Pre-Season Polls Part Of College Football

Many years ago at the National Football Foundation annual banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, I was with a group going up to one of the pre-banquet hospitality rooms. In those days all attendees wore tuxedos and all attendees were men.

As we got on the elevator, a woman already on the elevator asked what was going on with all the men in black tie. She knew it was "some sort of football thing" and wanted to know if we were all coaches.

Also on the elevator was Lou Holtz, then the coach at Notre Dame.

Holtz took over. "I'm a coach," he said.

The woman wanted to know where he coached.

"When you think of college football," Holtz said, "I am the coach of that team."

A slightly puzzled look on her face, she said, "Wisconsin?"

If Holtz had anything to say after that, it was drowned out by our laughter.

But that woman notwithstanding, name does matter.

There is a supposition that college football has taken another step away from polls determining the national champion. The BCS matching teams one and two took care of number one, but the polls have continued to fill in the blanks. That that will be the case following the four team playoff that will be in place beginning with the 2014 season.

Notre Dame's football name, which in recent years has been much more prominent than its football performance, is the reason the Fighting Irish had the same vote as the entire Southeastern Conference, the same as the entire Big Ten, and the same as nine other conferences in establishing the playoff format.

The Alabama name also will matter. That's because the polls are not going away. Although the four teams will be determined by a selection committee, it is reasonable to expect the members of that committee will have been following events, including how respected polls rank college teams. Alabama has an advantage in the poll game because of longstanding college football success.

The Crimson Tide is a regular in the polls, and for many decades a national championship contender more often than others.

In recent years, there has been some sentiment that pre-season polls are unfair. In a sense, that is true. If one team starts the season ranked number one and another starts the season ranked 15th and both go undefeated, the team that was pre-season number one is going to be ahead of the team that was ranked 15th.

So, say the reformers, don't start the polls until about Oct. 1.

That would make almost no difference. Those who vote in the polls would have made a pre-season polls and adjusted it each week as needed. The difference in a pre-season poll and starting the poll in October would be that upsets and head-to-head meetings would alter the order.

And that's exactly what happens in the polls that begin in pre-season and are updated after each game beginning the first week of the season.

The polls add interest to college football.

Now, some are silly, such as those who make a pre-season poll a day or so after the BCS National Championship Game. There are too many factors – recruiting, early departures for the NFL draft, spring practice, injuries, academics – between January and August. Even the pre-season magazines suffer from deadlines that sometimes come before many teams have concluded spring training.

Here is our top 20 for 2012:

1. Alabama

2. – 20. Other teams such as LSU, USC, Oklahoma in no particular order

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