It is an annual ritual and often takes place in, of all places, the grocery store. College football fans, waiting impatiently for the season to start, at least for fall practice to start, looking for something, anything to feed their habit, seek solace in the pages of the preseason college football magazines.
So as soon as they hit the newsstands — or grocery store shelves — they are often swooped up by fans looking for bits of information about the upcoming season. The magazines, which seem to appear on those shelves earlier and earlier each year, provide information not only on the favorite team of the person making the purchase, but on that team’s conference and other teams and conferences across the country.
They are studied as closely and as intently at times as the Zupruda film.
So to save you a little time, even though it’s likely you already have at least one of these magazines on the nightstand or coffee table at home already, if not more, I have taken four magazines and one Web site (ESPN) and combined the Top 25 polls for each, assigning the top team in each preseason prediction 25 points, the No. 2 team 24 points and so on down the list to produce a collective Top 25 poll of the four sources.
I took the Top 25 preseason polls from Athlon’s, Lindy’s and The Sporting News as well as that of ESPN.com to come up with an overall preseason Top 25.
There were some obvious results — guess what? Alabama is picked No. 1 — and there were a few surprises along the way.
Interestingly, Auburn was a Top 9 pick in three of the four polls but ESPN.com placed the Tigers at No. 19. … LSU appeared on just one of the Top 25 polls, No. 18 by The Sporting News, while Florida appeared on just one as well, No. 17 by Athlon’s … Alabama received the No. 1 slot in three of the four polls, with Lindy’s selecting Clemson No. 1 and Alabama No. 2, while Clemson was No. 2 in each of the three other polls.
There is a tie at No. 3 between Ohio State and Georgia, with the Bulldogs picked No. 3 by The Sporting News and Athlon’s and No. 4 by Lindy’s and ESPN.com; Ohio State took the No. opposite No. 3 and No. 4 slots, which means all four polls have the same four teams at the top. So, if that’s the way it ends up in December, Alabama will be the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, with Clemson at No. 2, with Georgia and Ohio State taking the other two slots, the exact position to be determined later.
The SEC is represented by three teams in the Top 10 (Alabama, Georgia and Auburn) in the combined Top 25, with the league also having two other teams in the Top 25 and three more receiving votes. That’s a total of eight teams.
And 2017 national champion UCF (relax Alabama fans, just having a little fun) appeared on three of the four polls and holds a composite ranking of No. 21, which puts it ahead of teams such as TCU, Texas, Oregon, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech.
So here we go with the composite Top 25 based on several minutes of math and research (as opposed to hours; hey, it’s the holidays) to give you more fodder for watercooler, bar or neighborhood hangout discussions.
Let us begin.
The Top 5: We have already mentioned the top 4, with Alabama the team to beat followed closely by Clemson. Georgia and Ohio State are tied for third, with Oklahoma set as the No. 5 team. Its lowest ranking was No. 10 by Athlon’s.
Teams 6-10: Wisconsin holds down the No. 6 slot, finishing just one point behind Oklahoma and three points ahead of No. 7 Washington, Auburn’s season-opening opponent. The Miami Hurricanes hold the No. 8 spot and Auburn is located at No. 9, dropping thanks to ESPN.com’s No. 19 ranking. The Tigers were picked No. 9 by Lindy’s, No. 8 by The Sporting News and No. 7 by Athlon’s. The No. 10 spot goes to Michigan State.
Teams 11-15: There is another tie in the poll, this one at the No. 11 spot between Penn State and Michigan. Personally, I think Penn State has a real shot at making the College Football Playoff this season, but I have known to be wrong about these sorts of things in the past. I guess we’ll see in December. Notre Dame holds the No. 13 slot, with Stanford at No. 14 and Virginia Tech at No. 15.
Teams 16-20: Southern Cal, which is receiving mixed reviews in the preseason — the Trojans were ranked as high as No. 15 among these four polls and as low as No. 21 — holds the No. 16 spot, followed closely by No. 17 West Virginia, a team that some consider a sleeper contender this season. ESPN.com has the Mountaineers at No. 11 and The Sporting News doesn’t have them ranked in the Top 25. Mississippi State, which is loaded with returning starters and some talent, holds the No. 18 spot, with Florida State at No. 19 and Boise State, which opens its season in the state of Alabama at Troy University’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, claiming the No. 20 spot.
Teams 21-15: As mentioned, UCF is the No. 21 team, with TCU grabbing the No. 22 position. The Texas Longhorns are ranked No. 23, with Oregon and Florida tied for No. 24.
Also receiving votes: Five other schools were ranked in at least one of the four preseason polls and as such collected points. LSU, a team some feel will be a 6-6 team this year, is picked No. 26, with South Carolina holding the No. 27 spot. Oklahoma State, which entertains South Alabama the second week of the season, is the No. 28 team, followed by Texas A&M at No. 29 and Georgia Tech, which received a No. 25 vote in the Lindy’s poll and thus one point, holding the No. 30 spot.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at