Alabama football takes reputational national title in USA Today preseason poll | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama ran away with the National Reputation Championship on Monday by a score of 54-11.

Will Anderson Jr. didn't have to make a tackle, no confetti fell, and Chris Fowler wasn't around to ask Bryce Young how it feels. But a 65-member panel of FBS coaches who make up the USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll overwhelmingly put this paper crown on the Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban, of course, won't wear it.

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Polls fall squarely into the category of rat poison for the Alabama coach, the only difference here being that the poll is derived not by media but by 64 of his peers, plus his own vote. The tally: 54 first-place votes for Alabama, and only 11 for anyone else (Georgia six, Ohio State five).

Anderson said he wasn't even aware his team was preseason top-ranked, perhaps not surprising given he was asked about it just an hour after its release. But for a player known to not pay much attention to social media, in a program known to not give much oxygen to distractions, there's no telling when he'd have heard.

Nor much doubt of his reaction.

"It is rat poison," he said.

It's also largely reputation-driven. It would be foolish to think that a collection of 65 FBS coaches, each of whom is wholly engrossed in assessing their own teams at this point in August, is giving much more than a cursory examination of other teams for purposes of a preseason poll. That'll change – or at least, it should change – once the season commences. Reputation has no place in any poll when there are on-field results to evaluate. In the absence of that, however, there isn't much to go on beyond pedigree and a few forward-looking questions.

Did defending national champion Georgia rank third instead of first because its vaunted defense from last year was ravaged by the NFL draft? That's plausible. Go ahead and lend Ohio State some weight for returning a brilliantly talented quarterback in C.J. Stroud. No doubt, the return of a defending Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama in Young played a part in this outcome, as well.

It's been said that nothing carries less meaning than preseason polls, and there's more than a kernel of truth to it. By November, the season will have made pretenders of August contenders, and vice versa. This poll's top billing speaks more to what the coaching fraternity has come to expect. And they expect excellence at Alabama regardless of what the team's strengths or weaknesses might be.

Some years, Alabama is the best team in the country. When it's not, it's the standard by which any team that's better is always judged. Georgia didn't shake that last year until the clock in its national title win over the Crimson Tide hit 0:00.

That's earned by more than a decade of dominance.

And so is the top spot in a preseason poll.

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Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.