Preseason College Football Rankings – Worth Anything?

The preseason college football rankings for the 2012 season came out this week and guess what – LSU, who led the rankings for most of last season and Alabama, #2 for most of last season and the national champions, took the top two spots once again. SEC dominance doesn’t change, it just got stronger. Problems is these preseason rankings usually don’t mean much.

Take a look at the 2011 poll – Oklahoma were the #1 team in the nation before the season began. They finished it as the #16 team on the AP poll, playing in the Insight bowl. Florida State were #6 and finished #23 after a 9-4 season. Texas A&M, Notre Dame (as always), Ohio State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Florida and Auburn weren’t even in the top 25 when the season ended.

Instead, Michigan, Baylor, Kansas State, Houston, Southern Miss, Clemson and Cincinnati were in the rankings. Baylor, Kansas State, Clemson and Cincinnati didn’t even get a single preseason vote in the AP Poll. College Football is that hard to predict, much more than the pro ranks, especially when it comes to who’ll finish in the top 25. Exactly 28% of the teams on the rankings aren’t going to be there in four months, after the bowl games. Why do these preseason rankings and polls at all?

Tradition. The polls have been a part of this sport and the debates surrounding it since, well, forever. Maybe its consequences will be less important when the new playoff comes into play in 2014, but most CFB fans can’t wait for Sunday when the polls come out and for Monday, to see how the BCS is messing things up. As much as the BCS system has been wrong for over a decade, it’s part of the sport’s DNA by now.

It’s a measurement of what are the hot programs, lets say the last 3-4 years, in the sport are right now. It’s about hype, and the size of a school and it’s ability to impress the media. It’s about letting all the small conferences know that no one really cares about them unless they don’t lose for an entire season. And it skews the actual rankings, because it gives teams an unfair advantage before the first snap was played. Worth anything? It is to the teams that are in it, but it shouldn’t be that way. It’s another tool to get fans excited about the upcoming season, but sometimes for the wrong reasons.

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