It's Preseason BlogPoll Time: Preliminary

Nothing to do with the BlogPoll, just awesome. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It's about time to satisfy our demand for a ranking system by throwing out totally meaningless preseason thoughts in the BlogPoll. For those of you who aren't aware, the BlogPoll is a lot what it sounds like: a poll of bloggers. The idea is to be better than the SID coaches and AP polls because we're more accountable and we watch a whole lot of games that don't directly affect our local team. Right now, as with all preseason polls, the poll is purely based on our semi-informed whims and guesses about the relative strengths of teams we've never seen play. Over the next several weeks, as we get more and more data, we'll transition away from that, with the goal of doing a pure resume poll starting in week [something or other--six?] instead of saying "they can't be that bad, they're Texas" all the way into November.

Usually this post will go up on Sunday afternoon (or whenever Chris or I can sort out who was least bad the day before), but since we don't have any Saturday games this week, we're getting a jump on things. This will be my (or his) first stab at it, and the job for all you folk is to set us straight. That way we have a Rocky Top Talk ballot, not an Incipient_Senescence (or Chris Pendley) ballot. So, without further adieu, Adu, ado, here is my initial ordering, with some thoughts about why that makes sense:

1. LSU. Now that HB is gone, this is mostly because it's easier to be the challenger than the defending champ. It's close.

2. Alabama. Because even though they lost half their defense, they won't stop being crazy good.

3. Oregon. Most of their losses are on offense, and I trust Chip Kelly to fix their losses on offense--he always does. Surprising as this may be, they might be better in the trenches than Southern Cal.

4. Southern Cal. They return a lot from a team that beat Oregon and took Stanford to the wire. People forget that they also got housed by the fighting Zooks Ericksons from Arizona State, but there's a reason they're in all the preseason top fives.

5. Oklahoma. There are massive questions at wide receiver, but they look pretty stacked everywhere else. And at least this time, they have an offseason to deal with their losses at wide receiver. Last year, the Sooners were 8-1 and sitting at #5 when Broyles went down. Then they lost to Baylor. Then they didn't even show up to Bedlam.

6. Florida State. They're back. No really, I mean it this time. I know people proclaim them back every year, but they're totally stacked everywhere. As long as they don't get all their offensive players injured at the same time and then lose consecutive games to Oklahoma, Clemson, and. . . uhhh. . . Wake Forest, they should be headed to Jacksonville or Charlotte or wherever the ACC plays their championship games these days.

7. Georgia. Also stacked everywhere. Except RB and OL. Their defense was top five nationally last year and returns nine starters. Their QB is back. Which means they'll go 9-3 and the UF/USC game will determine the East champion.

8. Michigan State. They lose their whole passing game, but they have a running back and some linemen coming back. Oh yeah, and nine guys from one of the saltiest defenses North of the Mason-Dixon line. Okay, that might not mean much, but they should shut down Denard Robinson again, which gives them a good chance of taking the B1G crown.

9. South Carolina. Hooray Lattimore! And seriously, who else goes here. I'm taking suggestions. The problem with rankings is that there are never ten top ten teams.

10. Michigan. Won a BCS bowl last year (on a bad call against arguably the worst at-large selection of all time). Returns lots of guys. Seriously, you have any ideas?

11. Notre Dame. Lost five games last year. Three of them were against teams ranked ahead of them here. A fourth was against the #4 team in the country (Stanford). The fifth included five turnovers in the opening game of the season. So really, they were pretty close to good. And they should be again. Of course, they have four games against teams ranked ahead of them in this preliminary ballot, so good luck winning nine games.

12. TCU. Because I believe Gary Patterson won't have a bad defense two years in a row. Yes, I've been reduced to looking for these kinds of reasons. But they really did come on strong late last year.

13. Clemson. Because their passing game is still good, and their new defensive coordinator can't be as bad as the old one. Expect wins over Auburn and Virginia Tech but losses to Georgia Tech and Maryland, just because.

14. West Virginia. Because they have more holes to fill on defense than Clemson does. Of course, they also have more margin for error.

15. Georgia Tech. Experience at QB and OL should cause them to run roughshod over ACC defenses. Although, to be fair, when do they not? Anyways, I fully expect Georgia Tech to lose their first game of the season on a Monday night in Lane Stadium. That won't mean Virginia Tech is better. It will mean VIrginia Tech was at home and had a whole offseason to prepare for this one game, since it's the best team they'll face all season.

16. Wisconsin. One of the trickier ones out there. No more Russell Wilson, no more Nick Toon, no more [insert any assistant coach here]. Lots of turnover to overcome. Then again, they still have Montee Ball and a Wisconsin offensive line. And O'Brien isn't a bad transfer to pick up. They could be anywhere from top ten to not ranked.

17. Utah. They know what the Pac-12 grind is about, they return nine offensive starters, and their secondary should be fantastic. Their home date with Southern Cal on the first Thursday in October has the potential to be buckets of fun. Pull an upset, and they're suddenly in the driver's seat with no games against Oregon or Stanford to worry about.

18. Washington. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox expects a significantly improved front seven after installing the 3-4 in Seat. . . wait, what? Whatever he's doing though, it can't be worse than last year's defense. This ranking has a lot to do with my faith in Wilcox. The offense will miss Polk but should still put up plenty of points. Fortunately they won't be tested much early. Just LSU, Stanford, Oregon, and Southern Cal in their first six games. No biggie.

19. Oklahoma State. Another "you tell me" team. Return most of an opportunistic defense, lose most of an incredible offense. Will the turnover luck balance out this year? Or will they still ball-hawk and somehow come up with a good offense because they're men and they're forty?

20. Arkansas. Because this is how much I respect Bobby Petrino as a football coach. Were he still around, they'd be top ten easy.

21. Stanford. Joins Wisconsin and Oklahoma State in "they lost a ton, but they were also really, really good." Should have a killer front seven. It's open to doubt whether they'll have a killer anything else.

22. Louisville. On the minus side, roughly 87% of the team is made up of sophomores. On the plus side, those sophomores all started as freshmen and shared the Big East title with West Virginia (who is gone) and Cincinnati (who graduated everybody important on offense). I would not be shocked to see them favored in all twelve games this season.

23. Texas. There are four teams who should believe they have the inside track on second place in the new Big 12. Odds are, one of them will finish fifth. My call is Texas, but if their passing game shows the hint of a pulse, they'll go much, much higher.

24. Nebraska. They do return seven starters on each side of the ball from a team that started last year in the top ten. I don't have a lot of faith in them, but they shouldn't be bad either.

25. Louisiana Tech. They got good when no one was looking. Gave Houston a run, gave TCU a run, beat Nevada, took Mississippi State to overtime in Starkville, crushed Ole Miss (okay, maybe that last one isn't evidence of anything but having a football team). The WAC doesn't have any actual teams left in it, so they should win easily enough. They open with Texas A&M, so we should find out pretty quickly whether they're for real.

Notable exclusions:

  • Ohio State. Rocky Top Talk policy is to exclude teams with bowl bans. They would otherwise be ranked.
  • UCF. Ditto. And ditto.
  • Virginia Tech. They may be favored in eleven games this year (twelve if Clemson falls off a cliff early instead of late), and they'll most likely make the ACC Championship Game, but that doesn't mean they're good. Their defense is good, but the offense. They're a poor man's Florida. Except in the ACC.
  • Florida. A rich man's Virginia Tech. Except in the SEC.
  • Boise State. I know they're gonna be good. They're always good. They can't not be good. I have to rank them. But they return seven starters from last year. Seven! We didn't rank Auburn at the beginning of last year.
  • Tennessee. If we're 3-0 come mid-September, we'll talk.
I know that was long, but mostly because I felt like I couldn't rank Notre Dame and Clemson without lengthy explanation. Comments are encouraged and will be incorporated into the final ballot at the end of the week.
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