ESPN's Rece Davis explains ranking Oklahoma over Alabama football in AP preseason poll

Erik Hall
The Tuscaloosa News

ESPN broadcaster Rece Davis is a graduate of the University of Alabama. 

But on his ballot this year for The Associated Press college football preseason poll, he put the Oklahoma Sooners No. 1 ahead of the Crimson Tide

Of the 63 voters in the AP poll, Davis is one of six to put Oklahoma football in the No. 1 spot. Davis' top five were Oklahoma, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State — in that order. 

The AP preseason poll shook out to rank No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 5 Georgia. Alabama received 47 first-place votes. 

ESPN broadcaster Rece Davis explains ranking Oklahoma football No. 1

Desmond Howard and Rece Davis during the live broadcast of ESPN College GameDay at Sundance Square.

Davis appeared on the podcast "AP Top 25 College Football with Ralph Russo" and explained his voting thought process. 

"There's a very small difference among any of those teams," Davis said on the podcast. "I think Alabama and Clemson are demonstrably stronger than Oklahoma in some areas, but quarterback is the most important position in sports. It's the most important position in college football. Of all the teams I considered at the top, Spencer Rattler is easily the most proven commodity. 

"Will he be the best at the end, that remains to be seen, but that gave them the slightest of edges at the moment." 

Rattler threw for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns in 11 games during 2020 for Oklahoma. He rushed for 160 yards and six touchdowns last season. 

Davis said there was a clear top five teams and clear top three teams as he made his ballot.

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

"I just didn't see anyone else that merited that type of consideration," Davis said. "Those programs have set themselves apart. ... That group of five, those were the only ones I considered, and to be honest, I didn't consider Georgia for No. 1 nor Ohio State. 

"The considerations at No. 1 for me were Oklahoma, Clemson, and Alabama. ... Alabama and Clemson, I think, are stronger, more proven on defense with what Oklahoma has done defensively. And certainly (DJ) Uiagalelei played well when he had an opportunity, but it's a different thing to be the guy. And Bryce Young hasn't played at all, so that's how I landed with them." 

This is Davis' fifth year voting in the AP poll. 

In 2019 and 2020, Davis ranked Clemson No. 1 in the preseason. He went with Alabama No. 1 in the preseason in 2017 and 2018. 

Oklahoma opens the season at Tulane on Saturday, Sept. 4. Alabama starts the season against the Miami Hurricanes in Atlanta on Sept. 4. 

Here's more Alabama football news: 

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (No. 9) at football practice on Aug. 14, 2021.

Davis is the host of ESPN "College GameDay," which airs each Saturday morning during the college football season from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. CT on ESPN and ESPNU. 

Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik