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David Whitley: Preseason polls are clueless, but not meaningless

By David Whitley Orlando Sentinel

When Tennessee football coach Butch Jones heard that his team was ranked in the preseason top 10, he seemed peeved.

“One minute spent even thinking about that is a minute wasted that you could be working on your football team,” he said.

If that’s the case, the average American worker has wasted many hours. The AP preseason poll was released last Sunday and millions of fans opted to think about what it means that Alabama is No. 1, and on down the line.

Coaches will tell you it means nothing.

That’s true, at least if you want to know who will actually win the national championship.

It’s false if you appreciate college football for what it really is – an entertainment enterprise that takes our minds off more important things.

Call me shallow, but I’d much rather debate Alabama vs. Clemson than the U.S. presidential race. It’s far less depressing, even if the outcome has already been determined.

News flash: The Crimson Tide will not win the national championship.

We know this because the AP preseason poll just picked them to win the national championship. This is the AP’s 65th attempt at it. Voters have gotten it right just 10 times.

Just last year, Ohio State was the first team in AP history to get all 61 votes. The Buckeyes finished No. 6.

The Amway Coaches Poll isn’t any better.

Last year, Houston received zero votes in the preseason poll. That was one fewer than UCF, which reportedly went 0-12. The Cougars went 13-1 and beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

Still, there’s a difference between being inept and meaningless. The mere fact you’ve read this far shows preseason polls have value.

And what’s the alternative, no polls until the College Football Playoff version debuts in November? That would be fine with guys like Jones.

“It’s not where you start,” he said, “it’s where you finish.”

It’s also about all your passengers enjoying the trip. So what does Alabama being ranked No. 1 in preseason polls really mean?

Nothing, other than it’s time to welcome back four months of meaningless fun.

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