Why 2012 Was the Worst Preseason Poll of the BCS Era
Sure, the preseason poll is simply the media's attempt to generate excitement about football season and doesn't hold much meaning, but one would expect the teams listed to wind up having solid seasons.
However, that wasn't the case this season; when multiple six-loss teams grace the polished confines of preseason rankings, you have a problem. Overall, this season's preseason poll was unprecedented in its abundance of overrated teams and its lack of recognition for top-tier teams.
Let's take a look at the teams included (and excluded) from this season's preseason poll to see why it is the worst preseason poll of the BCS era (since 1998).
Oh, how hard the mighty fall. The Trojans, with Heisman Trophy-favorite Matt Barkley returning along with a slew of starters, were a trendy national title pick as AP preseason No. 1 back in August.
But, as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend!" USC lost to Stanford 21-14 in its third game of the season, shocking the college football world. This was not in the script.
There was still a chance to make it to Miami for the Trojans, but these hopes were crushed Oct. 27 when Rich Rodriguez and Arizona toppled Southern Cal 39-36 in Tucson.
Lane Kiffin and Co. went on to lose to Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame this past weekend, finishing out their season at a jaw-dropping 7-5.
Sure, not everybody saw the Men of Troy playing for it all come January, but nobody expected this. No college football enthusiast foresaw a No. 1 team being unranked by Week 13 after losing to Notre Dame with its star quarterback watching from the sideline.
2012 was especially painful for the Razorbacks. Although the Hogs had to adjust to a new head coach after Bobby Petrino's bizarre exit, the outlook for the upcoming season was sunny. Tyler Wilson was back at quarterback, along with talented running back Nile Davis.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it's very hard to believe Arkansas was ranked 10th in the first AP poll of the season. John L. Smith's bunch managed to win its debut against Jacksonville State, but things got ugly thereafter.
The Razorbacks went 3-8 the rest of the way, losing to Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Ole Miss, among others, at home and being blanked 52-0 by Alabama. The only wins came against Auburn, Kentucky and Tulsa, who finished a combined 14-22.
After a very difficult 2012 season, next fall can't come soon enough for fans in Fayeteville.
Directly behind Arkansas at No. 11 was West Virginia back in August. Many felt Geno Smith would lead the Mountaineers to a successful debut in the Big 12 and possibly even guide his team to the national championship.
Um...no. West Virginia has done an amazing impression of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season. Things looked good initially, with WVU winning its first five games, highlighted by Smith's out-of-the-stratosphere, eight-touchdown performance against Baylor.
From that point forward, it became a horror show in Morgantown. West Virginia lost five straight games, getting shellacked by Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. If not for eking out a 31-24 win over Iowa State, Dana Holgorsen's team would be 5-6 and fighting for bowl eligibility at this point.
This is hardly the popular conception of a top-15 team.
Yet another casualty of the preseason rankings is Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost three of their last four and sit at a hollow 7-5, far short of the expectations associated with their No. 12 ranking.
In fact, UW hasn't beaten anybody notable in 2012. Although it has suffered five losses, not one of them came by more than seven points, and four of them came by three points.
Wisconsin is a good reflection of one of the weaknesses of preseason rankings. Because the polls are released ridiculously early, they are highly arbitrary. Pollsters are forced to craft their rankings, at least to a degree, based on what transpired in the previous football season.
Therefore, perennially competitive teams, like UW, will by default enjoy a good ranking, while other teams, like Notre Dame, will be thrown into a hole unnecessarily.
Which leads one to wonder: Why not do away with preseason polls entirely?
Perhaps the most glaring omission from the AP preseason poll is Notre Dame, currently the top-ranked team in the nation preparing to play in the national championship game.
Granted, the Irish have had a storybook season that few in the college football world foresaw, but it's worth noting this is the first time in the BCS era a team unranked in the preseason went on to play for the title. The 2010-11 national champion Auburn Tigers held the previous mark with a No. 22 preseason ranking.
If Irish complete their storybook season and win the national championship, they will pull off an impressive, unprecedented feat, but wouldn't that be fitting considering the way their improbable season has played out?
Other Poor Projections
While the aforementioned teams account for the most glaring of the poor projections in the preseason poll, here are other teams that were ranked way too high based on how their seasons played out.
Michigan State (No. 13 preseason): Finished regular season 6-6 and unranked
Virginia Tech (No. 16 preseason): Finished regular season 6-6 and unranked
Conversely, here are teams that were not ranked or ranked low in the preseason but finished with especially impressive seasons.
Ohio State (No. 18 preseason): Finished season 12-0; currently No. 4
Florida (No. 23 preseason): Finished regular season 11-1; currently No. 5
Kansas State (No. 21 preseason): Currently 10-1; currently No. 7
Stanford (No. 18 preseason): Currently 10-2 and winner of Pac-12 North; currently ranked No. 8
Texas A&M (unranked in preseason): Finished regular season 10-2; currently No. 10
Oregon State (unranked in preseason): Finished regular season 8-3; currently No. 16
UCLA (unranked in preseason): Currently 9-3 and winner of Pac-12 South; currently No. 17
Overall, six of the top 10 teams in the current AP poll were not in the top 10 in the preseason poll.