"We're not ranked in the Top 25 in a lot of polls," Franchione continued. "We've got some things to prove. (Pollsters) wonder about how we're going to respond (to the NCAA sanctions).
"I don't have a problem with their rankings. I see things that they're looking at."
Probably more than most college athletes, this group of Tide players understands the good and bad of pre-season rankings. "We've been No. 3 and won nothing," senior quarterback Tyler Watts pointed out. "It just gives us an opportunity to play over our heads--at least by what the experts think."
Starting tailback Ahmaad Galloway agreed with his quarterback. "You really can't afford to pay attention to it. We learned a valuable lesson when we started off the season ranked No. 3 a couple of years back--and that was the amount of ballgames that we won. Teams have come from the bottom and gone to the top and vice versa.
"You've just got to be ready to play."
With its storied tradition and remarkable on-the-field success, being ranked in the Top 25 has become expected at Alabama. Since 1960 the Tide has been ranked in one or both major post-season polls a sparkling 33 out of 42 years or 79 percent of the time.
But despite finishing 2001 with a four-game winning streak, including a bowl victory over Iowa State, Alabama is being overlooked by most pre-season pundits. "I don't pay attention--I don't even know what we're ranked," claimed senior slotback Antonio Carter. "(Pollsters) sit up there and choose, but they don't know. The season hasn't started. There is no football being played right now. Everyone will know who's best on January 3rd. That's the national championship game. At 11:00 that night we'll know who's No. 1 and who's No. 2.
"Right now we're just going to go out there and practice hard and get ready for this season."
All-SEC defensive tackle Jarret Johnson shares Carter's disdain for the polls. "I don't look at them," Johnson stated. "Here's my opinion on any kind of ranking--whether it be on a player, the whole D-Line or a team. Unless a guy sits down and studies film on all the top teams, and then does his Top 25 out of that film study… Unless he sits down and decides that out of all the hours and hours of film study I've done, these are the best teams I've seen. I don't listen to it.
"Because unless you sit down and watch film, you don't know jack. All you know is opinions and things you've heard. They don't mean anything."
Strong guard Marico Portis obviously pays more attention to the pre-season sports magazines than some of his teammates, because he's seen the polls and he's not happy that Bama isn't included. "That disappoints us as a team," Portis said. "But we understand that they are looking at the situation we're going through as far as the probation. But it makes us hungry as a team. It makes us feel like we've got to go out there and prove something.
"It makes us want to clean the table and finish out No. 1."
Though Bama partisans believe they can make legitimate arguments that their team deserves even more national titles--if the polling had only been fair--generally speaking a lack of respect is not something Alabama fans are accustomed to.
But as underdogs the world over understand, the role has its advantages. "I like it when people overlook us," junior Rover Brooks Daniels said. "That gives us a chance to come in and try to take a win. But we're going to go in and play our hardest either way."
Frankly, Ahmaad Galloway doesn't think his teammates care much at all where they're ranked. "I don't see it as much motivation, I'll be honest. This is probably one of the first seasons when I haven't heard a lot of talk about where we're ranked. I just think our guys are ready to play. Go out and let's play this game the way it's supposed to be played."
As starting nose tackle Kenny King pointed out, Alabama intends to use this year's polls as a ladder. "We don't pay that much attention," he said, "except to look at who's ahead of us…
"And who we need to beat to climb ahead of them."