The Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls have agreed on a preseason No. 1 each year from 2000-09. Most likely, they’ll agree again this year. The coaches already have tabbed Alabama to repeat as BCS champ, and the hacks (of which I’m one) have turned in ballots that will be released later this week. Most of those ballots probably will have Alabama at No. 1 — just like mine.
If recent history is any indication, we’ll be wrong. The last time the AP and coaches’ polls correctly predicted the BCS champion in their preseason polls was 2004, when USC topped both in August and again in January 2005. Of course, if you’re an Auburn fan, you’ll probably argue they got it wrong in 2004 as well.
So, you ask, why did I pick Alabama knowing that A) The popular No. 1 choice rarely wins the title and B) no school has repeated as BCS champ since the system began in 1998? Because I believe Alabama is the best team, and I will continue to believe that until I see evidence otherwise on the field. That could come in September, or it might not come until December. But, if the trend of the past 10 years holds, that evidence will come sometime this season.
Recent history also suggests that we won’t have to look far down the list to find the national champs. In the past six years, the lowest the eventual BCS champ has been ranked is No. 8 (Florida, in 2006, by the coaches, with the candlestick, in the study). In fact, 2006 is the only year since 2004 that the eventual BCS champ didn’t start in the top five of both polls.
This is why Boise State — No. 5 in the coaches’ poll and probably the same or higher in the AP — has a real chance to play for the national title if the Broncos go undefeated. Boise State found the loophole in the BCS; as long as you start the season ranked high enough, it doesn’t really matter who you play as long as you play one or two decent games and go undefeated. For lovers of underdogs and proponents of playoffs, this is a beautiful thing. Anything that exposes the BCS for the popularity contest it is works for me.