The start of, and the speculation about, the 2012 college football season has begun with the appearance of the initial batch of preseason prediction magazines on the newstands in the last couple weeks.
Although busy with the BACF and North-South Football Classics lately, I did sneak a peek at a compilation - and comparison - of the top-25 picks from four of the best-known magazines out now, with some surprising me and others having me shaking my head.
Of course, Alabama, LSU and this year's media darling USC, coming off its NCAA probation, dominated the first three spots, with the Trojans and Tigers ending up tied for No. 1 with an average rating of 2.25 while the defending national champion Crimson Tide was third at 3.0 with Oklahoma right on Bama's heels at 3.5 for fourth.
Then came Oregon (4.75), Florida State (6.25) and Georgia (8.5) at Nos. 5 through 7 respectively.
Ohio State, under Urban renewal (this is getting old, someone has to come up with a new catch phrase for Mr. Meyer in Columbus), jumped in at a composite No. 8 ranking of 9.75, with a high mark of sixth by Athlon, but also an eighth-place vote (USA Today), an 11th (Phil Steele) and a 14th (Lindy's).
The Buckeyes, now facing their own probation issues for a while, were the highest-ranked Big Ten team as the next five average rankings in order were: 9, Michigan (11.25); tied for 10th, Texas and Arkansas (12.0); 12th, South Carolina (12.5); and unlucky No. 13 (we can only hope), Wisconsin (14.75).
WVU came in at No. 14 with a 15.0 aggregate preseason ranking so far. While not starting out their first season in the Big 12 as the top dog, the Mountaineers still come into a new league with new-found national respect - all except from Phil Steele, who dropped them all the way to the very bottom of the top 25, leading one blogger to comment, ''I want some of whatever Phil Steele is smoking.''
At least, the rest of the votes for WVU were consistent: Lindy's, 10th; Athlon, 12th; and USA Today, 13th.
Rounding out the top 25 on average were: 15th, Oklahoma State; 16th, WVU's favorite bowl punching bag Clemson; 17th, Michgan State; 18th, Florida; 19th, Nebraska; 20th, TCU; 21st, Stanford; 22nd, Virginia Tech; 23rd, Notre Dame; 24th, North Carolina; and 25th, Central Florida, with Boise State on the outside looking in at No. 26.
I can't wait for the football season to get here. The North-South game last Saturday night - the first one I had covered in a while - just whetted my appetite even more. It was an exciting, down-to-the-wire contest that saw the North tie it at 28 on a 19-yard touchdown reception by Magnolia's Jayson Keller and a two-point conversion pass to Wirt County's Dalton Brindo with just 5.4 seconds left in regulation, although the South prevailed 36-28 in overtime.
Plus, I want to see if Urban Meyer can actually pull off a Buckeye bounce-back this fall as, despite OSU being under a one-year bowl ban, the Buckeyes can still win their Leaders division, but then that's it as they would be ineligible to play for the championship.