I think pre-season rankings for college football teams is about the biggest waste of time in sports’ journalism. I have before me the cover story of Sports Illustrated, August 20, 2007. I check it each week. It listed the Top Ten teams for the pre-season. Currently four teams are in the Top Ten that are listed in the pre-season rankings: LSU, Virginia Tech. West Virginia and Oklahoma. 40% of the prognosis was right. And some people, like me, still buy these magazines and read them with real interest. I guess it proves that real fans like to see what the "experts" think before the first game is played. I wonder how these magazines impact teenage college students who play these games.
Anyway, some of the pre-season Top Ten are not even close right now. Louisville and Wisconsin are two examples of this category. And No. 1 rated Ohio State was not even listed in the Top Ten pre-season, coming in at No. 11 in the Sports Illustrated listing. Boston College is No. 2 and was unrated in the pre-season poll. And Arizona State is at No. 4 and Oregon at No. 5, also both unrated in the pre-season Top Ten. Only five teams remain undefeated so far: Ohio State, Boston College, Arizona State (No. 7 and not seriously tested by a ranked opponent), Kansas (No. 12, also untested), and Hawaii (No. 16). It is quite likely that only one, or at most two, of these teams will remain undefeated. Ohio State may play only one really tough game the rest of the season, the final game against Michigan. Hawaii, with all due respect, will not play in the BCS title game no matter what they do. Kansas and Arizona State have too may tough games left to remain undefeated. I really think only Ohio State goes without a loss of all the highly ranked teams and they have not played a difficult schedule at all. I am not convinced at all by this team, especially after they struggled to hold on against Michigan State, a mediocre team at best. The Big Ten is about the weakest major conference in the land this year. Someone explain this to me but this is not a great conference at all.
This season presents a classic argument for some kind of playoff system since some of the best teams will have one loss: USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, etc. But USC, Oklahoma and Oregon all have very tough games ahead of them, with USC playing at Oregon this next weekend. There might well be a two loss team that is deserving of a shot at No. 1 but it will never happen with the present out-dated BCS system.
The same pre-season Sports Illustrated issue rated Arkansas’ Darren McFadden as the best back in the land, which has not proven true at all. And Arkansas, Boise State and Nebraska were all in the Top 20 pre-season and are now not ranked in the real polls. Real surprises include South Florida, Kentucky, Boston College, Kansas and Missouri. What a great game college football is and what a season this has already been. So far, being ranked No. 1 and No. 2 has been the kiss of death. Watch out Boston College and Ohio State.
For me the biggest game of the year, since my childhood in middle Tennessee, comes on the "third Saturday in October." This is the actual title of a real book about the storied bitter rivalry between Tennessee and Alabama. I haven’t enjoyed a big game blow-out as much as Alabama beating Tennessee 41-17 this last Saturday in many, many years. I jumped, danced and otherwise went crazy the last few minutes of the game singing "Rocky Top Tennessee" in derision at nothing but a TV screen. (I am glad I was alone!) Now if Alabama beats Auburn, which I think is not likely, it will have been a genuinely sweet first season for Nick Saban. LSU is next on the horizon, in Tuscaloosa in two weeks, and that is a huge game as well. I am not expecting a win against LSU but one never knows when the Tigers come to town. The Tide is playing up to Saban’s "perfectionism," not down to their very thin ranks and extremely young talent level. I expect they will only get better as the season goes along. I also expect Nick Saban will win, and win consistently, for many years to come. This delights die-hard Bama fans no end. I am enjoying it I must admit. For all the fans of other schools ranked and unranked enjoy these great games each week. This is a wonderful sport and there is no atmosphere like a major college football game. It is a spectacle beyond the belief of non-fans. For me it is just a load of fun. I loved being in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago. What a glorious day and sight. Rolllllll Tide!