It's good to be the champ: Alabama got all but four No. 1 votes in the preseason USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll. Here's the full list:
2. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
7. South Carolina
11. Notre Dame
12. Florida State
14. Oklahoma State
19. Boise State
25. Oregon State
I’m always confused about what these preseason polls are trying to accomplish. Are they power polls, attempting to measure the order teams would finish in a series of neutral site games played right now? If that’s the case, why even have them because there are far too many question marks to bother. Or are they an attempt at predicting how teams are going to be ranked at the end of the season? That’s a fun idea and one I’m all for, but it’s not executed correctly, because preseason rankings are dogmatically stuck to until a team loses.
In a just and fair world, there wouldn’t be preseason rankings. (Television executives are cringing at the inability to promote match ups without using shiny numbers.) You’d let the teams play a few weeks, then rank them based on – and I know this is crazy – actual merit. Reward tough scheduling and quality wins, not just how a team performed the year before and their ability to beat lower-tier competition.
Despite these reservations about the poll as a whole, it is our duty as a college football blog to take a look at it. Some thoughts as the calendar turns to August (A MONTH WITH FOOTBALL IN IT):
Alabama is number one with 58 of a possible 62 first-place votes, and that seems right using any way you want to measure it. They return a ridiculous offensive trio of A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper, they’re the two-time defending national champs and despite needing to replace a bunch of top NFL draft picks on defense and along and the offensive line, you have to have faith that Nick Saban will make it work, especially with another top recruiting class arriving on campus.
The other teams to receive first-place votes are Ohio State (3) and Texas A&M (1).
The SEC in general is getting a lot of love, with Bama, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU all ranked in the top 13. Those are the only SEC teams ranked, so we’ll have to wait and see if any of the potential usurpers on the second tier (Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State) can rise up.
Five of the Big Ten’s finest are ranked in the top 25, led by Ohio State in the No. 2 spot. You then see a massive drop as the next team to check in is Michigan at No. 17, followed by Nebraska (18), Northwestern (22) and Wisconsin (23).
There are only two ACC teams ranked (the heavy Atlantic division favorites and last two conference champions, Clemson and Florida State), but look at least one contender from the Coastal division (Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina) to start rising up these rankings once the season starts. Miami looks to have the inside track, as they came in at 27.
A lot of respect for the Pac-12 North, with Oregon and Stanford ranked third and fourth. (They play on November 7, if you were curious.) The coaches aren’t buying Southern Cal early, as the Trojans find themselves all the way down at No. 24. But hey, that’s where Notre Dame was in last year’s preseason poll, so not the worst place to be. Oregon State rounds out the poll at No. 25.
The coaches have no idea what’s going to happen in the Big 12, either. They have Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma back-to-back-back from 14-16, with TCU at 20. Kansas State was 26 and Baylor 29, so yeah, this league will be chaos.
The highest ranked non-BCS team is Boise State, who is in fact the only ranked team from a non-BCS conference. Independent Notre Dame is at 11 and American conference favorite Louisville is at nine. Fresno State, Utah State, BYU, Northern Illinois, Tulsa, Ohio, San Jose State, East Carolina, Kent State, Central Florida, Arkansas State and Toledo also received votes.
Teams receiving one vote? Arkansas, Arkansas State, Rutgers, Tennessee and Toledo.
If you want to look at scheduling, Alabama and Texas A&M only play two teams ranked in the preseason top 25 (each other and LSU) while Louisville doesn't play a team ranked in the top 39, with No. 40 Ohio their toughest opponent.