College football fans around the globe finally have their hands on a list of the top 25 teams in the nation.
Of course, chaos is the best term to describe the aftermath.
The College Football Playoff committee is in control of the four teams that make it to the playoff, but the Amway Coaches Poll provides a strong measuring stick as to how the nation feels about the best teams.
To better understand how the poll is crafted, one has to carefully peruse the explanation given by USA Today:
The panel is chosen by random draw, conference by conference plus independents, from a pool of coaches who have indicated to the American Football Coaches Association their willingness to participate. Each coach submits a Top 25 with a first-place vote worth 25 points, second place 24, and so on down to one point for 25th.
With that in mind, below is a look at the official poll results and some of the sticking points to watch as the season gets underway.
2014 Amway Coaches Poll Results
Poll courtesy of USA Today.
Oregon's Unexpected Dip
There has been trouble in Oregon Ducks country, yes, with the news that left tackle Tyler Johnstone suffered a season-ending injury, per Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports:
Even with the loss, the argument that Oregon should be ranked even higher makes a ton of sense. It starts with quarterback Marcus Mariota. Johnstone himself put it best, per ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings:
We love [Mariota’s] ability to turn nothing in something. He never gives up on a play. I think that’s kind of what makes Marcus him, and I wouldn’t have him change anything in his play. I think that attack mindset is what wins us games ... he could be more aggressive in my opinion.
Fresh off a season in which he was a contender for the Heisman thanks to 3,665 passing yards and 31 touchdowns to four interceptions, Mariota will survive without a big-play threat such as De'Anthony Thomas thanks to the return of names such as back Byron Marshall and center Hroniss Grasu.
The offense will undoubtedly be explosive once more, and even better, the school somehow managed to dodge contests with USC or Arizona State on this year's schedule.
Given the fact there are plenty of questions surrounding Alabama and Oklahoma might just be a one-hit wonder under Bob Stoops, that lone first-place vote for Oregon is questionable at best.
Disrespect Toward Michigan State
After a 13-1 season, an undefeated mark in the Big Ten and a Rose Bowl triumph over Stanford, one would think Mark Dantonio's team would get a little respect in the polls.
Critics are quick to point out that corner Darqueze Dennard is gone, and while it is true an elite corner can make the lives of those around him easier, Dantonio's defenses have been perennial powerhouses. Last year, the Spartans ranked third in points allowed, second in rushing defense, third in passing defense and second in total defense.
Those sort of numbers cannot possibly rely on just one player, but a unit and core foundation. Even better, quarterback Connor Cook did nothing short of improve last season, as illustrated by ESPN CollegeFootball:
“He’s matured, I think that’s something that is very obvious and stands above everything right now,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s more serious, he’s taken on more of a leadership role, and he’s becoming a little bit more of a no-nonsense type of guy, you know? He’s grown leaps and bounds in that area over the last four, five, six months.”
A complementary potent offense in tandem with a defense that can hang with any group in the nation makes Michigan State underrated in a bad way. Expect an upward climb to begin soon.
Those That Nip at the Heels of Alabama
Despite two losses and some turnover, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide man the No. 2 spot in the land despite no first-place votes.
The writing is on the wall—there are clearly those who believe the end of a dynasty may be nigh. Fun fact—in this year's preseason poll, South Carolina received more first-place votes than Alabama.
In some ways, it makes sense. Look at Alabama, which sees Jacob Coker and Blake Sims embroiled in a battle for the starting quarterback gig. That in itself is seemingly causing a first on the roster, per Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Heard #Bama QB battle is dividing team. Many players support Blake Sims, while Jacob Coker is superior talent— Michael Carvell (@Carvell_AJC) July 30, 2014
But no matter who wins, backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are an elite combo, and wideout Amari Cooper is arguably the best in the land. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will squeeze the absolute best out of the unit.
South Carolina is talented and an SEC title game favorite. Oklahoma seems resurgent, especially after that big win over Alabama last bowl season. The aforementioned Ducks are offensively potent once more.
But until Saban's ship actually sinks, the seemingly slipping grip his team holds on one of the top two spots in the nation should be much stronger, even in preseason rankings.