When The Associated Press releases its preseason football rankings in a few weeks, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are expected to be in the Top 10, and Georgia Tech should be in the Top 15.
Meanwhile, ESPN has just released its updated Future Power Ratings of programs, which are high on our three area SEC schools and somewhat optimistic about Tech.
To appreciate the significance of that, consider some history:
AP's first preseason poll came out in 1950. (Aside: Notre Dame was ranked No. 1. Imagine that. The Irish finished 4-4-1, but were ranked No. 14 in the '51 preseason poll. And they wonder why the rest of college football resents the Notre Dame media.)
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Anyway, back on point. This will be the 66th preseason AP poll. Assuming the projections hold true, it would be just the third time that all four of our schools were in the preseason poll. It would be the first time that Alabama, Auburn and Georgia were all ranked in the Top 10.
Of course, preseason rankings mean nothing by October. But they are usually a reflection of the previous season's success and the perceived stability of the program.
ESPN's Future Power Ratings take that a step further. They were assembled by a panel of eight people who cover college football for ESPN in various capacities: Brad Edwards, Brock Huard, Tom Luginbill,
Mark Schlabach, Travis Haney, Heather Dinich, Sharon Katz and Adam Rittenberg. Edwards was the guru of the BCS formula. Huard and Luginbill are former players (Luginbill at Georgia Tech). That doesn't mean any of them are prescient. But they are knowledgeable and, most importantly, aim to be objective.
They rated programs on a 1-10 scale in five categories -- coaching,recruiting, current talent, title path and foundation. The categories are weighted with coaching and current talent receiving 54 percent of the weight. Recruiting and title path comprise 36 percent of the weight with program foundation receiving only 10 percent.
Here's what they came up with. Ohio State is No. 1. Hard to argue there because it's not so much projecting who will WIN a national championship as much as who will PLAY for the title. Have to admit, it's hard to see Ohio State losing twice in a season going through the Big 10 schedule. Remember, this is based on the next three seasons, beginning with 2015. It might take Jim Harbaugh more time than that to restore Michigan top national contender status.
Alabama, which came in at No. 2, had three 10s -- current talent, recruiting and foundation, and 9.9 in coaching. The only reason they didn't give the Tide a 10 for coaching was Nick Saban himself.
"You're talking about a perfect score, and I don't think a defensive-minded coach has enough control of a game to get a perfect score," Edwards said. "I just don't think in today's college football world, with the prevalence of up-tempo offenses, that a defensive-minded coach can have enough of an impact once the game is underway. He can't have enough of an impact to be a 10. Someone who's on offense and is the playcaller can have that kind of impact, a tremendous impact."
But what cost the Tide the No. 1 spot was title path. The panel gave the Tide an 8.1 score. That makes sense with three other SEC West schools -- Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss -- in the top 25 plus having to play two other schools deemed on the rise, Arkansas and Tennessee. The Tide also has to play at Georgia this year, and then there's the SEC Championship Game.
That Alabama was No. 2 is hardly a surprise. What's interesting is that Auburn was No. 4 (behind Florida State), and Georgia No. 8 (behind LSU, Southern Cal and Clemson). The biggest difference was coaching. Auburn graded 8.6 to Georgia's 7. Basically, Mark Richt got dinged for his inconsistency. Here's what is illogical, though. Auburn's hiring of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator was deemed a plus. No argument here. But last year, Auburn's grade for coaching was 8.8.
Georgia's high ranking is on the strength of recruiting and program foundation (two 9s).
In the scheme of things, rankings mean nothing, especially now that college football has a playoff. But we still have 68 days until kickoff.
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.