Dial-up modems were in heavy use Thursday across the South as the USA Today Coaches Poll was released. This is the final year before the NCAA rolls out their cutting-edge four-team playoff system that will render all debate useless.
Despite the fact that preseason polls are based on games played eight months ago, recent high school graduates, and the intra-squad games played on the eve of college spring break, they still actually are somewhat important because of the BCS. A quick look at the top 10 reveals some things that college football fans have grown to expect: Alabama is tops, half of the teams are from the SEC, and Ohio State has returned to the hype mix post-sanctions. There were a few surprises in the Top 10: No Oklahoma or anybody else from the Big 12, Louisville representing the
Big East American Athletic Conference, and South Carolina being the only state with two teams in the Top 10.
1. Alabama: Loser
I know it doesn’t make sense seeing those two words together, but the preseason number one team hasn’t won the national championship since 2004 (USC). Even though Alabama avoids the four best teams in the SEC East this year, it’s still the SEC and you cannot assume anybody will run the table. Luckily their hardest game is also their second game, so if they do stumble against Texas A&M, the Alabama name and the SEC prestige will be enough to get them back in the title game if they win the SEC.
Who am I kidding? It’s Alabama and Nick Saban.
2. Ohio State: Winner
In only his second year Urban Meyer has already taken over the Big Ten and by year four he will have put all other competitors out of business. Coming off an undefeated 2012 season with a lot of close, character-building wins, Ohio State should be able to roll through the 2013 schedule until the always exciting border war with the team from up north to close the season out. Even if they pull out struggling wins against lesser competition, the attrition in the surrounding spots in the Top 10 should be enough to keep them in second place until Selection Sunday.
3. Oregon: Loser
Despite losing Chip Kelly, Oregon is still deserving of the high billing based on their offensive pieces. Under the assumption that the winner of the SEC will play for the national championship, Oregon needs help from the teams above and below them. Ohio State must lose 1 and Stanford’s only loss has to be to Oregon.
4. Stanford: Winner
The exact same argument about the struggle to make the national championship game for Oregon can be made for Stanford, but it’s a winner. It’s Stanford. Even if they have to settle for a Rose Bowl, 90 percent of their team is going to be making six-figures and the rest will be in the NFL. Their sustained success is amazing given the fact that their coach when this run began just lost the Super Bowl and the quarterback was the number one overall pick. Even the water boy is pulling chicks.
5. Georgia: Loser
Living in Atlanta, I’ve heard all summer about how despite losing their top 12 defensive contributors from last year’s team that there is still plenty of talent just waiting to step into their role. I do believe that to be true, I just don’t expect to see it at the same level of success that Alabama has had with their linebackers or LSU with their secondary. What hurts Georgia is that they open the season playing number eight and number seven back to back. That means a lot of hype, at least one Game Day stage, and zero room for error.
6. Texas A&M: Winner
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner coming off an 11-2 season and only being ranked sixth?! I’m going to stop writing and let all the Austin boys from BroJackson continue to write this entry for me. Whaaaaat? We’re talking about A&M, not UT? Congratulations are in order to Johnny Manziel, Kevin Sumlin, and everybody else associated with A&M for not only surviving their pledge season of SEC football, but for going toe to toe with king of the Frat Castle: Alabama. As great as the number six ranking is, they might have been done a favor by not being ranked even higher. The last thing this program needs is MORE hype leading up to the Week 2 game with Alabama.
7. South Carolina: Winner
I can’t think of a coach who I would rather have with a high preseason ranking than Steve Spurrier. No coach in college football is better at taking pressure off his team and putting it on himself. South Carolina is considered upper echelon, but other than Jadeveon Clowney I don’t know anybody else on the team’s name. And after Week 2 when Spurrier conducts his annual embarrassing of Mark Richt, the Gamecocks should cruise into a November match up with his alma mater while avoiding the Big 3 from the West.
8. Clemson: Loser
It seems like almost every year Clemson rolls into late October being undefeated yet still ranked around 10th in the country. This year they finally got the respect that few people outside of Dabo Sweeney think they deserve. Maybe this year it will work out better for them getting their first loss out of the way early so they can coast through the ACC before bookending their season with another loss to South Carolina.
9. Louisville: Loser
Preseason Top 10 for Louisville is great, but they deserve so much better. Last year they went 11-2 and dismantled Florida in the Sugar Bowl, but still finished the season ranked 13th. This year they return much of their talent including arguably the best quarterback in college in Teddy Bridgewater. They will go undefeated because their schedule doesn’t feature a team that even is sniffing the Top 25, 2 but when the season ends they’ll be lucky to be Top 5.
10. Florida: Loser
They should be somewhere around 15th, but their name and an 11-2 record last year means an inflation of props. In the post-Meyer era their offense has struggled and will continue to do so this year. Will Muschamp has done a good job of building a strong defense using his knowledge and charming personality. When they finish the year 8-4, this preseason ranking will head the message boards wanting Muschamp’s firing.