Amway Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll: Biggest Snubs and Surprises
Auburn caught just about everyone—fans (outside The Plains) and media alike—off guard last year. The Tigers came out of nowhere to win the SEC and nearly added another BCS national championship to their trophy case.
Not surprisingly, Auburn was not ranked in last year's USA Today Sports Coaches Poll. It's hard to call it a snub, even in hindsight, given that the program finished 3-9 and winless in the SEC the year before.
That speaks to the vulnerability of preseason polls. They're a lot of fun to dissect, but ultimately offer little more than that. They're an interesting mixture of the previous season's results with the upcoming season's expectations.
And with the upcoming College Football Playoff, the new Amway Coaches Poll will not determine the Top 25 like it did with the BCS. (However, it will be interesting to see if these polls rub off on the selection committee in any way.)
Still, 62 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches casted their votes for the preseason Top 25 teams. Not surprisingly, Florida State, the defending national champs, were No. 1. Who else made the cut? Which teams surprised? Which ones were snubbed? The answers are in the following slides.
Surprise: The Top 10 Looks...Accurate, Actually
Call this skepticism about any preseason poll, but the Amway Coaches Poll Top 10 looks pretty sound—and that's a pleasant surprise.
Florida State is No. 1, as expected, and Alabama is a safe No. 2 choice even though the Tide will be breaking in a new quarterback. There's plenty of talent in Tuscaloosa, and if the secondary can improve, this team will absolutely be in the running for a playoff spot at year's end.
Putting Oklahoma at No. 3 is a stretch. Quarterback Trevor Knight is definitely a wild card, since his expectations are much higher this year, but the defense should be a strength. A top-10 team, for sure, but maybe not quite No. 3.
Oregon, the preseason Pac-12 favorite, is No. 4 and Auburn, the defending SEC champs, is No. 5. The rest of the Top 10—Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan State, South Carolina and Baylor—are filled with usual suspects who are expected to compete for their respective conference titles.
Of course, you could shuffle a team here or there, but as far as picking 10 teams goes, this is a solid list.
So, Missouri wins the SEC East last year and doesn't even make the preseason Top 25? Huh?
The Tigers do lose a lot of star power; that much is true. Quarterback James Franklin, running back Henry Josey, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (dismissed) and defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are all gone.
But the cupboard isn't nearly as bare for Mizzou as the preseason poll is making it out to be. Quarterback Maty Mauk looked like the real deal in limited play during the Tigers' Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Offensive skill position is a question mark with Green-Beckham's departure, so Mauk may be asked to do more on his own.
The interior of the defensive line should still be strong with the return of Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent, but the secondary is a concern.
Is this a Top 15 team? Perhaps not on paper, but to leave the Tigers off the Top 25 altogether seems a bit harsh. Certainly, I would have put Missouri over Washington, Texas and perhaps Texas A&M.
Surprise: No 'Group of Five' Teams
No Boise State? No East Carolina? No Marshall? No Utah State? No Central Florida or Cincinnati? Interesting.
For the past several years, there's usually one "Group of Five" (previously non-BCS) team somewhere in the Top 25 preseason poll. Usually it's been Boise State when the Broncos were winning big under head coach Chris Petersen.
But there's no Marshall, which won 10 games in 2013 and has Heisman dark-horse quarterback Rakeem Cato, or East Carolina in this year's preseason poll. Utah State returns another dynamic playmaker, quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Sometimes, that's enough to get a peak in a preseason poll.
It's not a crime, per se, just a bit surprising that one of those smaller programs didn't sneak their way into a spot somewhere between No. 20 and 25.
OK, this will admittedly cause a few laughs. We fully understand that. After all, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is squarely on the hot seat this season after last year's dreadful 4-8 campaign.
However, the Gators have the pieces in place for a nice turnaround.
The defense returns most of its starters from a group that was third-best in the SEC in points allowed, per cfbstats.com. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, linebacker Antonio Morrison and defensive lineman Leon Orr all return.
On defense alone, the talent is Top 25 worthy. If the offense can improve, even marginally, under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, a four-game turnaround isn't out of the question. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has a lot to prove, but Roper told Bruce Feldman, formerly of CBSSports.com, that he's coming along well in the new offense:
He did really good. He's talented. I mean he is a really physically gifted football player and he's played enough football now that the speed of game is not shocking him. I think once he got to the point where he got comfortable with our offense, he was making pretty good, fast decisions
Last year's results obviously played a factor in keeping Florida out of the Top 25. That much was expected, but it shouldn't have played as big a role as it did. Maybe calling this a snub comes back to haunt by year's end, but Florida has the capability to be a lot better this year.
Surprise: Kansas State Outside the Top 20
Maybe the hype machine for the Kansas State Wildcats is a bit too strong here, but hey, someone has to believe, right?
Putting the Cats at No. 21 seems too cliche. It's almost as though voters recognized that no, they can't continue to doubt head coach Bill Snyder, but the team can't receive too much credit.
K-State returns one of the better passers in the Big 12, Jake Waters; the league's best receiver, Tyler Lockett; and defensive end Ryan Mueller—plus an experienced offensive line. The Wildcats' third-place ranking in the Big 12 preseason poll may even be a bit too low.
For what it's worth, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports has K-State as his preseason sleeper. The point being, people are noticing Snyder's team.
An early season game against Auburn will provide a gauge for how good this team really is. Road games at Baylor and Oklahoma could validate it too.
Surprise: Stanford Is a Top 15 Team and Clemson Isn't
Yes, to buy into Clemson before a single snap is to sign one's own death certificate, but here we are.
The Tigers should have an excellent defense, starting up front with the defensive line. Defensive end Vic Beasley is the real deal as far as pass-rushers go and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett only complements that.
Ultimately, Clemson is being dropped for losing quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and running back Roderick McDowell. That's a lot to replace, to be sure, but hasn't offensive coordinator Chad Morris earned the benefit of the doubt to plug and play? The Tigers do have a starting quarterback, Cole Stoudt, but he's been a career backup.
The Cardinal have the opposite problem: All their question marks are on defense after losing key contributors like linebacker Shayne Skov. The biggest loss of all was defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who left to take the head coaching job at Vanderbilt.
Stanford has an excellent receiver in Ty Montgomery, but the offense could take a few weeks to come together after losing running back Tyler Gaffney, who carried the ball 330 times last season.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.