Pre-Season Magazines Look At Football

Far be it from me to criticize. If you want to listen to sports talk radio, be my guest. The reason I quit listening in 1999 is because I realized that I never heard anything about Alabama that I didn't already know. That is, anything that was true. I heard a lot that I knew to be incorrect. I also deduced that what I was hearing about other teams was possibly wrong. Therefore, I changed the dial.

Sports talk radio doesn't have the market cornered on incorrect information. Believe me, as a magazine editor with deadlines weeks in advance of when stories get into the hands of readers, we have had information in print that was not correct. Sometimes it was an honest mistake, but often it is a matter of circumstances changing from the time the article is written until it is read.

That was particularly true of pre-season football magazines up until a decade or so ago. The publishers figured out there was an advantage to being first on the newsstands, and so deadlines were moved further and further back to facilitate early publication. There were cases of writers doing the Alabama pre-season outlook having a deadline that preceded spring football practice.

That led to a lot of bad information, such as a key player suffering a serious injury during spring training.

But thanks to our friend the computer, the pre-season magazines are far more accurate today than they used to be. Because publications are now made print-ready entirely on the computer -- writing, layout, photos, etc. -- the process can begin later and important facts are less likely to change.

Purchasing all the pre-season magazines will put a dent in your wallet, but thanks to the media relations personnel at the Southeastern Conference, we can get a capsule report on the conclusions of the football magazines.

This year the SEC provided analysis from "The Kickoff," "Phil Steele," "Sporting News," "Athlon," and "Lindy's."

A quick end to the suspense:

All five of them picked Florida, the defending national champion, to repeat as national champion.

Alabama was picked eighth overall. Bama was picked to finish sixth in the nation by "Athlon," seventh by "Lindy's," eighth by "Phil Steele," 11th by "The Kickoff," and 13th by "Sporting News."

Two other Southeastern Conference Western Division teams followed right behind Bama, Ole Miss at ninth and LSU 10th. Georgia was the only other SEC squad to make the consensus top 25, the Bulldogs checking in at 14.

Virginia Tech, Alabama's season-opening opponent, was sixth in the combined pre-season ratings. Bama will meet the Hokies in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta on September 5 with kickoff at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central) and national television coverage by ABC.

Completing the top ten, the five publications picked Texas second, Oklahoma third, USC fourth, Ohio State fifth, and Penn State seventh. Each publication had the same four teams in its top four, though in varying order after Florida.

The magazines had a hard time picking Notre Dame, which ended up 19th overall. The Fighting Irish were ranked as high as seventh by "Phil Steele" and as low as 37th by "Lindy's."

The consensus top 25:

1. Florida, 2. Texas, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Southern Cal, 5. Ohio State, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Penn State, 8. Alabama, 9. Ole Miss, 10. LSU;

11. Oklahoma State, 12. California, 13. Oregon, 14. Georgia, 15. Boise State, 16. Georgia Tech, 17. Florida State, 18. TCU, 19. Notre Dame, 20. North Carolina, 21. Iowa, 22. Michigan State, 23. BYU, 24. Utah, 25. Illinois.

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