The preseason coaches poll is out, and it contains the predictable rankings of reputation, mainly because it is coaches who are doing the ranking. It is not necessarily an accurate poll when it comes to making a comparison to how the rankings and teams finish at the end of the season, but that’s because it is coaches who are doing the ranking. It is obviously quite subjective, and is based on reputation and the season prior, more than it is on an actual evaluation of the teams.
I have a little bit different perspective than the coaches do. In comparison, when I’ve done this before, I have been about as accurate as the coaches have been. Here’s my pre-season top 25, with comments about the top five.
1. Ohio State. The arrival of Urban Meyer and the frustration with probation will push the Buckeyes out the gate and down the road pretty quickly. They’ll have some competition in the Big-10, but it will be like iron sharpening iron.
2. Oregon. The Ducks have been hanging around for a while now, and this is the year. The O’s in the title game will represent Ohio and Oregon.
3. Stanford. Yep, they’ve built a consistent winner in Palo Alto. The often ignored Pac-12 is as good as the SEC, top to bottom. Stanford has a lot of great players from a great team last year that was rooked out of a national title game because of the quirks of the BCS ranking system.
4. Notre Dame. The team the sports press and coaches love to hate has a lot of players hanging around from a team that was a national title contender. They’re better than anyone in the SEC. Sorry, they are. Otherwise, go to South Bend and give it a try.
5. Oklahoma. The press really doesn’t like the Sooners much either, and so I’ll give them a few points just because of that. They’re a better team than their ranking, and they are in the Big-12, which is pretty tough, top to bottom.
6. Alabama. I’m not convinced the Tide is quite this good, but they may be just a shade better than anyone else in the SEC which means something to pollsters and sportswriters. They’ll win the SEC west because its weak.
7. Wisconsin. Big 10, good program, solid returning team, solid fan support, no big superstars but a lot of kids that play well together.
8. Boise State. Under-rated in the coaches poll as usual, the Broncs are a team that on any given day can beat anyone in the country, as usual. And they will get no recognition for it as usual, even though their schedule is stronger than one that includes Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
9. Clemson. Not bad for the ACC, they are, like Wisconsin, a good team without superstars that play well together, and a lot of them are back from last year.
10. Georgia. The consistently underperforming Bulldogs will consistently underperform again this year. I could care less, as long as they beat Florida and knock off the Tide.
And the next 15 are: 11. Penn State (probation or not), 12. Florida State, 13. USC, 14. Nebraska, 15. Texas A&M, 16. Kansas State, 17. Oregon State, 18. Florida, 19. Northwestern, 20. LSU, 21. UCLA, 22. Texas Tech, 23. Michigan, 24. Virginia Tech, 25. Arizona.
The coaches liked South Carolina, but I left them out. They are puffed by the press and by the BCS to make it look like there’s another SEC team that is good. They can occasionally pop up and beat one of their conference rivals, but once they get out into the real world, they’re middle of the road at best. I left Texas out as well. They’re another team that rides on reputation. Colt McCoy is gone, and so is Jordan Shipley, and so is Texas. Baylor, which has beaten Texas twice in a row now, may be the better team.
There might be some surprises this season. I don’t expect Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to do much of anything. He seems to be more of a celebrity and a party animal than a concentrated athlete, and on the field, he might just be a flash in the pan. Someone from the MAC will likely make it into the top 25, maybe even make things exciting in the BCS run for a while, though the conference configurations now make that highly unlikely. The BCS is getting what it wanted, superconferences with a lot of television money. Still, there are some schools that have opportunities on the schedule to be overlooked, and to knock someone off.
I’ll revisit this in mid-January.