Let me start by saying I hate preseason polls. I didn't like them for 30 years when I was covering college football at the Dallas Morning News and the Boston Globe. I didn't like doing them when I was a long time voter on the Associated Press bowl, which in the pre-playoff days determined national champions.
And let me say, now doing this for as much fun as anything at TMG, I still hate them, because they are WORTHLESS and are (or should be) forgotten as soon as they play the first games of each season.
The problem is that everyone who takes part in these public relations (and that's all they are) projects is making their prediction based on what happened last season.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Oh, you can be bold and predict that Alabama will be a Top tier team every year as long as Nick Saban is the head coach.
But even Saban will tell you there are always unknowns. He had to go out and hire new offensive and defensive coordinators this season. He had to reconfigure a defense that returned only 3 starters. Things change. Chemistry changes. It's not the same team.
The reason for this rant is simple. I went out on a limb in my pre-season predictions and predicted Michigan State would be the No. 1 team in the country at the end of the season. Another case in point was Miami's (the Canes were ranked No. 7 in pre season polls) pathetic effort in a 33-17 loss to LSU. Right now, the Canes don't look like the best team in the ACC Coastal Division, much less as a Top 10 team
In the case of Michigan State, it may simply be they needed as game to play. Coach Mark Dantonio had 19 starters returning from a team which won 10 games last season. The Spartans toughest regular season opponents (Michigan and Ohio State) were both coming to East Lansing.
The Spartans also had a veteran QB returning in Brian Lewerke. They had 9 defensive starters returning and their non-conference schedule didn't look all that daunting.
My theory was that Michigan State was good enough to get to the Final Four and would find a way to beat an Alabama, a Clemson or a Georgia in the semifinals. After that, it was jump ball and why not Michigan State?
I watched Michigan State open its season at home against a Utah State team, which was 6-7 last season, but returned 16 starters. I didn't think that would be a problem for Sparty in their home opener last Thursday.
I was wrong. It was. Michigan State needed all of its skill and all of its luck in pulling out a 38-31 victory in the final minutes.
Oh, the Spartans can still run the table, they can still win the Big Ten and wind up in the Final Four. But what I saw on Thursday was not the best team in the country. It looked like a marginal Top 10 team at best.
Alabama, however, and to a lesser degree (because of the quality of their opponents) Clemson and Georgia also looked like teams worthy of No. 1 ranking.
After watching the way Alabama took apart Louisville, I'm not sure if anyone can beat them on their regular season schedule. And I wouldn't bet against them in another showdown with Georgia in the SEC title game.
I'm not going to back off my Michigan State pick. I will stick with them until they lose, but my point in this is simple. If I made my first rankings of the season on Oct. 1 instead of August 31st, my pre-season rankings would be much different, it would be much closer to reality because I would have a month of games to judge performances from this season, which is the way it should be.
I know the pre-season polls won't go away. The pre-season hype depends on that information, no matter how misguided it may be.
But until a team plays at least two games, it is foolish to predict rankings of any kind. I would enjoy the build up of the first poll of the season on October 1 as much as any pre-season pick.
And I would be much more prepared to defend my choices. [membership]