It’s not a secret that the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide football team is expected to be good. Both the Associated Press poll and the USA Today poll have Alabama ranked No. 2 in the preseason.
While it’s great that the rest of the nation agrees with our campus that Alabama is awesome, a high preseason ranking might not favor the Tide in the long run.
Since 2001, three teams that have started the season No. 2 have finished No. 1. Most recently it happened in 2007 when LSU won the national championship after starting out at No. 2. But for LSU, it was a bumpy ride. The 2007 season saw eight different teams at the No. 2 spot. LSU held the spot the longest, going for five weeks, but once the Tigers were dethroned, the other No. 2 teams held on for only a week or two at a time.
In the past decade, there’s a fair mix of teams in the AP polls that started high and ended high, along with teams that started high and ended low. However, starting high and ending high doesn’t matter if it doesn’t result in a national championship. Here at Alabama, students don’t want to start high only to end at No. 3. They want their 14th title.
Looking solely at Alabama’s ability to keep a top ranking, the Tide’s record isn’t very good. Last season when Alabama started at No. 1, it finished at No. 10, which did not impress Tide faithful too much. In 2008 when Alabama took the No. 1 spot in week 11, Florida then knocked the Tide off in the SEC Championship game. Most recently before 2008, the highest ranking Alabama reached was in the 2005 season, coming in at No. 4, before losing to LSU and then Auburn and finishing at No. 8.
With Alabama, it seems like getting there isn’t always the hard part; it’s staying there that causes problems. Between a star-packed defense and an offense that holds its own, the Tide should be a top-tier team in 2011. Everyone knows Alabama is talented, so the team gets a good ranking. But in the SEC especially, it’s hard to stay the top team.
The coaches and the players all claim that the rankings don’t get in their heads. But last year, when the team went into South Carolina thinking they could win just because they were Alabama, those situations make it seem like maybe the ranking does get to them a little.
As far as talk of Oklahoma being the team to stop the SEC’s BCS championship run, the numbers from the past decade don’t support that theory. The only time the AP actually predicted the title game in the past decade was in the 2005, when USC and Texas were the top two teams. The final rankings switched the teams’ preseason rankings, with Texas taking the title.
Another plus for Alabama is that only twice since 1999 has the preseason No. 1 team won the national championship. So Oklahoma has its own forces to fight against.
Preseason Rank (Final ranking)
2010 1. Alabama (10) 2. Ohio State (5)
2009 1. Florida (3) 2. Texas (2)
2008 1. Georgia (13) 2. Ohio State (9)
2007 1. USC (3) 2. LSU (1)
2006 1. Ohio State (2) 2. Notre Dame (17)
2005 1. USC (2) 2. Texas (1)
2004 1. USC (1) 2. Oklahoma (3)
2003 1. Oklahoma (3) 2. Ohio State (4)
2002 1. Miami (2) 2. Oklahoma (5)
2001 1. Florida (3) 2. Miami (1)
2000 1. Nebraska (8) 2. Florida State (5)
1999 1. Florida State (1) 2. Tennessee (9)
1998 1. Ohio State (2) 2. Florida State (3)