Now that both of the preseason college football polls have been released, one thing is clear: some teams are ranked so high that it's a joke.
It's the same story every year, and it's not anybody's fault—no coach or broadcaster or writer—because there's no way to predict which teams are going to inexplicably succeed. There's also no way to tell which ones will inexplicably fail. And every year, some team does.
Usually, it's Notre Dame. But there is at least one every season.
Here's a look at some of the teams that won't be able to justify their rankings in the early going this year. You can see both polls in their entirety here.
In the USA Today poll, USC is ranked third; in the AP poll, it's ranked first. One of them got it right. And it's not the writers.
Don't get me wrong: USC obviously looks great as the 2012 season approaches. It is one of the few teams that was dominant last season and has likely become even more dominant in the offseason.
It still has its key offensive players—primarily, quarterback Matt Barkley—and it got a huge boost when former Penn State running back Silas Redd defected from State College to Southern California.
Perhaps without that postseason ban, USC would've made a run for a decent bowl game in 2011. But at 10-2, the Trojans wouldn't have been good enough for the national championship game—and the two teams that were didn't get much worse in the offseason, either.
USC still has a lot to prove in order to solidify itself as the best team in the nation, and it has done nothing (yet) to prove it's better than LSU or Alabama.
When a high-profile team with a rich history of success gets a new coach, it gets a fresh start and, usually, an overzealous preseason ranking. Look at what happened to Notre Dame when Charlie Weis came aboard (at first).
But Ohio State has a lot of work to do before it establishes itself as one of the best teams in the Big Ten, let alone one of the best teams in the nation.
The Coaches' Poll has ignored the Buckeyes for the time being. The AP, however, ranked the Buckeyes 18th heading into the 2012 season.
Now, much like Ohio State has a history of success, so does incoming coach Urban Meyer. Undoubtedly, this program will improve under his tutelage, but the Buckeyes went 6-7 overall in 2011 and 3-5 in conference play. Braxton Miller lost his final four games of the season and failed to register a completion percentage above 56 in three of them.
This is a team that needs to prove itself—at least in its first game—before it's worthy of any ranking at all.
For the last five years, the Irish have hovered somewhere in between mediocre and awful, and yet the coaches always seem to want to give them a chance.
It makes sense. Historically, the Irish are one of the best programs in college football. But they just haven't lived up to their reputation since 2007.
Yet the USA Today poll still has them ranked 24th heading into 2012. Not a great ranking, but a ranking, nonetheless—and not one they deserve.
Quarterback Tommy Rees was suspended for this year's season opener because of a bar altercation, according to the New York Daily News. The Irish also lost corner Lo Wood for the season due to an Achilles tendon injury, according to the Associated Press. They're not exactly riding high right now.
There are a lot of people who want to see Notre Dame excel every year, and that's fine. But let's wait until the Irish actually do excel—at least for a season—before we start lumping them in with the top teams in college football.