If the preseason USA Today coaches poll decided the NCAA playoff teams, we’d be in for a thrilling football postseason. Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Oregon–all perennial powers in the modern age of college football–sit atop the poll. Yet, each faces stiff competition in a bid to reach the inaugural playoffs come season’s end.
The coaches poll queries 62 coaches from the BCS conferences. Each selects his top 25 teams, which are weighted and combined to form the poll. It has been criticized as unreliable because college coaches don’t really have the time to watch football games beyond ones involving themselves and opponents and don’t have a real feel for what’s going on outside of their team and conference. It has also been rumored that many coaches allow their functionaries to vote for them.
Nevertheless, the preseason coaches poll means that college football is right around the corner.
Seven SEC teams are ranked in the initial poll, the most of any conference. Six SEC teams were ranked in last year’s preseason poll–all in the top 13. Nick Saban’s Alabama leads the SEC at #2.
The Pac-12 has six teams in with the Oregon Ducks claiming the #4 spot. The Ducks look to regain their pride after dropping consecutive games en route to an Alamo Bowl appearance.
Four Big 12 teams made the poll with Oklahoma leading the conference at #3. After defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Big Game Bob Stoops’s Sooners ride a wave of momentum into the new season.
The Big Ten boasts four teams in the poll. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the highest ranked team from the league at #6. They are looking to jump into the playoff picture in their second season under coach Urban Meyer and first bowl-eligible season after the Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor tattoo-gate.
Led by the reigning BCS National Champions and preseason #1 Florida State Seminoles, the ACC has three teams making the poll, including Clemson and North Carolina.
Independent Notre Dame is ranked #17.
No Preseason Spoilers
All 25 teams hail from automatic qualifying BCS conferences with the exception of independent Notre Dame. Until this year, Boise State had made each preseason USA Today coaches poll back to 2008, ascending to the #5 spot in 2010. TCU (while a member of the Mountain West), Utah (while a member of the Mountain West), BYU, South Florida, and Fresno State were the only non-BCS conference schools to earn a spot in the poll during that period. The American Athletic Conference has no teams in the poll
The Auburn Tigers, last season’s miracle team, comes in at #5. Auburn’s road is the toughest with a schedule that will pit the Tigers against the preseason #2, #9, #12, #13, #19, #20 and #21.
A tough Pac-12, and legitimate non-conference scheduling, does no favors for Stanford. The Cardinal will face preseason #4, #7, #15, #17, #18, and #25. After spoiling Oregon’s aspirations last season, they face the toughest schedule in the conference.
Three teams making USA Today‘s coaches poll top 25 changed coaches this off-season. Most notably, after former coach Mack Brown was forced out at Texas, then-Louisville coach Charlie Strong took the reigns of the program. Seemingly countless players have been suspended and/or dismissed (with some being reinstated) in an effort to “change the culture.” Yet, Strong is tamping down expectations, saying, “We will not be in the National Championship game.”
USC coach Steve Sarkisian left Washington to lead the Trojans after interim coach Ed Orgeron resurrected the team after Lane Kiffin’s ouster in 2013. Back in Seattle, Chris Peterson, after years of job offers and speculation, will take the reins after a highly successful eight-season tenure at Boise State.
Just as in seasons past, we will surely find that preseason polls are hardly a predictor of postseason glory. Nor should they be. Thankfully, the leaves will fall, the fans will congregate, and the college football season will be played out–not on paper but on the gridiron.