When the preseason Coaches Poll top 25 was released last week, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. You could see it coming from a mile away.

Alabama No. 1, Ohio State No. 2.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer occupying the top two spots of a preseason poll might seem boring to the average college football fan. After all, they won eight of the last 14 national titles. The assumption is that year in, year out, Meyer and Saban are going to coach, recruit and ultimately win at an elite level.

But what happens after the rare occasion that they lose? I’m not talking about finishing outside the top 10 or something crazy like that. I’m talking about what happens the year after Meyer and Saban lose a bowl game like they did in 2016.

That’s proven to be a scary sight for the rest of the college football world.

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It’s no secret that Meyer and Saban fall into the category of “hating losing more than they enjoy winning.” That mindset probably helped fuel national championship runs, especially after disappointing finishes the year before.

The numbers suggest that to be the case.

Starting with Saban, look at how each of his teams performed the year after losing a bowl game since he started at LSU in 2000:

  • 2002 (LSU) — Lose Cotton Bowl
    • 2003 (LSU) — Win National Championship
  • 2008 (Alabama) — Lose Sugar Bowl
    • 2009 (Alabama) — Win National Championship
  • 2013 (Alabama) — Lose Sugar Bowl
    • 2014 (Alabama) — Lose Sugar Bowl
  • 2014 (Alabama) — Lose Sugar Bowl
    • 2015 (Alabama) — Win National Championship
  • 2016 (Alabama) — Lose National Championship
    • 2017 (Alabama) — TBD

By looking at that, one can see that Saban’s teams won titles after three of their four bowl losses. That didn’t include the title that Saban won in 2011, which was after the Tide finished a measly No. 10 in the Associated Press poll in 2010 (they won the Capital One Bowl).

So yes, it’s not hyperbole to say that Saban comes back stronger after a loss. The same could be said about his buddy, Urban.

Actually, Meyer’s post-bowl loss record is even better than Saban’s. Meyer only lost three bowl games in 15 years as a head coach.

Here’s how that turned out:

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  • 2007 (Florida) — Lose Capital One Bowl
    • 2008 (Florida) — Win National Championship
  • 2013 (Ohio State) — Lose Orange Bowl
    • 2014 (Ohio State) — Win National Championship
  • 2016 (Ohio State) — Lose Fiesta Bowl
    • 2017 (Ohio State) — TBD

Basically, get ready for Meyer and Saban to both win national titles in 2017.

Obviously that can’t happen anymore (who misses when national titles could be claimed?), but it suggests something greater. When the best coaches in the country suffer a season-ending loss, they’re pretty darn good the following year.

Besides just managing the Xs and Os, why is this the case? How do they light that fire?

The amazing thing is that while one might assume such a trend exists, the aforementioned numbers aren’t universally known. Not even the guys in Ohio State’s locker room knew about Meyer’s post-bowl loss marks.

I was at B1G Media Days in Chicago, and I asked Ohio State players about that. It was news to them. Despite the fact that they’re sick of talking about the 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, they weren’t aware of that obvious number. All they knew was that Meyer didn’t brush it off like it was no big deal.

“(Meyer) was very angry after that loss,” Ohio State offensive lineman Billy Price said. “Not like tantrum and flipping out type of angry, but there was a lot of accountability that he took on his behalf, and he’ll publicly say that.”

Notice that word. “Accountability.” Saban uses “culture of accountability” to describe Alabama’s consistency. He uses it to describe shortcomings, too.

“Accountability” is all part of Saban’s process. Usually teams that make it to the College Football Playoff look back on that as a successful season. With Alabama and Ohio State, they talk about 2016 like it was a disappointment.

It’s funny. If you put Alabama and Ohio State players in a room and asked them to speak to the media, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

“Ohio State doesn’t lose 31-0 like that,” Price said. “We had some time off after that, so when I came back and walked into the facility, I learned about a bunch of the changes that have been made. You’ve got to put full faith into Coach Meyer and trust in the process.”

Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Part of “accountability” is understanding the tough personnel decisions that need to be made after coming up short of a national title. The Lane Kiffin breakup was well-documented, as was Meyer’s decision to essentially gut his entire offensive staff. Those assistants didn’t get free passes despite the fact that they each were integral parts of national title teams in the last two years.

Those were the heavy-hitting changes Meyer and Saban made after bowl losses. They did other little things, too.

Saban tweaked his approach to better motivate the current generation of college football players. He doesn’t tell them to invest in the team anymore. Saban now preaches the importance of players investing in themselves.

“It’s going to benefit us, too. But the individuals make the team what it is,” Saban said via CoachingSearch.com. “This generation responds a lot better to that, because that’s what they want to know. Why am I doing this? When you say you’re doing it for the team, no, you’re not doing it for the team. You do it for yourself.”

Meyer instituted a new motto that’s along those same lines. In March, Ohio State all got red rubber bracelets that say “ONE STRONG” on one side with “MIND,” “HEART” and “BODY” on the other. “One Strong” motto is all about accountability. That includes be accountability for things like one’s weight, academics and social life.

RELATED: Urban Meyer: OSU-Michigan is greatest rivalry in sports

Will a rubber bracelet be the difference in Ohio State winning a national title? Probably not, but at the very least, it serves as a constant reminder to the standard that’s needed to win a national title.

Meyer and Saban know the recipe for winning championships. When they get more time to step back and look back on the year that was, they see the cracks in the foundation.

Winning can sometimes mask bigger issues. Alabama’s defense rarely had to play a full 60 minutes in the regular season and didn’t know how to close a game. Ohio State had offensive limitations that weren’t exposed until it ran into a well-prepared defense full of future NFL players.

Making adjustments like that can only really happen in the offseason. That’s what separates Meyer and Saban. They don’t need to change who they are after a disappointing end. They do, however, find new ways to get through to their teams so that the same mistakes aren’t repeated the following year.

Interestingly enough, the only time Meyer and Saban ever suffered bowl losses in the same year was in 2013. The following season, they met in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. Ohio State knocked off top-seeded Alabama in a Sugar Bowl matchup that felt like a national championship.

Meyer and Saban have, of course, never faced off for a national title. Many believe 2017 could be the first time that happens.

Maybe we should all see that coming from a mile away.