2009 CBS BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Preseason
Through 20 August 2009
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Well, it’s been almost nine months since last I posted a BlogPoll ballot, and let me tell you that it feels mighty good to be back in the saddle again. This does not, however, mean that have suddenly gained any sense or am any more reliable.
As a general rule, I consider preseason ballots to be dubious at best. They are based upon little more than rumor and innuendo. There is little to no basis for selecting one team over the other. Thus, as Hooper has pointed out, this is little more than a turkey shoot. That said, here’s my preseason Top 25 for everyone to attack:
My Ballot for the Week
Explanations after the jump…
Comments, Explanations, and Excuses
So, how did I approached my preseason selections? If nothing else, there is a slight method to my madness. Here are the high-points:
First of all, I am not going to tell you that I can irrefutably defend the precise ranking of every team in my Top 25. Given there are still wide-ranging differences of opinion as to the rankings in November, it stands to reason that there is even less certainty in August. I have no fancy system of metrics which uses the slope of a line tangent to the parabolic curve (bet you didn’t think I even knew what a derivative was—Ha!) of the passes thrown by the quarterback to divine how that team will perform over the course of the season. I do, however, have a spreadsheet in Excel with many exciting and stimulating colors which sometimes cause me to lose focus and think of the rainbow on the front of a box of Lucky Charms.
There is a fair amount of “gut-factor” included in my rankings especially at this point in the season. That is, I attempt to look at the various teams objectively in the first instance, but I still often have little more than instinct, a bit of pocket fuzz, and a note from my mother with which to defend my ultimate choices. It’s not rocket science but it is also far from exact. You have been warned.
You have to play somebody:
At this early stage, I do place a heavy emphasis on strength of schedule and on overall chances each team winning all of its games. Given the fact that half of the teams in my Top 25 play one another over the course of the season, it is fair to assume that I did not find many teams that I felt were likely to accomplish this task. Still, playing a quality schedule with some likelihood of actually winning most of the games on that schedule goes a long way with me in the preseason. Thus, this poll is more relative in that each team is judged—to some extent—by the teams it plays and my half-cocked conclusions about how those contests will be decided. In other words, any team needs help at this point in time…
…except for a select few.
My top three selections—the Florida Gators (#1), Oklahoma Sooners (#2), and USC Trojans (#3)—are in a class all their own in my mind. Some may doubt me on this, especially when it comes to Oklahoma. I think it is altogether possible for each of these three teams to win all of their games and run the tables. I know that this is not likely, but I do think it is possible. The ordering of these teams is based upon the following key considerations, assumptions and delusions on my part:
I believe that Oklahoma will win over the Texas Longhorns (#4) due to Mack Brown’s epic struggle to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory in another exciting installment of the Red River Classic. The Big XII is not the SEC, but the Big XII is a solid conference—this matters.
USC will mop up every single team they play with the exception of the California Golden Bears (#8), whom I predict they will barely beat. USC has also shown a nasty habit of playing down to their opponents over the past three-to-five years and thus I think they are slightly more likely to lose a game than Florida or Oklahoma.
Florida defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers in a preseason scrimmage last week** and is a 73 point favorite over their first opponent, Charleston Southern (yeah, I made up the part about the Steelers, but it is believable).
Struggling with those “outside the money”:
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I struggled with ranking a number of teams. In particular, I had a hard time with (and am still not completely satisfied with) the following:
The Ole Miss Rebels (#6) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (#7) were a tough call for me. Ole Miss comes in with an extremely experienced team. Thanks in no small part to Ed Orgeron who recruited the lights out for Rebels while head coach, the Right Reverend Houston Nutt has an impressive stable of talent. What’s more, the Rebels improved every week last year and managed to knock off the might Gators in an upset of prodigious importance. Alabama, on the other hand, has a stellar defense but only five returners on offense which raises questions in my mind. This, along with the fact that Ole Miss avoids playing Florida and Georgia, gives the Rebels the advantage. Ultimately, these two teams will likely battle it out to determine the SEC West champion in Oxford in early October.
I have questions about both the Penn State Nittany Lions (#5) and the Texas Longhorns (#4) which are essentially the same—namely, coaching. Joe Paterno’s age is a factor, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Having played in the very first college football game ever played, in 1875,** Joe is on the older side of completely indeterminate and it has been obvious that he is not truly running the program fully, but rather is simply along for the ride. That said, the White-out brigade has a fairly weak schedule and has a lot of defensive power, enough, I think, to overcome the Joe Pa factor.
Mack Brown, on the other hand is not particularly old and—is really playing out a storyline which somewhat similar to that experienced by another team in orange around 2001 (I’ll give you a hint: it starts with a “T” ends with an “e” and has “ennesse” in the middle). Mack Brown is a fabulous recruiter, but does “less with more” with almost amazing regularity. In all honesty, I would say he is the 3rd or 4th best coach in the Big XII. Thus, I am a little suspicious of the Longhorns chances of breakout success this year. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to win a lot of games, thus they are still in my Top 5. I just personally feel that Oklahoma and Bob Stoops get the best of him this year.
The California Golden Bears (#8) are not flashy, but they are good and they are efficient. With top 10 offensive and defensive lines, the Bears look to own the line of scrimmage—which is always a huge advantage. All of this said, their schedule is a bit on the weak side on the whole, but they do face the Trojans of USC early in the season. While I am not willing to say that they win that game, they definitely have a chance. If they do, then they should be able to coast home to win the PAC-10. I considered dropping them a few spots, but ultimately felt that there is a ton of potential for Cal, and decided they deserved to be in my Top 10.
The Illinois Illini (#17) are another team I had real struggles with. Last year the Illini finished at 5-7 and generally underperformed. That said, they have a lot of great talent and proved in 2007—when they went to the Rose Bowl—that they can win. I think they lose to Penn State at home and probably to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, but aside from that they have the ability to win the rest if they can just find a bit of consistency.
The LSU Tigers (#12) are really tough for me to assess at present. LSU had a strong core unit in 2008, but simply gave up too many big plays and lacked consistency. I continue to believe that the Tigers are an extremely tough team and have the ability to compete with any team in the country, the question remains, will they? With games against Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama, I don’t see them being a contender for the SEC West, but stranger things have happened.
The Georgia Bulldogs (#11) are similarly difficult to size up. Last year everyone in the world felt that Georgia would win the SEC and likely play for a BCS Championship. Obviously, that did not happen. This year their schedule is still tough, but not nearly as daunting as in 2008. They also return their defensive core, but will be breaking in a new quarterback and will sorely miss phenom Knowshon Moreno. I think the Dawgs have a chance at the SEC East, but they are going to have to find some consistency and prove that they can score. Still, I like the Dawgs chances of mixing things up.
Having taken the time to consider my feeble attempt at ranking the powers in college football, feel free to try and convince me that I am wrong — which is part of the way the BlogPoll is supposed to work. I promise that I will consider all insults comments.
You can view the final results of this week’s poll over at CBS Sports later this week and check out an analysis of how the collective blogging brain-trust arrived at this week’s result. If you’re craving even more BlogPoll goodness, you can also check out how other bloggers voted and see how your team fared across the Blogosphere.
And that’s the way it is (Godspeed, Walter Cronkite)…
** Disclaimer: As if it were not completely obvious, I made these parts up, but you believed it for a second, didn’t you?
Gate 21 Tags: 2009, Alabama Crimson Tide, BCS Championships, Big 10, Big XII, Blogosphere, BlogPoll, Bob Stoops, California Golden Bears, CBS Sports, Championship, Charleston Southern, Coach O, Complete Bullshit, Ed Orgeron, Florida Gators, Football, Georgia Bulldogs, Houston Nutt, Illinois Illini, Joe Paterno, Juggernauts, Knowshon Moreno, Les Miles, LSU Tigers, Lucky Charms, MAC, Mack Brown, Madness, Methodology, News & Notes, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Ole Miss Rebels, Pac-10, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, Prognostication, Rose Bowl, SEC, Southern Cal Trojans, Statistics, Texas Longhorns
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