LSU picked up 1,403 points in voting of the nation's coaches, edging defending national champion Alabama with 1,399.
USC also had more first-place votes than the Tigers -- 19 -- but is third in the initial poll with 1,388 points. Balloting was finished before the Trojans signed Silas Redd, the transfer from Penn State.
It is the second time since 1998 that teams that met in the previous season's title game are the top two teams in the preseason poll.
The SEC, which has won the past six BCS Championship Games, has five of the nation's top 10 teams and seven teams in the preseason poll. The Big 12 also has seven teams, but only one in the top 10. Its two newcomers -- West Virginia and TCU -- are both ranked, however. The Mountaineers are 11th and the Horned Frogs are 17th.
The Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC have three each.
Boise State is 22nd and Notre Dame 24th in the initial rankings.
The Big East was shut out for the second straight year.