This Is January, And Time For Polls

There are many college football fans who do not like pre-season polls. I am not one of them. Anything that promotes conversation about college football suits me. That Alabama is ordinarily among the teams in the national discussion makes it easy for me to digest a pre-season, say, August.

This week – just a few days after the 2013 national championship was decided – there have already been enough pre-season polls to provide a consensus 2014 pre-season ranking. Sure enough, Alabama is up there, though not winning the pre-season national championship. The report we received is that Florida State, winner of the 2013 national championship, is pre-season number one and that Bama, winner of the two previous national championships, is the overall number two.

Among some of those pre-season polls are ESPN and Athlon having Alabama second, USA Today picking the Crimson Tide third, and CBS having Bama seventh. (That last sounds like Tim Brando of CBS feeling his oats. In his pre-season 2013 poll he picked Alabama to lose two games and finish seventh in the nation, and that's what happened. Of course he picked some other teams, too, including Louisville to win the national championship.)

This trying to "get a poll out first" business reminds me of a long ago time when pre-season college football magazines began to sprout. Originally they came out in late July to early August. And then they began to come out earlier. And earlier. First on the newsstands had the advantage. I was contracted by one of them to do the Alabama preview. My deadline was prior to the start of spring football practice.

A lot of things can change between a pre-season college football poll in the first week or so of January and the start of the next season. A team could lose a coach, or hire a new one. That won't be a problem at Alabama. Texas has hired Charlie Strong instead of Nick Saban.

We know which Alabama seniors won't be returning – notably quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley. But we're still wondering about which juniors will make a try for the NFL, and one or two of those choices could prove pivotal to 2014 success.

We're still four weeks from the end of recruiting. Some teams will get immediate help from the upcoming signees, and Alabama – with eight already enrolled and the Tide rolling to the nation's best recruiting class – could be among them.

Spring practice can be important in judging an upcoming team, in both good and bad ways. Players can blossom and players can regress and players can be injured.

Over the next few months it is not impossible for players to or out. There is reason to expect some attrition in the crowded Bama positions of tailback and quarterback. But there also is the widespread rumor (first revealed by our own Cary Clark) of FSU's back-up quarterback Jacob Coker transferring to Bama for his final two seasons.

There's also the occasional issue of an academics problem or a "violation of team rules" that can affect a team.

I'm not paying too much attention to these pre-season polls in January. I'll look at them again in the summer.

Meanwhile, I'll rely on my long-standing policy of being able to rank the Tide: "I always think Alabama is going to win and I'm almost always right." That frequently foretells a good result.

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