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Alabama is Still the Preseason Favorite, For Now

Dr. Saturday took a look at a couple of post-spring top 25 lists and found that Alabama is still the preseason favorite to win the national title. That's not surprising considering that all reports about the Tide defense coming out of practice were generally positive, and that's the side of the ball to be concerned about with the 2010 edition.

It's also not terrible surprising given how things have gone in the BCS era.

Looking over the preseason consensuses for each season since the BCS was formed, a trend emerges. The lowest any defending champ was ranked was LSU at ninth in 2008, followed by 2007 Florida at sixth. Every other defending champ was at least fourth, and six times (if you include the '03 AP champs) in eleven years the defending champ has been picked to play in the national title game. Bama is sure to make it seven times in twelve.

Bama as preseason No. 1 is not that absurd a pick, given that three of the six (2000 FSU, '04 USC, '05 USC) made good on the predictions and a fourth defending champ ('02 Miami) made the title game while being picked third in the consensus behind two teams from the same conference.

College football tends to have inertia at the top, given the realities of building teams through recruiting rather than through a draft and free agency as pro teams do. The best recruiters tend to bring in good classes every year, thereby keeping their squads near the top barring unforeseen events. Nick Saban's strong recruiting on the defensive side is essentially the sole reason why pundits are picking Alabama to repeat.

As much as the preseason predictions tend to be inaccurate, they're not that bad at the top. During BCS era the most losses anyone picked to play for it all in the preseason has had is three, turned in by 1999 Tennessee (9-3), 2006 Notre Dame (10-3), 2008 Georgia (10-3), and 2008 Ohio State (10-3). Every other team did better than that, and the vast majority finished the season in the top 10. Even if the Tide doesn't repeat, it's overwhelmingly likely to be a 10+ win, top 10 team when all is said and done.

Now I'm not an Alabama fan so I don't know what the general expectations are, fun/over-exuberant off season polls aside. If this does end up a 10-3 or 11-2 season with a BCS bowl, I don't know how much of a disappointment that would be to the general fan base. If history is a reliable indicator though (and sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't) that 10-3/11-2 season is looking like the floor for this year, not the ceiling. Anytime you can say that, you take it.