SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) — It’s a pretty simple formula. If you want to win a national championship, have Nick Saban or Urban Meyer coach your team.
Teams coached by Saban and Meyer have won national championships in eight of the last 13 years.
After Meyer’s Ohio State team took the top spot in last year’s final Associated Press Top 25, Saban’s Alabama team finished No. 1 this season.
What’s in store for next year?
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A look at the final Top 25, where those teams are headed and where they might be ranked in the 2016 preseason poll.
No. 1 Alabama (14-1)
The Tide will lose several juniors to the draft and must break in a new starting quarterback, but Alabama has won three national titles with first-time starting quarterbacks.
Possible key losses: RB Derrick Henry; DE A’Shawn Robinson; LB Reggie Ragland.
2016 opener: USC at Arlington, Texas.
Heat check: Alabama should start every season no worse than third.
No. 2 Clemson (14-1)
Deshaun Watson returns and that alone should put the Tigers in contention for a playoff spot.
Possible key losses: DE Shaq Lawson; CB Mackensie Alexander.
2016 opener: at Auburn.
Heat check: Tigers will be in discussion for preseason No. 1.
No. 3 Stanford (12-2)
The offense might not be as good as the Cardinal search for a new starting quarterback, but the defense should be improved. Oh, and they have TB Christian McCaffrey.
Key losses: QB Kevin Hogan; LB Blake Martinez.
2016 opener: vs. Kansas State.
Heat check: Should be the highest ranked Pac-12 team entering next season, but might not be top 10.
No. 4 Ohio State (12-1)
Rebuilding year in Columbus, Ohio — and the Buckeyes still could win a Big Ten championship. New and hungry stars will emerge.
Key losses: Where do we start? RB Ezekiel Elliott; DE Joey Bosa.
2016 opener: vs. Bowling Green.
Heat check: The Buckeyes will be in the back half of the preseason top 10.
No. 5 Oklahoma (11-2)
A loaded offense again, led by QB Baker Mayfield, makes the Sooners the Big 12 favorites going in — for whatever that’s worth in the most unpredictable Power Five conference.
Key losses: WR Sterling Shepherd; OLB Eric Striker.
2016 opener: at Houston at NRG Stadium.
Heat check: The Sooners could start 2016 where they finished 2015.
No. 6 Michigan State (12-2)
The Spartans will need to rework very good lines and find a replacement for QB Connor Cook. RB L.J. Scott could become a star. NT Malik McDowell already is.
Key losses: OT Jack Conklin; DE Shilique Calhoun.
2016 opener: Furman.
Heat check: Coach Mark Dantonio deserves the benefit of the doubt at this point. Maybe top 10 to start.
No. 7 TCU (11-2)
The offense will undergo major changes, starting at quarterback, but considering all the turnover and injuries the Horned Frogs had this season it is best to never underestimate Gary Patterson.
Key losses: QB Trevone Boykin; WR Josh Doctson.
2016 opener: South Dakota State.
Heat check: Probably start outside the top 10.
No. 8 Houston (13-1)
Tom Herman is back to coach. The Cougars have some good players returning (QB Greg Ward Jr.) and a big recruiting class arriving.
Key losses: WR Derek Ayers; CB William Jackson.
2016 opener: vs. Oklahoma.
Heat check: Will start as highest ranked Group of Five team. Maybe in the top 10.
No. 9 Iowa (12-2)
A lot of the components that led to this season’s surprising run to a division title are back, including QB C.J. Beathard and All-America CB Desmond King.
Key losses: DL Drew Ott; RB Jordan Canzeri.
2016 opener: Miami (Ohio) University.
Heat check: Another year will start with little respect for the Hawkeyes, who will probably be ranked outside the top 15.
No. 10 Mississippi (10-3)
QB Chad Kelly returns and we’ll see what life for the Rebels after the 2013 recruiting is like.
Key losses: DT Robert Nkemdiche; WR Laquon Treadwell; OT Laremy Tunsil.
2016 opener: vs. Florida State in Orlando.
Heat check: End of an era for the Rebels, but enough momentum to start next season ranked.
No. 11 Notre Dame (10-3)
The Fighting Irish will have an Ohio State-like quarterback competition with Malik Zaire returning from injury and DeShone Kizer in place. The talent level in South Bend, Indiana, should keep Notre Dame in playoff contention.
Key losses: LB Jaylon Smith; WR Will Fuller.
2016 opener: at Texas.
Heat check: The Irish lose significant talent, and it will likely keep them out of the preseason top 10.
No. 12 Michigan (10-3)
The Wolverines defense has a chance to be nasty again and the development of Jake Rudock throughout this past season showed that Jim Harbaugh can work wonders with quarterbacks.
Key losses: WR Jehu Chesson; LB Joe Bolden.
2016 opener: vs. Hawaii.
Heat check: If you thought there was Harbaugh overload this season, wait until the Wolverines start next season in the top five.
No. 13 Baylor (10-3)
A lot went wrong for the Bears this season, but the Art Briles offensive machine still cranked out double-digit wins. QB Seth Russell returns from injury. So does QB Jarett Stidham. Whomever starts is a Heisman contender.
Key losses: WR Corey Coleman; DE Shawn Oakman.
2016 opener: vs. Northwestern State.
Heat check: Another top-10 start for the Bears is likely.
No. 14 Florida State (10-3)
The Seminoles’ rebuilding year ended with 10 victories and a big question mark at quarterback. There are players in the pipeline to fix that problem and TB Dalvin Cook is back to help. Fabulous freshman DE Josh Sweat and S Derwin James will become All-Americans.
Key losses: CB Jalen Ramsey; WR Jesus Wilson.
2016 opener: vs. Mississippi in Orlando, Florida.
Heat check: Seminoles fans should be very excited. Jimbo Fisher’s team will start in the top five and contend for a national title.
No. 15 North Carolina (11-3)
Getting exposed late in the season means this breakout season might not be a trend, but building an offense around TB Elijah Hood is a nice way start.
Key losses: QB Marquise Williams; LB Shakeel Rashad.
2016 opener: at Georgia.
Heat check: The most likely top-15 team to start next season unranked.
No. 16 LSU (9-3)
Les Miles has promised a more balanced and creative offense — as long as TB Leonard Fournette is still the focal point. Seems fair.
Key losses: OT Jerald Hawkins; LB Deion Jones.
2016 opener: vs. Wisconsin in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Heat check: Figure the Tigers for somewhere between 10-15 to start. Another three-loss season will bring more drama about Miles’ future.
No. 17 Utah (10-3)
The Utes lose a quarterback (Travis Wilson) and their best running back, but the lines — always a strength — should still be solid.
Key losses: RB Devontae Booker; S Tevin Carter.
2016 opener: vs. Southern Utah.
Heat check: Utah tends to be undervalued to start most seasons. That will probably continue.
No. 18 Navy (11-2)
Coming off their best season in years and losing one of the best players in school history, expectations will be tempered for Navy. Keeping coach Ken Niumatalolo is key.
Key losses: QB Keenan Reynolds.
2016 opener: vs. Fordham.
Heat check: Navy will start next season unranked.
No. 19 Oregon (9-4)
Dakota Prukop from Montana State is the next grad transfer quarterback the Ducks are bringing in to keep the offense rolling. RB Royce Freeman is back to do damage. No about fixing that defense?
Key losses: WR Bralon Addison; DE DeForest Buckner.
2016 opener: vs. UC Davis.
Heat check: It might be asking too much for Prukop to be as good as Vernon Adams. For the first time since 2010, Ducks will start season out of the top 10.
No. 20 Oklahoma State (10-3)
The Cowboys overachieved this season, but if they can fix the running game in 2016, another season in Big 12 contention seems reasonable.
Key losses: DE Emmanuel Ogbah; QB J.W. Walsh.
2016 opener: vs. SE Louisiana.
Heat check: The Cowboys look like a perfect fit to fill out the bottom five of the preseason top 25.
No. 21 Wisconsin (10-3)
A more experienced offensive line should bring back Wisconsin’s running game. Losing defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will sting.
Key losses: QB Joel Stave; LB Joe Schobert.
2016 opener: vs. LSU in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Heat check: The Badgers are another safe pick that tends to fill out the bottom of a preseason Top 25.
No. 22 Tennessee (9-4)
Arrows are pointing up for QB Josh Dobbs, DL Derek Barnett and the Volunteers.
Key losses: WR Von Pearson; DE Curt Maggitt.
2016 opener: vs. Appalachian State.
Heat check: The Volunteers could be on the verge of big things and will probably start next season a bit over ranked because of that.
No. 23 Northwestern (10-3)
The Wildcats had a strong bounce-back season after a couple of losing years, but still need to take a big step forward with their offense next season.
Key losses: WR Dan Vitale; DL Drew Lowry.
2016 opener: vs. Western Michigan.
Heat check: Those three lopsided losses will probably keep the Wildcats out of the preseason rankings.
No. 24 Western Kentucky (12-2)
Coming off the best season in school history and losing the best quarterback in school history, the Hilltoppers will likely take a step back.
Key loss: QB Brandon Doughty.
2016 opener: TBA.
Heat check: The Hilltoppers will start next season unranked.
No. 25 Florida (10-4)
The Gators will lose a lot of an excellent defense, but the hope is they will have an improved offense in Year 2 under coach Jim McElwain. But who plays quarterback?
Key losses: CB Vernon Hargreaves; RB Kelvin Taylor.
2016 opener: vs. UMass.
Heat check: The Gators could slip into the bottom of the preseason rankings, but that bad end to the season will create many skeptics.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrusoAP