The coaches released their preseason poll on Thursday with four teams receiving first place votes. Oklahoma, as expected, led the way with 42 first place votes followed by Alabama with 13, and Oregon and LSU with two apiece.
Preseason polls are fun as a discussion piece, but they carry far too much weight in determining a national champion. We really don’t know what these teams are all about until they take the field a few times, giving us a better idea of where they belong in the rankings. Teams in the preseason top five, the top ten even, have an early advantage over anybody ranked below them, even if the lower ranked team is playing better than the higher ranked team. It’s hard to jump a team who began the season highly ranked and has yet to lose if you’re one of the outsiders—unless, of course, that team is Boise State or another non-AQ team. A playoff would take a lot of the ambiguity out of the mix, but that’s a story for another day.
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Let’s get to the preseason poll…
- Oklahoma Sooners: No surprise here. Landry Jones leads a stacked offense and the defense should be very good as well.
- Alabama Crimson Tide: Inexperience at quarterback or not, this team is going to be one of the game’s best. The schedule isn’t too bad (considering it’s the SEC) with Arkansas and LSU coming to Tuscaloosa.
- Oregon Ducks: There’s a lot coming back to Eugene as the Ducks are favored by a lot of people to win the Pac-12 Championship and perhaps even return to the national championship game.
- LSU Tigers: A good spot for a team that’s stacked just about everywhere. That November 5 matchup with Alabama is going to be a big one…
- Florida State Seminoles: I’ve gone back and forth on whether FSU should be a top-five team. I suppose the point of preseason polls is to try to predict what teams will do in the upcoming season based on the talent on the roster and what they did in the offseason, but I’m also a believer in making teams earn their rankings on the field, especially when we’re in the top five. FSU hasn’t yet earned a top-five spot even if there’s plenty of reason to believe they will.
- Stanford Cardinal: When your quarterback is one of the best collegiate passers in a few years and the rest of the team is in great shape following an Orange Bowl win, it’s hard not to earn a top ten preseason ranking.
- Boise State Broncos: There’s so much coming back to this team, minus the two leading receivers, some defensive backs and a few other key contributors. I like Boise State to take the Mountain West in their first year in the conference and maybe make some more waves on the national scale.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys: So the number eight team in the country isn’t exactly flying under the radar, but Oklahoma and Texas A&M have garnered a lot of attention in the Big 12, and a lot of people are talking about Baylor’s emergence and whether Texas is going to be better this year, so the Cowboys haven’t received the attention you’d expect for a team whose offense could be the country’s best.
- Texas A&M Aggies: This could be deemed a bit low for the Aggies, but who do you bump to move them up?
- Wisconsin Badgers: I have to wonder how much the addition of Russell Wilson had to do with the top ten ranking. There’s surely talent coming back and the backfield is going to be stacked, but there were a lot of key losses, too. Still, I’m fine with a top ten ranking for Wisconsin.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers: I was a little surprised that Nebraska was ranked lower than Wisconsin, even if it’s by just one spot. They, too, lost some key players—notably in the secondary—but a lot of airtime and print space has gone to declaring the Huskers the Big Ten frontrunners. If Taylor Martinez stays healthy all year, watch out.
- South Carolina Gamecocks: The darlings of the SEC East last year, South Carolina returns with expectations to return to the SEC Championship Game. Steven Garcia was reinstated, and his experience has to bode well for the Gamecocks this season.
- Virginia Tech Hokies: Good spot for the Hokies. The Hokies enter the year once again expecting to earn a BCS bowl game shot with Logan Thomas taking over for Tyrod Taylor.
- Arkansas Razorbacks: Call them the sleepers of the SEC West. It should surprise exactly nobody if Arkansas comes out of the West with a shot at the SEC title.
- TCU Horned Frogs: Casey Pachall has the unenviable task of taking over for Andy Dalton and it’ll be interesting to see how he does at the helm of a team that didn’t lose a game last year.
- Ohio State Buckeyes: Lots going on at Ohio State this offseason and the Buckeyes are at a transition. The Miami game should tell us a lot about this team as far as where they are on a national scale after all the team has gone through this spring and summer.
- Michigan State Spartans: Tough schedule with away games at Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. Could be tough to come out on top of the Legends Division.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Could see a couple of quarterbacks take snaps in South Bend this year and the defense could be better. However, brutal schedule with nine bowl teams and USC, who would have gone bowling if not for the postseason ban, on a 12-game schedule.
- Auburn Tigers: Auburn loses so much that a lot of people are upset they’re even ranked. Not sure they can get through the SEC schedule intact and in the top 25.
- Mississippi State: This marks five of six SEC West teams in the top 25. The Bulldogs are still the underdogs in the West with Alabama and LSU top five teams and Arkansas hiding out in the wings. I’ll go as far as to say the week 2 matchup at Auburn is a must-win.
- Missouri Tigers: Another team that’s been overshadowed by the Big 12′s other stories, the Tigers return another good team that will be led by quarterback James Franklin. The secondary saw some turnover, but it’s expected to be just fine.
- Georgia Bulldogs: Look out for Aaron Murray, who took a big first step as a freshman starter last season. The backfield is in tatters, though, leaving highly touted incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell the likely week one starter.
- Florida Gators: Fans in Gainesville aren’t too happy with the Bulldogs a spot ahead of them, but neither team has done enough to garner a top 25 spot. One of the bigger storylines of the year will be the new coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and how the offense fares.
- Texas Longhorns: Despite an atrocious season by Longhorns standards, the coaches still feel Texas is a top 25 team heading into the season. Don’t sleep on early matchups with BYU at home and UCLA on the road. In the meantime, the quarterback competition continues in the fall with four passers in the running.
- Penn State Nittany Lions: Penn State should be better this year, but it surprised me to see them in the preseason top 25 over West Virginia and Utah.
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