(USA Today) -- LSU will start the season ranked No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches' Poll, which again is flush with teams from the nation's most dominant league.
The Southeastern Conference, whose teams have won the last six Bowl Championship Series titles, has five of the top 10 teams and leads all conferences with seven teams ranked in the top 25 that was unveiled Thursday.
The Big 12 has six teams, including newcomers West Virginiaand TCU.
LSU received 18 first-place votes, two fewer than second-place Alabama. Southern California, which received 19 first-place votes, is third. Oklahoma, which opened last season No. 1, and Oregon round out the top five.
This the first time since USA TODAY Sports began administering the coaches' poll in 1991 that the No. 1 team in the preseason had fewer first-place votes than the runner-up. The 15-point spread between first and third is also the tightest of any preseason poll in that span.
MORE | Complete USA TODAY Sports preseason poll
This marks only the second time in the BCS era, which began with the 1998 season, that teams that played in the previous BCS title game began the season Nos. 1 and 2 in the coaches' poll. The other time was 1999 with Florida State opening No. 1, followed by Tennessee. FSU was No. 1 every week that season en route to the national title.
"We are fortunate to be at a place that allows you to compete for that (No. 1) spot," LSU coach Les Miles told USA TODAY Sports in a statement. "We recognize that it (No. 1 ranking) is more of a reflection of a body of work and understand that right now, it's a spot that we hold and not one that has been earned. It's a position that we enjoy. Now we have to go out and play in order to keep it."
LSU returns 15 starters (six offense, six defense, three special teams) and a total of 41 letterwinners from last year's team, which finished 13-1, won the SEC title and lost the BCS title game to Alabama.
Among the returning starters are three All-Americans in cornerback/return man Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Sam Montgomery and punter Brad Wing.
Also of note:
• Five teams in this year's preseason top 10 - Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Florida State - were in the top 10 to start last season. Alabama, LSU and Oregon still were in the top 10 when the 2011 season ended.
• Florida, ranked 23rd, kept alive its string of appearing in every preseason poll since USA TODAY Sports took over administration of the coaches' poll. Ohio State had a similar streak, but it ended this year because the team is ineligible for votes in the wake of NCAA sanctions.
• The American Football Coaches Association bars teams under major NCAA or conference probation from receiving votes. However, because Central Florida said it is appealing a football bowl ban handed down Tuesday by the NCAA, it will remain eligible until the NCAA rules on the appeal. In addition to Ohio State, North Carolina and Penn State are ineligible for votes this season because of NCAA sanctions.
• Balloting had concluded before Penn State running back Silas Redd announced he would transfer to Southern California.
• No Big East team is ranked in the preseason poll for the second consecutive season. West Virginia (18th) and Cincinnati (21st) finished last season in the rankings. However, West Virginia has since moved to the Big 12. The Mountaineers are 11th in this season's preseason poll.