From the Sidelines: Taking time to enjoy the lunacy of preseason polls

Published 10:59 pm Friday, August 8, 2008

Preseason polls are what they are, fodder for writers, conversation pieces for fans and bulletin board material for coaches. That’s why every year, they must be taken with a grain of salt.

Not one player has thus far suited up for a game. Not one snap has been taken. Not one favorite has been challenged. So, while we will pontificate for weeks to come, prognosticating eventual champions at such a premature juncture is, well, premature.

That’s why LSU supporters should be entirely unfazed by their defending national champion Tigers holding down the No. 6 spot in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Sure, the argument could be made that the Tigers are bringing back the bulk of a defense that was clearly the best in the country a season ago. However, it could also be argued that the fact that only one of every 20 fans nationally can name the team’s quarterback should dictate that the team be placed a reasonable difference from the top spot in the country.

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And yes, Buckeye fans may again rejoice that their beloved The Ohio State University sits comfortably at No. 3 where it will perch like a vulture waiting to pounce on one of the Top 2 spots as soon as USC or Georgia drops a game. After all, in the convoluted BCS mess, it helps to be a big-time team in a weak conference that has no championship game. The Buckeyes have managed to spin that circumstance into a recipe for earning the right to prove the SEC’s favorite whipping boy on an annual basis. So why not let the Big 11’s top team be No. 3 in the country?

And sure, Florida looked pretty abysmal for stretches of its January bowl game, but they have enough recognizable names, including 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, to merit holding down the No. 5 slot on the list of teams most likely to prove overrated by season’s end.

And, since its only preseason, let’s go ahead and give West Virginia its yearly does of love. Sure, the Mountaineers tanked against lowly Pittsburgh in the contest that would have clinched them a spot in the national title game and then lost Steve Slaton, but Noel Devine’s high school highlight reel had enough hits on YouTube to make believers out of us.

And while we’re at it, let’s throw Clemson in there at No. 9. Tommy Bowden has yet to prove capable of winning any game that truly matters, but he’s a heck of a recruiter and he carries a legendary name. So let’s go ahead and give them a Top 10 nod. Besides, it will mean a lot more to Alabama fans after week one if they able to either say, “We beat the No. 9 team,” or “Well, yeah they beat us. But they were a Top 10 team.”

Let’s round out the Top 10 with Texas. They haven’t really shown anything in a while and Colt McCoy’s name is still a lot cooler than his game, but it’s just preseason.

Since it’s just preseason, local football fans don’t need to bat an eye that their beloved Demopolis Tigers are nowhere to be seen among the top 5A teams in the state.

The Tigers only have one of the most talented and intense defensive lines in Alabama and a collection of players who could very easily be in the minds of college coaches by season’s end. They only managed to but together a better-than-stellar season in 2007 while knowing very little of head coach Tom Causey’s system. And they have only had a full offseason to get to know the schemes, coaches and one another better. It only makes sense to keep them out of the Top 10.

But that’s the beauty of preseason polls. They are all about somebody’s opinion. So, if you can’t find a preseason poll you like, just make your own. It should carry pretty close to the same weight. After all, it’s only preseason.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times. You can reach him at 334-289-4017 or