Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Looking back at preseason polls

Tuesday June 12, 2007

Doug over at Hey Jenny Slater has done the work of combining the preseason rankings to date. Southern Cal seems to be the favorite, and the Dawgs come in around the low teens. As the senator reminds us, a lot of these early preseason rankings don’t take into account the Paul Oliver news or any injuries and suspensions that might come up between now and the season.

Chris Stassen has been tracking this kind of thing for over a decade now, and it’s interesting to look back at Georgia teams over that time and see how they did relative to expectations.

Year Preseason Final Change
1997 10 +16
1998 24 14 +10
1999 15 16 -1
2000 9 20 -11
2001 25 22 +3
2002 9 3 +6
2003 10 7 +3
2004 3 7 -4
2005 13 10 +3
2006 16 23 -7

The overrated/disappointing season that most remember is 2000, and sure enough the eleven position slide from the preseason ranking is the largest drop on the chart. 2004 might also be considered a disappointment because the Dawgs were overshadowed by Auburn and even Tennessee, but a final ranking of #7 isn’t a bad year. Losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky meant that the 2006 team also turned out to be "overrated", and it took that great finish to the season to only drop seven spots from the preseason.

It makes sense that the 1997 and 1998 teams were two of the most underrated Dawg teams. The 1997 team followed a 5-6 1996 team that itself followed the unspectacular end of the Ray Goff era. A 10-2 record and #10 ranking after all that shocked many of us. The Dawgs lost a lot of key players after 1997, and it was easy and reasonable to write them off in 1998. Richt’s first three teams were slightly underrated. Doug’s work seems to tell us that pundits aren’t particularly worried by last year’s slide, but it will be worth watching if the later preseason polls include a correction for Oliver and anything else that comes along.

Since the polls play a part in determining the national champion, it’s also worth looking at where the past eleven national champs started out.

Year Team Preseason Change
1996 Florida 4 +3
1997 Michigan 14 +13
1998 Tennessee 10 +9
1999 FSU 1 0
2000 Oklahoma 21 +20
2001 Miami 2 +1
2002 Ohio State 11 +10
2003 Southern Cal 11 +10
2004 Southern Cal 1 0
2005 Texas 2 +1
2006 Florida 6 +5

(LSU started at #14 in 2003 for those in the one-peat crowd.)

So as you might expect, you don’t have to start in the top 5 to win the national championship – just five of the last eleven did. Four champions started outside of the top 10. The teams that came the longest way to win the title (Michigan, Oklahoma, SoCal, tOSU, and even LSU) are all traditional powers who came off sub-par seasons. Of those teams, only SoCal did not have a four-loss or worse season before their national title.

I look at preseason polls a lot like qualifying for a race. You don’t have to start on or near the pole to win a race, but it does help. The further back you start, the more help you need in front of you and the more traffic you have to work through on your way to the front.

Comments are closed.