The first college football poll came out last week and Alabama is ranked No. 1.
Was there ever any question about that?
This was the Amway Coaches Poll, with 65 FBS head coaches voting. Having active coaches vote is supposed to give the poll more credibility. And it would be more credible if the coaches actually studied every team – players returning, additions through recruiting and transfers, development from within, senior leadership, the coaching staffs, the offseason strength and conditioning programs.
But most coaches aren’t even sure about their own teams, let alone the other 125 or so FBS teams.
Do you really think Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have spent even 30 seconds watching tape of, say, last year’s Oregon-Utah game?
No, the coaches see the same thing the writers, broadcasters and the fans see. Alabama has consistently out-recruited everybody in college football since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Maybe not every single season, although many times that, too. But collectively, Alabama’s stockpile of the past four recruiting classes has been far superior to everyone else’s for at least seven years now.
Only Alabama can lose five players in their front seven on defense, two of their top receivers and two starting offensive linemen – not to mention changing offensive coordinators, which undoubtedly will mean a new system – and still be pegged as the best team in college football.
Only Alabama could enter the season with a sophomore quarterback learning a new offense, backed up by two true freshmen, and still be ranked No. 1.
I’m not convinced Alabama is the best team in the country. Those aforementioned losses are a lot to overcome for any program. Just because they’ve done it before – several times, actually – doesn’t mean they will do it again. This may be the year that attrition finally catches up to the Crimson Tide.
The thing is, though, I’m not sure of any team being No. 1. There’s such a fine line between being pretty good – or even very good – and being the best team. That was seen last January, when the Tide jumped out to a 14-point lead in the national championship game against Clemson, fell behind and then took the lead again with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter, before Deshaun Watson calmly marched the Tigers 68 yards on nine plays for the win.
When it comes to college football, any analysis has the shelf life of spotted bananas. We can’t possibly know how the season will turn out. What we can bet on with almost absolute certainty is it will look much different three months from now than it does today.
As of now, the coaches see Alabama as the team to beat, the SEC as the deepest conference with six teams ranked in the Top 25, and the Big 10 as the toughest conference with four teams in the top 10. It’s heavily influenced by how last season played out. The first 11 teams in this year’s preseason poll are the same teams that finished in the top 11 last season.
Well, correction. The same 11 programs. Every team is different every year. Just the order has been changed for all except Oklahoma State at No. 11 in both polls.
We’ll know a lot more once Alabama plays Florida State in Atlanta and Auburn visits Clemson.
We’ll know more when we see how comfortable Jalen Hurts looks with the complete offense at his disposal.
We’ll know more when Jarrett Stidham is running Auburn’s offense – assuming he wins the job over Sean White.
The only way we’ll find out is for them to tee it up. That can’t come soon enough.