Dooley: Alabama tops way-too-early Top 25 preseason poll

Playoff Championship Georgia Alabama Football
Count on Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban to break the tie with Alabama icon Bear Bryant with a seventh national title following the 2018 regular season. [David J. Phillip/Associated Press]

Here’s how you know you are a college football nut — you have a countdown clock in your sports room telling how many days it is until the first spring game of 2018.

You will flip on the NFL conference title games this Sunday, but only to see which schools have the most players on each team. You will check out a little college basketball, but fantasize what kind of rush end every power forward would be.

And you are wondering why passing drills aren’t part of the Winter Olympics.

For the rest of America, there is a whole world going on out there, which is one reason it’s safer to be a college football nut.

But you don’t have to have tunnel vision to already be wondering about the next college football season as long as you still take your meals, remember to pick your kids up from soccer practice and pay your electric bill.

It’ll be here soon enough. The tailgates, the gnashing of teeth, the second-guessing. It’ll be different around here in Gainesville with a new coach and rumors of an actual offense.

But one thing that won’t change is a January Top 25 that will change 50 times before the first Associated Press poll is due. You’ve seen a few of them already published, but I tried to wait until almost everybody had declared for the NFL one way or another.

1. Alabama.

Wow, that was easy. It must be nice for players to announce they are leaving early and you pat them on the back and say, “Next.” The way Alabama’s freshman performed in the title game, almost everybody is going to have the Tide at the top.

2. Ohio State.

Last year, I had the Buckeyes in my Final Four and I could make an argument that I should have been proven right. It’s a factory up in Columbus.

3. Clemson.

Speaking of factories. Whether the Tigers can go all the way depends on whether or not QB Kelly Bryant can take the next step in the passing game, but — with the entire defensive line back — points will be difficult to come by against Dabo Swinney’s team.

4. West Virginia.

Will Grier hasn’t played two straight seasons of college football in his career. Watch out for the Mountaineers this year.

5. Washington.

It was supposed to be a bit of a drop off in 2017, but it wasn’t that bad which tells you a lot about the talent and coaching.

6. Georgia.

The Bulldogs are difficult to figure, because they lose so much but still have a ton of talent and the top recruiting class. Kirby Smart needs to keep the momentum heading in the right direction.

7. Michigan State.

I’m surprised that more of the early polls don’t have Sparty higher. Clearly, MSU has rebounded from the one bad season.

8. Oklahoma.

Baker Mayfield was such a major factor, it’s difficult to see Boomer back in the playoffs.

9. Wisconsin.

The schedule is a little tougher or they might be in my top four, but Wiscy has a shot at the playoff.

10. Miami.

That opening game against LSU in Arlington will define where this season will go.

11. Stanford.

Too high? Not with Bryce Love coming back.

12. Penn State.

James Franklin just keeps producing good teams in Happy Valley.

13. Southern Cal.

Lot of talent leaving, plenty still in the mix.

14. Auburn.

Difficult to get the taste of the UCF out of our mouths.

15. TCU.

After that one bad season, Gary Patterson has righted the ship.

16. Notre Dame.

Losing DC Mike Elko will hurt, but the Irish will be fine. Just not great.

17. Virginia Tech.

The Hokies were a bit of a fraud in 2017. I think they’ll be better this year.

18. UCF.

Scott Frost was a special coach and there has to be a fall off, right?

19. Florida State.

Obviously, we’re about to see if Deondre Francois is a difference maker.

20. Michigan.

Jim Harbaugh’s popularity wearing off in Ann Arbor?

21. LSU.

It’s pretty much the same old story with the Fighting O’s.

22. Kentucky.

OK, I was wrong ranking the Kitties in the preseason last year, but 10 defensive starters back makes me think this might be too low.

23. Texas.

Does Tom Herman work some second-year magic?

24. Boise State.

You can never go wrong with the Broncos somewhere in your preseason poll.

25. Arizona.

Kevin Sumlin is a good coach. The Pac-12 is going to look a lot easier than the SEC West.

Nope, no Florida. I think the Gators have a manageable schedule, but a ways to go to be a top-25 team. Too many holes still on the roster.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. The Gators are in Missouri territory – they have to “show me”. No presumption. No preference. No ranking until they prove they deserve it. All that said – Go Gators!

    Coaching matters – a lot – in college football. UCF will miss Scott Frost something fierce. They go back to being the little team that couldn’t.

    Tennessee blew it (again) not hiring Kevin Sumlin. Vols loss is Arizona’s gain. As you mentioned, Sumlin will enjoy NOT facing SEC West Juggernaut every year. And his win-loss record will enjoy it too.

    • I would say Tennessee blew it, yes, but they blew it when they let their idiotic fan base run Schiano out of town. Schiano is a great coach, as UT’s administrators seem to recognize, yet those same admins are so weak that they let their mouth-breather fans overrule their good judgment. Ridiculous.

  2. Agree with Pat. You can’t rank the Gators in the Top 25. Two losing seasons in the last 5 years and no season with less than 4 losses. That is Galen Hall under probation territory, and even Hall managed winning seasons against a much more difficult schedule. Muschamp left a tough team with some special players. The problem is they were only on one side of the ball and the other side of the ball was a disaster from an execution stand point and roster holes. Mac managed to ride the defense to the championship game but nobody really believed we were back. To give Mac a sliver of credit, Muschamp could not ride the defense to the Championship game. However, Mac couldn’t recruit and could not run a program. So now we are left with some decent talent but holes all over the roster and a team that has never been challenged mentally or physically. Not to mention, we are a harder sell to a recruiting base that has seen us lose an average of 5 games a year since they were 10. We have not won consistently since 2009. Muschamp tore down this program and Mac lit the ruble on fire. I think Mullen can turn this around, however, he is not a miracle worker. He has the skills to build a program. He needs time to recruit both better talent and better depth (i.e. special teams). I’m not saying that he needs a ton of time but this is the biggest rebuild project since Charlie Pell…and he has to do it without cheating. I think they can have a big improvement next year but it will take awhile to consistently compete with the top teams in the country.

  3. The next few years for football in Gainesville are going to be very very rough – just wait and see how well this new AD and coaches will do…. Should’ve fixed the problems, but instead now fixing them will be delayed 5 more years when the program is totally irrelevant.

  4. I wish I didn’t have to say it, but I think I concur with both Mark and Travis. At the get go, anyway. I especially agree with Travis as pertains to, “….we are a harder sell to a recruiting base that has seen us lose an average of 5 games since they were 10”. That has been my main point ever since we took this slide under the last two regimes. Of course, even if we did manage to overcome that challenge, there still remained the issue of “what to do with them once we got ’em”. Put differently, coaching and player development is the other half of that particular “winning” equation…..and there we had deficiencies as well. CreekGator posted in other forums on this site about the exodus of state talent to out of state, as well as losing recruits to FSU and Miami. Well put and at the heart of the matter, IMO.

    So yeah, no pre-season ranking for the Gators, and very little national sports media attention either. (Makes us Gators out here in Texas wonder if Florida dropped football or not!). Willie Taggart is supposed to be the second coming on the recruiting front, Kirby Smart obviously can recruit, and Mark Richt knows what he’s doing too. The solution is a strong start, get in the polls somewhere, and maintain that plus a decent bowl win….that is, let ’em know we’re still here. I’m not hoping for that, I’m expecting it and Mullen is the man to do it. 9-4 by January would do it, for the love of everything good and decent, if freaking Auburn can be still highly ranked this January, we ought to be in the Top-20 too in January 2019. And then the rebuilding really begins, with much improved recruiting and player development. Clearly, this will take a little while, but not as long, I think, as some are saying.

  5. I don’t understand why Boise State is in the top 25! They basically play community colleges on Friday night 90% of the time. If they played in a Power Five conference and had t play good teams every week they would be at the bottom of every conference every year!

  6. How can you put FSU at 19 and UF not ranked? The difference between the two teams is coaching. Period. Dan Mullen is proven winner who won a national championship after the last game he coached for the Gators. Willie Taggart has won ZILCH. This was another in a long line of your panty-waste ‘don’t come off like a homer’ pick against the Gators. Please don’t join in the celebration when the Gators win the SEC East next year.

  7. Why not let Pat Dooley be the sorta-reporter-I’m-not-really-a-homer? It’s his job. But if you want to be a true football fan, go through the Gator’s schedule one game at a time and see how every one of them could be a victory. What holes? There’s a veteran offensive line, a whole bunch of tight ends, oodles of talented running backs, and enough throwers, all talented, for the QB whisperer to find the wheat. The defense was pretty good in ’17 considering they had to take the field again four downs after they got to the sideline. Blah, blah, blah prodnosticating is a fool’s game. I say, leave that to the idiots who think they can predict the future, but never get called out for being completely wrong–the Trump bear market is the first howler that comes to mind. Who predicted Ray Graves would turn it around in one year? Who talked about Galen Hall’s pending run of victories with a team whose morale couldn’t have been lower? How ’bout SOS finding a 4th string QB so he could start winning SEC championships from jump street? Nobody, except the stupid unrealistic Gator-lovers who had a deluded, child-like expectation of glory every year. Count me one of them.

  8. Nick Saban knows one thing for sure and he has proven it, you get 5 and 4 star players you will play for the title every year even with his very average game day skills, how many OC’s has he had, 5. All plays are designed to gain yards, you just need bigger, stronger, and faster players than the other team and plays work. Saban won the NC again even though he made a big mistake late in the game, he played for the field goal with a kicker that just missed big and with a minute left in regulation, look at the tape, he clearly says play for the field goal and Tua never threw a pass and the kicker missed a chip shot and we get OT. Great players bail out coaches all the time. College FB is about recruiting, recruiting and recruiting. Same ole same ole, Ohio State with Meyer who knew this at Florida, look at the 5s and 4 *s we got, then Clemson and Alabama, year after year. Alabama wins the SEC now that LSU stinks, who didn’t see that coming, is a given along with the other 2 teams. May be time to find another sport. The 2018 playoff are set with 3 teams already, want to bet ! CFB is so predictable, that is why we have point spreads. The SEC is a joke as usual with one team winning 5 NCs in 9 years. And Alabama still gets to play Tennessee every year out of the east while LSU has to play us. And this scheduling is fair. The SEC belongs to Alabama they are all that matters in this league of 11 losers and Bama with their 11 million a year coach. Why play the season. Answer that. Oh you mean hire a Saban assistant… LOL… he just beat his assistants again, he is 12 and 0 against them heads up and stupid Tennessee just hired one, how stupid is that. Run from his assistants run ! GA. I hope keep Smart, you will never beat Bama as long as Saban is there and he controls recruiting and the SEC scheduling, Bama’s schedule for 2018 is a joke, no loss is there, not one. Auburn is at Bama so I said that for you. Ok, yes Smart is having a good recruiting year this year at GA., but look at the in state recruits, the state of GA was just full of talent this year and they kept them in state, that won’t happen often. Smart is just a jumping up and down idiot on the sidelines and bows down to Saban after the game, he is Saban’s little girlfriend, live with that GA fans. Anyways, I will write back in December and tell you out of those 3 teams who will win again, oh, that would be Alabama, #18 in 2018 coming up. Sorry to ruin the ending for you. Have a nice year.

    • Actually the SEC is now a 2-team show: Bama and UGa. And, will be that way for the foreseeable future. There is only one team ahead of UGa for most SEC championships, and that team is Bama. However, that gap is getting ready to close substantially over the next 10 years. Within that time, Saban will retire (after a couple of losses to UGa in the SEC) and move on. At that time Smart and the DAWGS will dominate much like Bama has. UF is slipping back into being the type of program it was prior to Spurrier. A couple of good seasons here and there, but nothing spectacular. Mullen will lose to Smart in 2018 and 2019 and the patience for Mullen will run thin. Just like with McElwain. lose to UGa and you are out.

  9. Thanks, Gator-6. Don’t understand the Trump remark. Just making a point how sure so many were that the market would plummit after his election. That’s not a partisan comment, just a statement of fact.
    The next two commentors are sure of themselves because it’s easy to have opinions. No one will revisit this years down the road, and both will have been self-satisfied in the interum. Blah de blah de blah…