In 1950, The Associated Press released a preseason college football poll for the first time. It had been ranking teams, starting midseason, for 14 years, and the venture proved popular enough to expand the reach a bit.
Granted, the accuracy of that initial poll was shaky. Preseason No. 1 Notre Dame would go just 4-4-1, while No. 12 USC would go just 2-5-2 -- perhaps not the only time in the history of the sport that these two teams have started out overrated. But the best teams at the end of the year (Oklahoma, Army and Texas went a combined 25-1, and Texas' only loss was to Oklahoma) were all ranked in the top six in the preseason. It was a worthy exercise in setting expectations and generating conversation, and it has remained mostly that for the nearly 75 years since.
As a set of predictions, the poll hasn't really gotten any better: In the last 28 years, only three eventual national champions began the season at No. 1. Not even this era of Alabama dominance has improved accuracy -- Nick Saban's Crimson Tide have begun the season at No. 1 six times and have finished the season at No. 1 six times, but they have somehow done both in the same season only once (2017).
Still, the preseason poll can be particularly useful if you know what you're looking for. With the release of the 2022 rankings -- in which Alabama once again starts out No. 1 -- I looked back at the AP's last 25 years of pre- and postseason rankings and found some pretty reliable trends. Let's walk through them.