This is a ranking poll. Not a power poll.
It’s generally not a good sign when you find yourself chuckling at your own selections before you’ve left the Top 10, but the beauty of all preseason polls is their utter wrongness. I take solace in the fact that your contribution would likely be as bad as mine.
I have zero idea who will the MNC. Ohio State has the most straightforward road to the title game and a rejuvenated Big 10 may even allow them to reach that game with one loss. The Buckeyes have a three game schedule: Miami in the Shoe, @ Iowa, @ Wisconsin. I’m also assuming that Tressel will stop squatting to pee when it comes to unleashing Pryor in big games, if the Rose Bowl against Oregon was any indication. That’s a dicey assumption, admittedly.
The notion that the defending national champion should be the default #1 in the preseason poll is as idiotic as it is pervasive. I don’t trust Saban teams with new secondaries and the Tide offense is limited. I admire their big body New England Patriot-style 3-4 philosophy and the contrarian smash mouth attitude on offense is a good way to secure wins in the Age of the Spread, but they will have an experience gap in running the schemes Saban wants. Arkansas slices up that young secondary in Fayettenam.
The Pac 10 has seven teams ranging from mediocre to pretty good. That should keep all of them out of the Top 10. Those discounting USC because of probation are forgetting that probation teams are generally quite good in their first year before depth problems set in down the road. Guess what? Teams that cheat have a lot of talent. See Bowden’s undefeated Auburn team. See Slocum’s undefeated A&M team. Lane Kiffin is the slimy X Factor and that’s why they’re out of my Top 10, despite an extraordinarily favorable home schedule.
The SEC is the best league in college football, with seven good to very good football teams. So I ranked them all. That would require things to fall just right, but luck and ESPN lapdoggery to all things poorly educated and humid guarantees the success of this outlandish prediction.
Why Are They Here? And What Are They Doing Ranked There?
Missouri returns 16 starters, a talented QB, an experienced OL, and they play in the Big 12 North. They have four seniors in the secondary, a pass rushing impact player at DE, and even a modest improvement over their weak 2009 defense will guarantee them 9 wins. Of course, this is the team that lost to Baylor last year.
The hardest thing to do in football is to look at a team with new eyes after a seemingly endless pattern of disappointment. Meet Notre Dame. I’m a Brian Kelly believer. The defense will be improved, special teams will no longer be a disgrace as they were under Weis, and they have major weapons at TE and WR.
South Carolina seemingly returns everyone, they have an elite secondary, and though Stephen Garcia is yet another punk-ass SEC QB (Masoli, Garcia, Cameron Newton form a troika of misdemeanors, felonies, and general assholishness unseen since the Oklahoma Sooner two deep circa 1988) I think we’ll finally see a year where Ball Coach doesn’t mail it in from the golf course. 9-4, OMG! Parades in the Palmetto State! Then it’s back to 7-6 again, Gamecocks.
Black Santa Blake has made sure that North Carolina is loaded on defense and it’s not unreasonable to believe that an offense returning 10 starters can manage more than 23.8 ppg as they did last year. The Heels demonstrated an embarrassing ability to lose to inferior talent in 2009, but they’re a Top 10 team if they’ll play up their potential and spend less time preening for the NFL Draft. Four senior studs in the secondary and 4/5 returning on the OL spells 10 wins.
Who Don’t I Trust?
Nebraska has the right feel for a dark horse MNC contender - a palpable feeling of resurgence, a good defense, an easy schedule, a momentum-building bowl pounding of a hapless opponent - but something is missing. A quarterback. It’s difficult to handicap just how much of Zach Lee’s ineptitude was attributable to nagging injuries or his own intrinsic suckitude. And how to factor the loss of Suh? A crash and burn would be most pleasing, but I still see a good year.
North Carolina has the stink of scandal and underachievement and DT Marvin Austin is the poster boy for both. Losing to NC State and Virginia last year with their loaded roster is a gross offense to the notion of human potential. UNC has the talent, but character and coaching are in question.
Florida State is not ranked because Florida State is a dumb football team. I need to see them not be dumb in order to rank their Top 15 talent in my Top 25. Jimbo Fisher and an end to Bowden’s calcified nepotistic ways should help, but it may take a year to get there.
Georgia Tech won 11 last year and returns 14 starters, but a raw OL and an early NFL entry from deep threat Demaryius Thomas, signals decline.
Top 25 dark horses Texas Tech and Texas A&M fall victim to a Big 12 South with two established lead dogs, their own head up match-up, and an upset foisted by Baylor on one of them. RGIII will not be denied 6-6 and a spot in the Tampax Comfort Fit Bowl in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Washington is a popular dark horse choice for the Top 25, but has a terribly unfavorable schedule and many of the arguments that favor their advancement could also be said of Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, and Cal. Isn’t it more likely that they all trade round robin losses and create a bunch of respectable teams ranked between 26-40? Is Washington just a more telegenic Texas A&M?
Your thoughts? Care to make me defend any of my dubious prognostications?