The AP and Coaches polls do not represent the preseason consensus, though it can feel sometimes like they do. In an effort to get a sense of the bigger picture, we gathered together 12 polls and averaged the ranking of each team to come up with a more comprehensive top 25.
Here's what it looks like:
CONSENSUS TOP 25
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|2||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|6||Texas A&M Aggies|
|7||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|11||Florida State Seminoles|
|14||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|15||Oklahoma State Cowboys|
|18||Boise State Broncos|
|20||TCU Horned Frogs|
|22||Michigan State Spartans|
|25||Virginia Tech Hokies|
The polls: Associated Press, Coaches, Athlon, Lindy's, CBSSports.com, Sports Illustrated, College Football News, Phil Steele, Football Outsiders, Sporting News, College Football Matrix, USA Today preview magazine.
The methodology: 25 points for first place, 24 for second, and so on.
Eleven of the 12 polls that we aggregated have Alabama at No. 1 -- College Football Matrix, the lone holdout, has the Tide at No. 2, behind Ohio State. Understandably, there is not a lot of doubt surrounding Nick Saban's program given its recent dominance, not to mention the return of two potential Heisman candidates in A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon.
Everybody likes Ohio State as well; two-thirds of the polls have the Buckeyes in the top two, making Alabama-Ohio State the clear preseason national championship game prediction.
Elswhere, though, it gets muddy.
Agree to disagree
High: 2 (College Football News)
Low: 19 (Football Outsiders)
The Seminoles have a lot of parts to replace, including a significant portion of their starting defense from a year ago. We don't know how Jameis Winston is going to handle the starting quarterback job, though his skills are obvious. That leaves plenty of room for skepticism heading into the season, but on the other hand, Florida State's overall talent level remains high. Most of the polls are hedging, but a few are buying into FSU in 2013.
High: 6 (Football Outsiders, Sporting News)
Low: Unranked (Sports Illustrated)
Sports Illustrated was the only outlet to leave Oklahoma State out of the top 25. Nobody is quite sure what to do with the Cowboys, who went 8-5 last year but were a combined 23-3 the two seasons prior. Football Outsiders and Sporting News expect a bounce-back to championship form, but generally speaking, the Cowboys are expected to make more modest improvement. But if this isn't one of the nation's best 25 teams, Sports Illustrated, I'll mow your lawn for a month.
High: 5 (College Football Matrix)
Low: Unranked (College Football News, Football Outsiders)
Team Offseason Momentum, where do you land? Louisville is coming off an outstanding 2012, and it finished with a high-profile win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals also have preseason Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater, who will be an attention-grabber all season and figures to be a high draft pick next spring. Those are contributing factors to the buzz surrounding the Cardinals, and partly why they're ranked in the top 10 by both the AP and Coaches polls. (They are also quite good. That's another part.)
Have they earned a spot in the top 12 or so based on their performance? CFN and Football Outsiders don't seem to think so.
High: 4 (Phil Steele)
Low: 20 (College Football Matrix)
Faith in Mack Brown's program has been steadily declining in recent years, though the Longhorns did finish last season with nine wins, which earned them a spot in the final AP Poll. Count Steele among those who believe Texas will build on last season, but other polls don't expect a lot to change this season.
High: 6 (USA Today preview magazine)
Low: Unranked (Phil Steele, College Football Matrix, College Football News)
The Broncos won 11 games in 2012, reaching that mark for the fifth consecutive season, but they sort of disappeared from the national discussion following a four-point loss at Michigan State to begin the year. They displayed some unusual signs of weakness -- the transition from Kellen Moore to Joe Southwick wasn't as smooth as they'd have hoped, so the offense could be a bit of an adventure.
USA Today thinks Boise State can get back into the BCS bowl picture; the others, not so much.
Which preseason magazine is the most accurate, anyway?
PunditTracker recently addressed this topic, comparing the preseason rankings of four major publications to the final AP Poll in each of the last five years. They found that Lindy's and Sporting News generally were better than Athlon and Phil Steele at anticipating how the season would unfold.
Sporting News is the only one of the four to have Stanford at No. 2 instead of Ohio State this year (all of them have the Tide at No. 1), so hey, maybe they're on to something. It's probably not a good idea to bet on that, though.