FWAA-NFF Super 16 Preseason Poll: How I voted and why everyone else is wrong

·8 min read

Following in the footsteps of the releases of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25, one more preseason college football ranking was released by the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation this week. The preseason FWAA-NFF poll ranks the top 16 teams in the world of college football, but Penn State is nowhere to be found in the preseason ranking heading into the 2021 season.

I am honored to be among those casting a ballot for the Super 16 poll again this season, as this 2021 season will be my third year participating in the weekly poll. And already I know I have some different reads on the upcoming season than many of my fellow voters.

Below you will see the full ranking of teams appearing in the Super 16 preseason poll as they appear from No. 1 to No. 16. I have mixed in how I voted in the poll at each spot as well, so you can gauge where I am on the mark, in sync with the national perceptions, and where I go against the grain.

Let’s start with the defending national champions to kick off the preseason poll.

Alabama Crimson Tide (35 first-place votes)

Gary Cosby Jr./Tuscaloosa News

Who I voted for No. 1: Alabama We don't need to spend too much time on this one. Alabama is the defending national champion and odds are pretty darn good the Crimson Tide will be back in the playoff mix this season. Until proven otherwise, Alabama may be tough to knock down from the top spot.

Clemson Tigers (3 first-place votes)

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Who I voted for No. 2: Clemson So far I'm two-for-two. Once again, Clemson has established itself as a perennial national title contender under Dabo Swinney. I see no reason at this point in time to suggest that's about to change this fall.

Oklahoma Sooners (9 first-place votes)

Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

Who I voted for No. 3: Oklahoma The Sooners are getting a good amount of hype entering the 2021 season, and Spencer Rattler gives Okalhoam hype plenty of reason to be legitimately excited. But are they good enough to top Alabama or Clemson? Nah. Not yet, at least. Oklahoma did get the second-most first-place votes, but Clemson had a much more consistent ranking above Oklahoma on the ballots, it would seem.

Ohio State Buckeyes (1 first-place vote)

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Who I voted for No. 4: Ohio State Quarterback question? Sure. Enough to be concerned about the Buckeyes? Of course not. Ohio State will once again reload and be the team to beat in the Big Ten. And there is a chance nobody will be able to do so this season.

Georgia Bulldogs (4 first-place votes)

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 5: Georgia The best team in the SEC East? It sure seems that way. J.T. Daniels finally gives Georgia a quarterback that can be a difference-maker, and you know the Bulldogs will be strong in a number of other areas. They'll still lose to Bama in the SEC Championship Game though because that's what Georgia (and Alabama) does.

Texas A&M Aggies

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Who I voted for No. 6: Texas A&M I'm not all-in on the idea that Texas A&M is going to be a playoff candidate this season, but they should be able to play themselves into the conversation. Getting by Alabama is the biggest obstacle, naturally, and I'm not sure they'll get enough help from outside the SEC to warrant a legitimate discussion. Six picks in and I'm in sync with the Super 16 Poll. It's time for that to change...

Iowa State Cyclones

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Who I voted for No. 7: Florida Iowa State is getting an incredible amount of love nationally this offseason, and it's easy to understand why. Matt Campbell got Iowa State into the Big 12 championship game and he may do so again this season. But No. 7 in the nation? That's where I personally pump the brakes. I went with Florida, which you will see is notably higher than the Gators appear in the Super 16 Poll, but I think Dan Mullen could have a pretty fun season lining up in Gainesville.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 8: Notre Dame A year after appearing in the College Football Playoff, Notre Dame is back to playing an independent schedule this season. But I happen to be calling for an early upset of the Fighting Irish this season, which will put a dent in their playoff hopes almost immediately. But make no mistake, Brian Kelly's got another good team in South Bend.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 9: North Carolina I'm back in sync with the pollsters here with ranking the Tar Heels just inside the top 10. Mack Brown has exceeded my expectations in Chapel Hill and Sam Howell at quarterback is a nice luxury to have. The second best team in the ACC this fall. Plus, those uniforms are sweet.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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Who I voted for No. 10: Iowa State Cincinnati is the only Group of Five program to make an appearance in the Super 16 preseason poll, and I'm fine with it. Mind you, I actually didn't vote for the Bearcats in my Super 16, although I thought and debated it for a long time with myself. I just think, if matched head-to-head, I'd take all of these other teams ahead of Cincinnati.

Oregon Ducks

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Who I voted for No. 11: Oregon I'm back on the same pulse with regard to the defending Pac-12 champions. We'll get an early test on just how real Oregon is as a top contender this year when they face Ohio State in one of the best non-conference matchups of the season.

Florida Gators

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services

Who I voted for No. 12: LSU As I explained earlier, I think Florida has a chance to be a bit higher in the polls this season. Clearly, I'm either overly optimistic or others are more pessimistic about what Florida is going to do this season. Still, it's a solid team in Gainesville.

Wisconsin Badgers

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 13: USC Penn State's season-opening opponent comes in at No. 13 in the preseason Super 16 poll, which is right around where they appear in the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25. And I wasn't too far off, ranking the Badgers one spot lower on my ballot. I ended up going with USC, a few spots higher than they appear in the preseason Super 16 Poll.

LSU Tigers

AP Photo/Brett Duke

Who I voted for No. 14: Wisconsin LSU is entering the new season with some similarities to Penn State, in that neither team achieved to the level they desired last fall. LSU also lost a quarterback to the transfer portal (one who may have been on Penn State's radar), but the Tigers return some good talent and could be a tough opponent this season for a bunch of schools.

USC Trojans

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 15: Penn State USC comes in a couple spots lower than I voted for them, but they still are looking like the second-best team in the Pac-12 this season behind Oregon. On my ballot, I know I'll be accused of being a bit of a homer. That's OK. I can take it. But those who have been following my commentary of the Nittany Lions this offseason know the reasons why I am optimistic about what Penn State could do this year. They'll have to earn the respect of the voters early on, which is fair. But I think Penn State has enough of a rebound season to justify this ranking.

Miami Hurricanes

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Who I voted for No. 16: Iowa Miami having D'Eriq King is just one of the reasons the Hurricanes could make some noise this season. But there is something about them that I just am not fully prepared to trust. Iowa, on the other hand, is a team I think could string together enough wins to gain some votes. The Hawkeyes are already in this territory on the other preseason polls, so I don't feel I am overvaluing the Hawkeyes too much here.

Others Receiving Votes (total points)

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Washington (45), Indiana (43), Penn State (30), Iowa (20), Utah (17), Texas (16), Ole Miss (8), TCU (8), Northwestern (7), Liberty (7), Arizona State (7), Florida State (5), BYU (5), Coastal Carolina (4), Oklahoma State (3), Louisiana (3), Auburn (2), Boston College (1) Follow Nittany Lions Wire on Twitter and like us on Facebook for continuing Penn State coverage and discussion.

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