Preseason #1 and the National Championship

With the recent releases of the preseason AP and Coaches’ polls, I began to wonder if being ranked #1 by a preseason poll was any indicator of national championship success. Below are the preseason #1s for the last 11 seasons.

Year Preseason #1
2012 USC (AP) / LSU (Coaches’)
2011 Oklahoma
2010 Alabama
2009 Florida
2008 Georgia
2007 USC
2006 Ohio St
2005 USC
2004 USC
2003 Oklahoma
2002 Miami

Now here are the final rankings for each of the preseason number ones (AP final ranking on left, Coaches’ on right).

Year Final Rankings
2012 USC (Not Ranked) / LSU (#12)
2011 Oklahoma (#16/#15)
2010 Alabama (#10/#11)
2009 Florida (#3)
2008 Georgia (#13/#10)
2007 USC (#3/#2)
2006 Ohio St (#2)
2005 USC (#2)
2004 USC (#1)
2003 Oklahoma (#3)
2002 Miami (#2)

Now here is what I found extremely interesting. Looking at the last 11 years, before the inception of the stand-alone BCS national championship game, the preseason #1 played for the national championship every season (2002-2006). However, since the BCS added a separate national championship game following the 2007 season, not a single preseason #1 has played in the national championship game.

Furthermore, with the exception of the 2004 USC team who vacated their win due to NCAA violations, during the last 11 seasons, no preseason #1 has won a national championship.

From 2002-2006, the preseason #1 (excluding 2004 USC) dropped, on average, 1.25 spots from the preseason to the final poll. But since the stand-along BCS NCG, the preseason #1 (excluding the catastrophe that was the 2012 USC team) has dropped an average of 7.9 spots from the preseason to the final poll. Overall over the last 11 years, the preseason #1 has dropped an average of 5.1 spots by the end of the bowl season.

Under the old system, the Crimson Tide would play in the national championship in the Rose Bowl and probably lose. But to all those who are growing weary of Alabama, worry not. Due to the addition of the separate NCG, the preseason #1 ranking will be a curse to them. In all likelihood, they will finish around #9 in the polls and a different SEC team (Georgia?) will be the final BCS national champions.

Sources: ESPN, Wikipedia

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