Though one game has already been played college football kicks off a new season in earnest today. That means ESPN Game Day and the gang with all the hype and fun of a college football Saturday in the fall. I love it. I plan my days around these events and soak it all in with much fun.
To say that I have marked the days until Alabama begins the new season would be a huge understatement. I follow news from Tuscaloosa daily and read practice reports with real interest. In the championship season of 2009 I ended up getting to see three games in person: Arkansas, Kentucky (in Lexington) and Texas in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Nothing can top that year for me. But every Crimson Tide fan knows that every year opens the door for another crack at the top spot and this year is truly no exception.
Pre-season polls have Alabama ranked No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 at worst. Some polls have LSU winning out by beating the Crimson Tide. Others have Oklahoma on top, beating either LSU or Alabama in the BCS Championship game in January. The fun is that no one knows. These are kids and the way they will actually play cannot be determined this early. The season will unfold and every game will matter. An SEC team can afford one loss if it wins out but it depends on when and where the loss comes in the season. One thing is for sure, the SEC is the best conference in college football and almost every analyst agrees, though their reasons vary.
But preseason football rankings aren't for college football coaches. They aren't even for players. After a recent scrimmage Alabama’s famed coach Nick Saban added, "I always say that preseason rankings are really for fans."
Some fans, and I am one by temperament, are nervous about the weight of great expectations. But I remind myself this is not the real burden of winning, at least not when it comes to Alabama, who has a bulls-eye on them every single week they play.
What is Nick Saban's reaction to the high ranking in the pre-season polls?
"It really doesn't have anything to do with the kind of team you have, the kind of team you're going to have," he said. "It's nice to be recognized and respected in that regard, but at the same time, how this team does will be what happens on the field.”
"How do we do when we play the games? How much consistency do we play with? How do we compete for 60 minutes in a game? What kind of team chemistry do we have? What kind of positive energy do we have? How responsible are we to do the things we need to do to be successful? How willing are we to work to earn what we want to accomplish?”
"I think you do all that stuff on the field. You don't do it based on any kind of preseason predictions, polls or anything else. So it's pretty meaningless, actually. We're looking forward to the competition and what we need to do to try to have a good season.”
"That's all going to be determined by what we do in the future, not what we've done in the past."
Senior safety, and pre-season All-American, Mark Barron, concludes: "We want to come out and win a national championship, to be undefeated. Every time we step out on the field, one of our motivating factors is to be special."
Yes, to “be special.” I am not going out on a limb but I think this team could be special. They way they manhandled a good Michigan State team in the bowl game back in January spoke volumes about how good this group could be. If championships are won on defense then they have a great shot at it. But they’ll need a break here or there. Good teams miss breaks, great teams seize them.
I have tickets to see Alabama play Arkansas in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, September 24th. This will likely be one of their two biggest games in the regular season. It was one of the three games I saw in 2009. Could history repeat itself? I’m hoping. Either way I am looking forward to kickoff today. And next week Alabama travels to Happy Valley to play Penn State. It only gets better as the season goes on, or so I hope. Roll Tide, Roll.