Here's one preseason measure in which Alabama didn't have to settle for second place.
Alabama, the No. 2 team in the Rivals.com preseason rankings, leads the way on our All-America team with six selections. No other school has more than four preseason All-Americans.
The safety tandem of Mark Barron and Robert Lester represented Alabama on the first team. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, guard Barrett Jones and running back Trent Richardson made the second team. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw was named to the third team.
Boise State, Notre Dame and Stanford have four selections each. Stanford and Alabama are the only schools with two first-team and two second-team picks.
Great players make great teams and great teams make great conferences.
That's why the widely held opinion that the newly expanded Pac-12 Conference is an emerging powerhouse is reinforced by the first-unit selections on our preseason All-America team. The Pac-12 counts seven of its players on the first team - more than any other conference. Among those included are Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Oregon RB LaMichael James, who were Heisman finalists a year ago.
The ACC has five players on the team, while the Big 12 and SEC have four each. There are three players on the team from the Big Ten, and two of those - DT Jared Crick and LB Lavonte David - are from conference newcomer Nebraska.
If Notre Dame will enjoy a return to the top of the football world, the Irish may be able to thank its core of three players listed on our second team.
LB Manti Te'o and FS Harrison Smith anchor an Irish defense that allowed 39 points in the final four games. WR Michael Floyd gives the Irish a Biletnikoff frontrunner and one of the nation's elite offensive talents.
The second-team is rounded out with two Alabama players (Barrett Jones and Dont'a Hightower), two Stanford defenders (Shayne Skov and Delano Howell) and two Boise State mainstays (Kellen Moore and Billy Winn).
The offensive headliner of the third team hails from a non-Big Six conference, but Houston's Case Keenum takes a backseat to no quarterback when it comes to piling up gaudy numbers.
Keenum has a chance to leave the sport as the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And he also has a shot to become the first quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards in a season in the Cougars' wide-open attack.
Keenum needs 4,123 yards passing to break the NCAA career mark of 17,072 set by Hawaii's Timmy Chang. Keenum, who was lost for the season in Game 3 last fall and was granted a sixth year of eligibility, also has a good chance to set all-time standards for completions and touchdown passes. And if he duplicates his 2009 numbers - 5,671 yards and 44 touchdown passes - expect him to be in the Heisman race, too.