Texas A&M will open the season as The Associated Press’ highest-rated college football team from the Lone Star State, with the Aggies grabbing the No. 7 spot in Saturday’s AP preseason poll.A&M is one of five Southeastern Conference schools that earned Top 10 spots, led by top-ranked Alabama. No. 15 Texas and No. 20 TCU rounded out a modest showing by Texas-based schools in the initial Top 25 rankings.The initial poll sets up a compelling matchup of Top 25 teams at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Aug. 31: No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU (8 p.m., ESPN).For A&M, the placement marked the Aggies’ loftiest preseason perch in the AP poll since the 1999 season, when the team also started at No. 7. The Aggies, who return Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel and other key playmakers from last year’s 11-2 team, were sixth in the preseason coaches poll, released earlier this month.As a group, Big 12 schools were shut out of the Top 10 spots, with No. 13 Oklahoma State earning the most votes from pollsters. The Cowboys will open ahead of No. 16 Oklahoma for the first time in the AP rankings. But OSU received the lowest starting point of any Big 12 school to begin the season as the league’s highest-rated team since the conference was formed in 1996. Two other Big 12 schools, Baylor (27th) and Kansas State (31st), received votes but finished unranked in the initial poll.Six teams from the SEC, the conference that has produced the last seven BCS national champions, were ranked ahead of Oklahoma State. The SEC, with six, placed the most teams of any league in the initial poll, followed by the Pac-12 (five), Big Ten (five) and Big 12 (four).Notre Dame, which fell to Alabama 42-14 in last year’s BCS National Championship Game, opened at No. 14.For Alabama, which received 58 of 60 first-place votes, it marked the fourth time in school history for the Crimson Tide to begin the season atop the AP poll. In the three previous occasions (1966, 1978, 2010), Alabama went on to win the title only in 1978.The last team to begin the season atop the AP poll and finish there was Southern California in 2004. The two first-place votes that did not go to Alabama were split between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Georgia.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch