It's May and that means, by the end of the month, the first of the preseason college football magazines will be released. Athlon Sports has started a countdown of its top 25 for Athlon's college football annual. It is the first preseason poll I've seen besides the pre- preseason ones that came out shortly after the 2008 season ended. The Bulldogs are #14 in Athlon's rankings. Number 14 through 25:
15. Florida State
19. North Carolina
20. Michigan State
22. Georgia Tech
24. Notre Dame
25. Oregon State
I'm actually surprised Athlon's ranks Georgia as high as it does. I believe most preseason polls, including the AP and Coaches, will rank the Bulldogs around 18th to 20th. Most of these polls look at only a few factors when predicting how well a team is going to do: the team's record the previous season, how well they finished the season, returning starters, and returning star players. Also, many of the preseason magazines cover other sports besides college football (i.e., their time is limited) and have multiple writers with differing opinions contributing to their preseason football annual. These factors often translate to not much thought going into preseason predictions.
A great example is Georgia last season. Many of the preseason polls, including the two major ones, picked the Dawgs #1. However, if the time was taken to look closely at their inexperienced offensive line and difficult schedule, few would have chosen the Bulldogs as the best team in the country. Personally, I predicted Georgia to finish 10-2 in the 2008 regular season with a preseason ranking of seventh.
I believe the opposite will occur this season and the Bulldogs are probably a better team than the pundits will predict. These "experts" may very well overlook an experienced offensive line, a fifth-year senior at quarterback, a defense that should only get better, and a sense of leadership that obviously was lacking last year. While most in the media will place the Bulldogs towards the bottom of their poll, I feel like they should be ranked more like 10th to 13th (and I tend to be quite the pessimist).
It appears Athlon's might have done its homework ranking the Bulldogs as high as it did. The magazine and I also agree on our state rival's preseason ranking. Notice where it ranks the Yellow Jackets (likely a top-15 team in most preseason polls)...