High seeds bring national attention to talent

By By Liz Frome and By Liz Frome

By Liz Frome

Better is always better.

A higher preseason ranking is always more beneficial for teams heading into a new season. Higher rankings mean more national attention, coverage and recruiting abilities than lower ranking teams get. To the victor goes the spoils and before the season starts, the victors are those who claim the highest rankings in the polls.

For good teams, it doesn’t matter where they’re ranked in terms of future performance because they are, in fact, good teams. Good teams will always perform well, no matter where they initially fit in the preseason rankings.

Take the 2004 U football team, for example. Ranked No. 20 and 21 in The Associated Press and Coaches polls, respectively, the Utes went on to have an undefeated season and climbed to No. 4 and 5 in the same polls by the end of the season.

The Utes were good8212;better than anyone expected them to be, and they proved it.

Now look at Florida. Everyone knows the team is good, including the players themselves, the coaching staff, fans and sportscasters. Florida has the kind of program that undeniably deserves the high preseason ranking and proved it by holding onto the No. 1 seat for seven weeks, including the preseason poll.

This week, the team moved down one spot in the AP Top 25, relinquishing its long-time seat to Alabama, which is also undefeated and claimed the No. 1 spot after its win over Arkansas.

Teams such as Florida and Alabama that are ranked higher in the preseason usually stay higher in the polls throughout the season because, well, they’re actually good. They’ve got deep and obvious talent, and the high preseason rankings are an extra shove in the right direction. More than a record and ego, they’ve got something to lose besides the game, and it’s a tough possession to let go of8212;especially at the hands of a rival.

Games between higher-ranked teams are usually nail-biters, not only because they’re good teams, but because both know that losing means dropping in the rankings below or further below their opponent. A loss means officially ranking themselves beneath another ranked team with a label that says “not as good.”

The nation’s eyes are always on those top teams, scrutinizing every team’s performance piece by piece, so every player better be worthy of that top seat, or the team will lose it. Teams placed higher in the rankings have to rely on each other in order to keep those spots because there’s always another team right behind them wanting to steal it. One bad game or terrible performance by a few individuals could mean waving goodbye to that all-important No. 1 throne.

Another plus of a high preseason ranking is that the teams that receive one usually understand the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose (keep in mind I said usually).

Higher-ranked teams have something to prove and big expectations to live up to, which demands the best they’ve got every week. They’ve got to show they are not just individual athletes fulfilling individual assignments, but part of a fluid system that’s capable of last-second adjustments.

When you get right down to it, high preseason rankings are, more often that not, actually deserved. And of course, it’s always better to be better.

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