Top ranking has Dogs off to good start

  • Follow Scott Michaux

It's eight months too late to do any real good, but Georgia finally got respect from the coaches based on last season's hot finish.

For the first time in the program's history (which seems amazing), the Bulldogs have been labeled the No. 1 team in the nation in the only preseason poll that matters.

The same coaching corps that went out of its way to snub Georgia in the final vote after the regular season to ensure that it would fall out of the BCS title game from the No. 2 spot have granted the Bulldogs the inside track to the 2009 season championship game to be played in Miami in January.

At least they admit which team was playing the best football at the end of the 2007 season.

"Being No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll does have significance since it's one-third of the formula to decide who plays in the national championship game," Georgia's head coach Mark Richt said. "But the postseason poll is the one that is the most important. However, I know the ranking is exciting for Georgia football and hopefully we can do our part to stay in the race."

It was a big day for Georgia, which not only basked in its first major preseason top billing but received news that radio legend Larry Munson got a positive health report and intends to lend his gravelly voice to whatever transpires inside Sanford Stadium this fall. Any title run wouldn't be the same without him.

For anyone new to my opinion of the BCS system, here's a refresher.

It stinks.

College football's leaders confirmed their on-going greed and stupidity this summer by refusing to seriously consider any options for creating a playoff-style system that would create a legitimate national champion at the Division I-A level. It's never going to change until the fans stopping complaining with their voices and start protesting with their wallets.

But that's another story for another day. Since we're stuck with this ignorant bowl championship format for the foreseeable future, Bulldog fans can take comfort that Georgia is in the best possible starting position in the annual beauty pageant.

With a preseason nod from the coaches, a place in the national championship game is Georgia's to lose ... and possibly win back. When polls are the basis for a system of postseason reward, the higher the starting point the better.

Being the preseason No. 1 gives the Bulldogs a little bit of cushion -- which is important considering the difficulty of Georgia's schedule that includes seven of the next 26 teams preseason ranked immediately behind them. Louisiana State lost twice last season, but still stayed high enough in the hunt to earn back the chance to beat over-rated Ohio State in the presumptive title game because it started the season ranked No. 2.

Not since LSU in 2003 has a team ranked outside of the top 10 in preseason coaches poll even participated in the BCS title game. That's good news for Clemson fans, too, since the Tigers were tabbed No. 9.

Most coaches would prefer to do away with meaningful preseason polls altogether, leaving the subjective marketing chatter to The Associated Press poll, which withdrew its influence from the BCS formula several years ago.

But while the eclectic Harris Interactive Poll and the composite computer polls that make up the second and third equal elements of the BCS ranking system don't commence until after the season is already in progress, the coaches continue to make snap judgments based on zero results.

At least the coaches displayed sounder judgment in reading the tea leaves than the media representatives last week who didn't even believe Georgia worthy of winning its own division in the Southeastern Conference.

The Bulldogs got 22 first-place votes from the 71 coaches who turned in preseason ballots. Southern Cal and Ohio State each received 14 first-place votes to sit second and third, respectively. Florida and LSU (ranked fifth and sixth) each received first-place votes, and Georgia has to play them both in back-to-back weeks away from Athens, Ga.

So Georgia has won the poll position in qualifying. But it's the race that matters, and the Bulldogs get started proving they're more than just a number in 28 days.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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