Summer is firecrackers and boating, vacation and heat.
Lots and lots of heat.
It is also the gateway to college football season and, as such, it is the time for football preseason magazine.
The annuals, as they were once called, are packed with information and statistics and while that type of data is available online these days, there is still a certain convenience in holding all those rosters and schedules in your hand rather than clicking through to various websites. If you are looking for a handy preview, they are still effective, and even if you are just looking for nostalgia — with some of the publications dating back 80 years since their inception — the magazines are part of the preseason ritual.
What you won’t find, certainly not in 2019, is variety in the predictions. That isn’t a criticism. All of the five preseason magazines used by The News in this story try to preserve reputations for accuracy, as much as is possible. It’s not good for any publication’s reputation to throw random teams out in picking a Top 10, or a group of four playoff teams. Opinions can differ, and sometimes they do. But as the “haves” in college football continue to go stronger and breakthroughs are gradual but fairly rare.
You want a long shot? Go to the horse races. You want favorites? Go to the magazine rack.
In taking the top 10 teams from each of five publications — Athlon, Lindy’s, Street & Smith’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and awarding points on a 10–through-1 inverted value scale (10 points for first place, nine points for second and so on until awarding one point for 10th place) — the usual suspects lead the way.
Alabama is No. 1 in four of the five top 10s, and Clemson is No. 2 in all four. (Lindy’s inverts that order.) That gives Alabama 49 of 50 possible points, and gives Clemson 46. Georgia is picked at No. 3 by four of the five publications (39 points.) After that, the list goes Oklahoma with 32 points, Ohio State with 27 and Michigan with 23. LSU (20) is No. 7 overall, followed by Florida (15, getting a top 10 mention from all five magazines), Notre Dame (11) and Texas (7). Oregon, Utah and Texas A&M were the only other schools mentioned.
That hardly seems like a good omen for a dark horse.
“It’s been that way since 2009 as far as Alabama,” said Dennis Dodd, the CBS college football editor who wrote the introduction and rankings for Lindy’s. “Now there is no question that Clemson and Alabama have separated themselves.
“You’d have to think both of them can get through those schedules, especially Clemson. In fact, if Clemson loses a game, that could be an issue for them making the playoffs, depending on how some other things play out. But I don’t see any way they lose a game.”
Dodd said the concentration at the very top of the powerful leagues has everyone else chasing the leaders.
“When I started doing this, you’d try to find 10 teams with a chance,” he said. “Now six (teams) seems about right.
“Is that good? I think it’s neutral. Attendance is flat at several places but ratings are up, especially for the SEC. People are still tuning in. It’s not just fans. Players want to see it. Players want to go there. And the playoff has helped. You can say what you want about it but that Tuesday night (rankings) show on ESPN is must-see TV. Maybe the teams you see in November aren’t the ones you will see in January but you still watch. I think that’s one of the biggest developments of the playoff era.”
If there are shake-ups ahead, they are likely to manifest themselves in early September.
“I think those early SEC games against the Power Five teams are going to tell us a lot,” Dodd said. “Auburn against Oregon (in Arlington, Texas) in that first week is going to be interesting. If Auburn loses, they will have a lot of questions. If Oregon loses, you might write off the Pac-12 for another season because they seem to be the team people are looking at from that league. Then the next week you have LSU-Texas, two of the teams in that next tier looking to move up. And the week after that, you’ve got Clemson-Texas A&M although I think Texas A&M is going to have a tough time winning that game on the road.”