Breaking Down Nebraska's Ranking in the AP's College Football Preseason Poll

Patrick RungeCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2012

Dec 4, 2010; Arlington, TX, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Rex Burkhead (22) runs the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter of the 2010 Big 12 championship game at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

All preseason polls are supposed to be meaningless, but the AP preseason poll is the most meaningful of meaningless polls. So when the AP releases its preseason poll on the eve of the college football season, even the most jaded of fans should take notice.

Nebraska is 17th in the 2012 AP preseason poll, up seven points from where it ended the 2011 season. So what does Nebraska’s preseason ranking mean, and what does it tell us going forward?


Agrees With Many Other Preseason Rankings

Although the AP preseason poll is the one that “counts” more than any other, a number of other preseason prognostications had Nebraska in the same position. Athlon Sports had Nebraska at No. 14, as did Andy Staples of and Brett McMurphy of Mike Heguenin of Yahoo Sports had Nebraska at No. 17, while Dave Miller of the National Football Post had Nebraska at No. 21. The SB Nation preseason ranking was an outlier, not ranking NU in the Top 25.

(Hat tip to Corn Nation for the aggregation of Nebraska’s preseason rankings.)


Nebraska Is Expected to Tread Water in 2012

Nebraska is behind three other B1G teams in the AP preseason poll: Michigan at No. 8 (with a first-place vote, amazingly enough), Wisconsin at No. 12 and Michigan State at No. 13.

Looking at last year’s results, it’s hard to complain about those rankings. Michigan won a BCS game and has dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson returning for his senior year. Wisconsin is the defending B1G champion and has a Heisman finalist in Montee Ball returning. Michigan State is the defending Legends Division champion.

Nebraska, on the other hand, is coming off an embarrassing bowl game meltdown against South Carolina and has lost a number of key players on defense to graduation.

But, at least according to the preseason rankings, the AP is expecting Nebraska to finish third in the Legends Division, the same as last year.  The AP preseason poll, if correct, would mean that things at the end of 2012 would look very similar to the end of 2011.

After last season, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State all ended up bunched together in the AP poll, finishing 10th, 11th and 12th respectively. Nebraska’s pounding in the Capital One Bowl dropped NU to No. 24 in the final AP poll. But in terms of order and relative placement, only Michigan and Wisconsin change places. Otherwise, the preseason 2012 poll looks quite a bit like the postseason 2011 poll.


The B1G Isn’t In The National Title Hunt

Yes, Michigan got a first-place vote; but if the best-ranked team in the conference can only make it to No. 8, and there’s only one in the top 10, then it’s hard to make the argument that the B1G is likely to produce a national champion.

Compare the SEC, which has three teams in the top six and five in the top 10. The Pac-12 has the top team in the country, and two in the top five. The Big 12 has one team in the top five, and two in the top 11. Even the ACC has a representative in the top 10.

So in comparison to the other BCS conferences (we can still call them that, right?), the B1G is far down the pecking order in terms of national title contenders.

If you would like to contact Patrick directly to schedule an interview, ask a question or to get his recipe for a killer peach cobbler, send an email to  (DISCLAIMER: Peach cobbler recipe might not be all that killer.)

Or you could always...