I'm not sure how much credence y'all give Phil Steele, but this article made me look online to see if we had made the CWS; because for a second, it erased all memory I had of last weekend.
Last year Alabama was only ranked #24 at the start of the year. They were just 7-6 in 2007, had just 13 returning starters and faced a schedule that had 4 brutal road games. They had to take on the preseason ACC favorite Clemson in Atlanta, take on the defending national champ LSU in Death Valley where they would be sky high for Sabans’ return, face the defending SEC East Champ Tennessee in Knoxville AND take on the 2008 Preseason #1 team Georgia on the road. That does not sound like the recipe to vault into the top 10 let alone become the #1 teams in the country.
Alabama amazingly went 12-0 and was ranked #1 in the country at the end of the regular season last year. They had two MAIN factors in their favor last year. Both their offensive and defensive lines made my Top Units list in the front of the magazine and if you are strong along the line of scrimmage you can control many games. Another factor was that they were much better than a 7-6 team in 2007 as All 6 of their losses in ‘07 were by 7 or less points so they were just a handful of plays from being 13-0. I do a Best case Worst case scenario for each team in the regional magazines which takes all of the close wins or losses from the previous year and reverses them to see how close a team was to a much better or stronger season.
That got me thinking. Were there any other teams from 2007 that had 3 or more losses and all of them were close losses? The answer to that question was yes, there were two. Cincinnati had just 3 losses in 2007 and they were by 4, 5 and 7 points. They were a few plays away from being 13-0! How did it work out for them in 2008? Big East Champs and an Orange Bowl Bid! The other team was Michigan St which like Alabama was coming off a 7-6 season. Michigan St’s 6 losses were by 3, 4, 3, 7 and two in OT! In the last game of the regular season Mich St was playing Penn St for a shot at the Big Ten title!
You know what my next question is. What teams for 2009 had 3 or more losses last year but ALL of them were close losses. There were TWO teams who fall into that category and they are..... Iowa and Ole Miss. Both teams lost 4 games last year with Ole Miss losing by 2, 6, 7 and 4 and Iowa losing by 1, 5, 3 and 3. I have already pegged Ole Miss to be one of the top teams in the country as they have 16 returning starters and face by #77 rated schedule. They have my #4 rated Dline and the Offensive line just missed out on the top 32. They will not be under the radar like last years Tide team but have a GREAT shot at an unbeaten season.
Iowa is a team that could come out of nowhere like last years Tide team. Just like Bama they have FOUR tough road games having to face Big 10 favorites Penn St and Ohio St on the road as well as Mich St and Wisconsin. They have my #6 rated Oline and while the Dline just missed out on the ratings, they do have my #8 rated defense overall. Ole Miss will be a preseason Top 10 team so Iowa has the best shot to be the team with no losses the previous year by more than 7, that wont be ranked in the top 20 that has a seemingly too tough schedule that could surprise.