctioned teams off its ballot. Should the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee overturn the team’s postseason ban sometime this fall, Mizzou will eligible for the coaches poll ballot.

As for the top of the AP poll, no surprise there as defending national champion Clemson is No. 1 with 52 of 62 first-place votes, followed by No. 2 Alabama, last year’s national runner-up, with the other 10 first-place votes. It’s the first time Clemson begins the season No. 1 in the AP poll. Clemson and Alabama have split the last four national championships and have met in the playoffs four straight years.

Another five Southeastern Conference teams are in the top 25: Georgia at No. 3, LSU at No. 6, Florida at No. 8, Texas A&M at No. 12 and Auburn at No. 16. After Missouri, two more SEC teams are receiving votes: Mississippi State and South Carolina.

The Big Ten led the poll with seven teams, followed by the SEC (six), Pac-12 (five), Big 12 (three) and ACC (two).

Here’s an intereting nugget from AP college football writer Ralph Russo: Texas A&M and South Carolina both play all No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia. Only three times in the history of the AP poll has a team played the top three teams in the preseason poll — and one of them was Missouri.

In 1968, Northwestern went 0-3 against Purdue, USC and Notre Dame.

In 1972, Minnesota went 0-3 against Nebraska, Colorado and Ohio State.

In 1975, Al Onofrio's Missouri Tigers went 1-2 against Oklahoma, Alabama and Michigan with the win coming over No. 2 Alabama to open the season.

Preseason AP poll

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Oklahoma

5. Ohio State

6. LSU

7. Michigan

8. Florida

9. Notre Dame

10. Texas

11. Oregon

12. Texas A&M

13. Washington

14. Utah

15. Penn State

16. Auburn

17. UCF

18. Michigan State

19. Wisconsin

20. Iowa

21. Iowa State

22. Syracuse

23. Washington State

24. Nebraska

25. Stanford

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