There is no such thing as a pre-season ranking.
There are predictions, ambitions, and equivocations, but no legitimate standings. That's why I find myself irritated every time ESPN Columnist Mark Schlabach, sunburnt, unshaven and recovering from a 6 day, 7 night stint at Disney World in Orlando for his 4th grade daughter's spring break, takes it upon himself to assemble a list. (Ed. I don't really know if Mark Schlabach just got back from Orlando or if he even has a daughter, but it seems like the kind of thing an off-season college football columnist would have going on).
In case you didn't click on the link Ohio State is No. 1. Which means, well...nothing. Or does it?
"Rising" to the occasion of inpermanence is something the Buckeyes do better than any team in the country. Since 2005 Ohio State has been ranked No. 1 more weeks than anyone in the FBS. In fact, they've been ranked at the top more times than the next closest four teams combined. (Source: CollegeFootballPoll.com, BCS Standings).
"There is no such thing as a pre-season ranking."
But football is a game of ends, not means -- a tension that's had a strange impact on the national consciousness.
LSU enjoyed the spoils of their 2007-08 National Championship for all of 24 hours before the new cradle of rankings boiled them back to the Bayou. In their place, Almighty Georgia gained a handsome consolation for being passed over in New Orleans: the confidence of the pundits for 2008-09.
But status quo doesn't sell magazines. It doesn't tune-in viewers -- especially in the off-season. So, citing the resolution of National Signing Day and spring workouts, Schlabach stirred the pot again. "...With an extraordinary number of juniors and seniors returning" he writes, "Ohio State seems poised to become the first team in the 112-year history of the Big Ten to win three straight outright league titles."
But is that really anything we didn't know back on January 9th, when Schlabach's first "Top 25" hit the press? (Okay, one James Laurinaitis not withstanding.) To showcase spring momentum reference the landing of top-ranked dual-threatster Terelle Pryor, the "Block O" recruits, the potential for a double-headed attack, low injuries, big-game familiarity, and the general climate of optimism in Columbus.
Don't dock the SEC favorites, then quip "Georgia might be more explosive and talented than Ohio State, but the Bulldog's schedule is much tougher." Schedule? That's an immutable characteristic; something a team can't change. The last time I checked, a pre-season Top 25 wasn't a descriptive predictor of how things would shake out, rather, it's purely normative: who should walk into September with everything to lose.
If you think Georgia is more talented, put Georgia at the top. Period.
Anything else is sensationalist; chumming the saltwater for SEC sharks thirsty for blood.