Preseason College Football Rankings: Teams That Will Make AP Voters Look Foolish
With no bodies of work on which to base opinion, the argument has been made that preseason polls are pointless—and I tend to agree.
While some teams live up to the early-season hype, others fall flat on their faces—yet they remain in the Top 25 for weeks, leaving more deserving teams in college football purgatory: the "others receiving votes" addenda at the bottom of polls.
So with the AP releasing its preseason poll today, here are five teams that have axes to grind with the voters—and which by their play on the field will prove the argument correct once again that preseason polls are pointless.
Tyler Wilson leads what could be the most explosive offense in college football.
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Preseason AP Rank: 10
With Tyler Wilson under center and Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo and perhaps a healthy Knile Davis in the backfield, opposing defenses will be hard pressed to contain the Razorbacks when they have the ball.
Arkansas' was one of the most explosive offenses in college last year, but it lost a lot of production at receiver with the departures of Joel Adams and Jarius Wright.
However, freshmen D'Arthur Cowan, Brad Culp and Scotty Thurman now have chances to contribute early and often.
Defensively, Arkansas is a mess, and while new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes figures to improve things with his schemes, the talent level is lacking when compared to the offense.
Linebacker Alonzo Highsmith will be looked at to lead the unit, and freshman Otha Peters will see plenty of playing time next to him—but this is a defense that allowed more than 400 yards to opposing offenses four times last season.
There's a lot of work yet to be done.
Playing in the SEC, Arkansas' defensive woes will cost them dearly. The Razorbacks are certainly a Top 25 team based on their offensive production alone, but the chances of their sticking in the Top 10 are slim unless Haynes is able to perform miracles.
Kansas State Wildcats
Collin Klein is a legitimae contender for the Heisman Trophy in 2012.
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Preseason AP Rank: 22
After shocking the college football world in 2011 by winning 10 games and earning a spot in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas, Kansas State finds itself getting no love from the voters.
Quarterback Collin Klein, a threat with both his arm and his legs, is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender and the leader of a talented offensive unit.
Running Backs John Hubert, Angelo Pease and Robert Rose all figure to get touches, and the receiving corps, led by Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tremaine Thompson, is solid, with Lockett having serious big-play ability.
Defensively, Kansas State has an underrated unit led by linebackers Arthur Brown and Tre Walker. Defensive tackles Vai Lutui and John Sua have the size, strength and ability to engage multiple linemen, opening lanes for the linebackers to get into.
This is essentially the same team that Kansas State put on the field in 2011, and by season's end, it'll prove to be much better than the 22nd best team in the country.
Jarek Lancaster leads the best linebacking core in the country.
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Preseason AP Rank: 21
There's no denying that the Cardinal lost a ton following the 2011 season, with no loss bigger than that of quarterback Andrew Luck, the unquestioned leader of the Cardinal attack.
While neither Brett Nottingham nor Josh Nunes is Luck—very few players are—both are talented passers who can step in and be effective under center.
Stepfan Taylor is arguably the best running back in college football, and while the Cardinal lost some key members of their offensive line, their recruiting class included some of the best offensive lineman in the country and they return some experienced backups to pick up the slack.
Defensively the Cardinal have the most talented group of linebackers in the country, with Jarek Lancaster, Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy. If Shayne Skov is fully recovered from a torn ACL that ended his 2011 season prematurely, that makes this unit significantly better, as Skov is a big-time player.
Looking at the Cardinal's schedule, it's not the most difficult in the world. Arizona, Duke, Oregon State, San Jose State and Washington State should all be wins, and neither Colorado nor UCLA figures to pose much of a threat either.
Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC and Washington figure to pose challenges, but there's no reason that the Cardinal can't win two of those games—while it was admittedly a vastly different team in 2011, Stanford posted a 4-1 record against that same group last season.
With the Cardinal sitting with a 9-3 or 10-2 record at the end of the season, slotting them 21st in the country to start the season will have been laughable.
Alex Okafor and the Longhorns defense will be a force to be reckoned with.
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Preseason AP Ranking: 15
There aren't many questions when it comes to the defensive side of the ball for the Texas Longhorns. With safety Kenny Vaccaro and linemen Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor leading the way, the Longhorns figure to make things incredibly difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
But as dominant as the defense could be, the offense could be as ineffective.
Nobody—including coach Mack Brown—is quite sure whether David Ash or Chase McCoy will be under center when the season opens, but it may not matter. Neither player was overly impressive in 2011, both struggling with poor decision-making, resulting in far too many turnovers.
Behind a young, inexperienced offensive line lie two excellent running backs in Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, but if Ash and McCoy aren't able to keep defenses honest with the passing game, the duo will find a crowded box and little room to make plays.
Inconsistency is what plagues Texas on offense, and with so many question marks at nearly every position except running back, it's difficult to see the Longhorns remaining a Top 15 team for long.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Geno Smith leads a potent West Virginia attack.
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Preseason AP Rank: 11
Yes, the move from the Big East to the Big 12 will bring with it a sharp uptick in the quality of competition that the Mountaineers go up against.
However, this is a West Virginia offensive attack that returns eight starters on offense, including quarterback Geno Smith—who led the Mountaineers to an average of 38 points per game in 2011.
With only one Big 12 school—Texas—having a defense that ranked in the top 50 in 2011, there aren't many teams which figure to be able to stop the Mountaineers attack.
While West Virginia has its own issues on defense—tons of talent but not much experience—its offense will lead the team to victories in shootouts more often than not, and the Mountaineers will find themselves in the Top 10 sooner rather than later.