SB Nation recently released its Way Too Early 2012 College Football BlogPoll and I was silly enough to try to pick winners and losers in 2012 without even so much as a Spring practice report (routes looked crisp! Joe Bergeron snapped a thigh master! Case McCoy exhibited moxie in pre-scrimmage stretching!)
Here it is:
Andy Hutchins performed his keen analysis on the voting trends and found some interesting results:
1. The greatest deviation, the greatest difference of voter opinion, is found in these five teams: Alabama, West Virginia, Georgia, Clemson, Texas.
I chalk Alabama up to a simple human psychology trend - a cognitive status quo bias - as we tend to believe that things will continue on their same trend, even as underlying fundamentals change. Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes compellingly on this topic and it was even a recent subject of a Freakonomics podcast. I had similar experiences moving to California in 2006 and saying things like "I don't think the housing market will continue to go up 35% every year" to rooms full of eye rolling and "this Texas rube just doesn't get it" grins.
Does everyone remember last year when every publication dutifully ranked Auburn in their preseason Top 20 despite their losing the entire team that actually won the 2010 National Championship? Yep, me too. I wrote an article about how Auburn wouldn't be ranked by seasons end and would lucky to go .500 in SEC play. Why? I made myself dumb, forgot last season happened, and actually looked at the football team that would be taking the field for them. Or, more cruelly, see 2009 Texas vs. 2010 Texas. Sadly, few of us saw the end of that bubble, even as we documented all of the negative behaviors in the program.
Alabama will be a good team next year, but given their losses at key spots, they're not playing for a national title.
Clemson is standard deviation in gridiron form. That is their nature. Georgia seemingly can't be trusted because they lost their bowl game to a carb-heavy Big 10 team and Richt has been a shaky vessel of hope, but their path to 10+ wins in the SEC East strikes me as undeniable. West Virginia loses their entire defense, their offense will be magnificent, and no one is quite sure how they'll fare in 2011's best overall conference. Those deviations make sense.
2. Barking Carnival (well, me at least) ranked Texas a full 9 spots higher than the Blognoscenti. #10 compared to #19. We're homers. The second most homery blog in the entire network of voters, according to their mathz. Or perhaps we know something others do not?
What do I see that others don't?
I expect to see an outstanding defense, led by high level DL (Okafor, Jeffcoat, 5 capable DTs in rotation) and good secondary play (needs no explanation). LB will take a step back, but the young talent in the pipeline and the heavy use of nickel obviates that issue. This all but assures us of a winning football team, even if the offense doesn't make a smidgen of improvement. But it will.
It's reasonable to assume an improved offense if we receive moderate QB play - exactly what we saw in the Holiday Bowl - and expected experiential improvements in the OL and WR. As we all know, RB is loaded.
Additionally, a talented recruiting class will help depth, stock special teams with athletic bodies, and create positive competitive pressures.
We're nowhere close to bleaching out the stains of staff complacency between 2006-2010, but very good defense paired with above average offense facing a forgiving OOC schedule - that's a pretty simple formula for a #10 ranking, isn't it?
Where am I wrong?