SBNation is already having their first BlogPoll of 2012, and because I think this is kinda fun (and because I wanted a reason to stop thinking about 2011), Chris tasked me with preparing our ballot. If he'd done it, the SEC teams would've just been 1-14.
I took it somewhat seriously and somewhat lightheartedly. It has almost all the elements of your standard preseason poll, if I do say so myself. Notes on what exactly that entails after the jump. As usual, berating me for being an idiot is a-okay. That's what this stuff is for.
The Elements of a Preseason Poll
- The teams that everyone always ranks in the top five. LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Southern Cal (returning pretty nearly everybody and done with the bowl ban that's had them spiked from our poll), and Oklahoma. Is there ever any doubt about these teams starting in the top five? LSU, Bama, and Oregon all lost a lot, but they also have track records of overcoming heavy losses. Oklahoma didn't lose so much, but they have a track record of being a preseason favorite and not winning it all.
- The teams that aren't worthy of filling out the top ten but go here by default. Georgia, TCU, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Arkansas loses all their receivers, but Petrino, right? South Carolina finished 2011 in the top ten by default and start 2012 the same way after trading Alshon Jeffrey for Marcus Lattimore. Georgia returns everyone for what should be a scary defense, but because they are Georgia, will probably crumble under the weight of expectations and go 7-5. TCU returns a lot from a solid top fifteen team.
- The teams that are always overrated in preseason. Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame. There's a reason they're rated highly again. Clemson returns everyone from a scary good offense and nabbed Brent Venables to shore up a sieve-like D. Florida State was preseason top ten last year and got everybody injured. They're now all back. Notre Dame is in the top 25 by tradition but also returns a lot from a team that was sometimes good. All of these teams should, by all rights, finally live up to the hype this year. My guess is two of the three fall hard.
- The high-fliers. Louisville, Washington. You always have to vastly overrate a couple teams that may be on the cusp of breakout seasons. If they break out, you look like a genius. If they don't, you pretend it never happened. Or say "they were fliers, remember?" Louisville returns pretty much everybody from a team won a share of the Big East title (after being picked last in the preseason poll) and beat West Virginia. Their defense should be scary, and their offense up to passable. Washington returns most of an offense that put up a lot of points on a lot of people, and they added three fantastic defensive coaches in Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, and Tosh Lupoi, making them your West Coast breakout candidate. Honestly, Tennessee could go in this category, but a possible change to a 3-4 and questions about whether Justin Hunter will be 100% keep them out. Also, let's try not to be too homerific. West Virginia is another strong candidate for a breakout season in Dana Holgorson's second year, but they're a more trendy pick and Holgo's first year was extremely uneven, so I left them in the middle of the pack.
- The BCS teams who should go from average to good but not great. Georgia Tech, Utah. Tech returns a lot from a team that flirted with the top ten at times in 2011, and the Utes look to return to form after an obvious rebuilding year. Unlike the last category, you don't have to look for under the radar teams here. These are just bottom of the poll filler and will probably receive votes near the bottom of lots of ballots.
- Teams that lost way too much to expect to be good but are too often good to leave out entirely. Boise State, Wisconsin, Stanford, Oklahoma State. Broncos lost the classes responsible for the last two years, Wisconsin lost their offensive coordinator and star quarterback, Stanford lost the #1 draft pick, Oklahoma State lost their star QB and a top ten draft choice at WR. But they were the cream of the crop in 2011 and have all been doing it for a couple years now. So you have to give them some respect.
- The (non-BCS) low-fliers. Louisiana Tech, Central Florida. There are always a couple non-BCS teams that hang out near the bottom of the top 25. They're usually not there in the preseason though, so calling them has a similar risk/reward structure as the high-fliers. Tech returns most of a team that won the WAC and gave TCU a hard fight in their bowl game. UCF returns almost everyone from a disappointing season in which they lost more than their fair share of close games. The rest of the C-USA should take a step back, so it's theirs for the taking.
- Barely left out and bucking the conventions. Ohio State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, BYU, Auburn, Nebraska. All of these are prospective top 25 teams, but when everyone is 0-0, while it's tough to find a lot of legit title contenders, it's easy to find 35 teams that should be decently good. Ohio State is eliminated on the Trogan rule (bowl ban). Kansas State returns most everybody from a top fifteen team and should be top fifteen, except that their luck can't hold another year, can it? Virginia Tech is always in the preseason top fifteen, but I felt like bucking a major preseason poll convention. They disappointed in 2011 and have to replace four starting offensive linemen. BYU may finally kinda be back but also maybe not. Auburn returns a zillion starters and should be extremely talented but must replace both coordinators, including the mighty Gus Malzahn, who I suspect is the main reason they were ever good. That and Cam Newton. Nebraska returns everyone from a team that started in the top fifteen and disappointed. They should be a top 25 team, but I'll expect something other than more disappointment when I see it.
- Who did I miss? Oh yeah, those middle guys. Michigan State, Michigan, West Virginia. Sparty returns a fantastic defense but loses a clutch QB. Michigan returns a lot from a decent team, but Denard still can't beat State. West Virginia could have a year two breakout but was very uneven in year one. What to do with them? Stick 'em all in the middle.