The 2016 season has yet to kick off, but that hasn't stopped college football fans from arguing over the first batch of preseason polls.
USA Today released the Amway Coaches Poll on Aug. 4, and on Sunday, the Associated Press provided its first Top 25 for this year. Neither ranking provides much in the way of surprises, and they both largely paint the same picture in terms of the national hierarchy.
|Amway Coaches vs. AP Top 25 Polls|
|Rank||Coaches Poll||AP Poll|
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide (55)||Alabama Crimson Tide (33)|
|2||Clemson Tigers (7)||Clemson Tigers (16)|
|3||Oklahoma Sooners||Oklahoma Sooners (4)|
|4||Florida State Seminoles (1)||Florida State Seminoles (5)|
|5||Ohio State Buckeyes||LSU Tigers (1)|
|6||LSU Tigers||Ohio State Buckeyes (1)|
|7||Stanford Cardinal||Michigan Wolverines (1)|
|8||Michigan Wolverines||Stanford Cardinal|
|9||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Tennessee Volunteers|
|10||Tennessee Volunteers (1)||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|11||Michigan State Spartans||Ole Miss Rebels|
|12||Ole Miss Rebels||Michigan State Spartans|
|13||Houston Cougars||TCU Horned Frogs|
|14||TCU Horned Frogs||Washington Huskies|
|15||Iowa Hawkeyes||Houston Cougars|
|16||Georgia Bulldogs||UCLA Bruins|
|17||USC Trojans||Iowa Hawkeyes|
|18||Washington Huskies||Georgia Bulldogs|
|19||Oklahoma State Cowboys||Louisville Cardinals|
|20||North Carolina Tar Heels||USC Trojans|
|21||Baylor Bears||Oklahoma State Cowboys|
|22||Oregon Ducks||North Carolina Tar Heels|
|23||Louisville Cardinals||Baylor Bears|
|24||UCLA Bruins||Oregon Ducks|
|25||Florida Gators||Florida Gators|
|Source: USA Today, Associated Press|
Below are three teams on whom the coaches and AP differ the most.
UCLA Bruins (No. 24 in Amway Coaches Poll; No. 16 in AP Poll)
Injuries to defensive stars ravaged the UCLA Bruins last year. Eddie Vanderdoes tore his ACL, Myles Jack tore his meniscus and Fabian Moreau broke his foot all in the same month, leaving the Bruins down three key players for a large chunk of the year.
Jack left for the NFL, but Vanderdoes and Moreau are back for a defense that returns nine starters.
The big question will be how quarterback Josh Rosen develops in his sophomore season. Rosen threw for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, which were respectable numbers for a true freshman. Naturally, expectations are high for the signal-caller in 2016.
Of course, Christian Hackenberg is evidence that a college quarterback's progression doesn't always occur in a linear upward arc. UCLA also lost leading rusher Paul Perkins and its top two receivers, Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte.
Road games early in the year against the Texas A&M Aggies and BYU Cougars won't be easy. The coaches don't appear to be sold on the Bruins, and that skepticism could prove to be valid by the end of September.
Washington Huskies (No. 18 in Amway Coaches Poll; No. 14 in AP Poll)
Both coaches and the AP are high on the Washington Huskies considering the team is coming off a 7-6 season.
Of course, many experts are calling for a substantial jump from Washington. The Huskies' record wasn't exactly indicative of how good they were, either. Football Outsiders ranked them 14th nationally in F/+ combined rating.
Like UCLA, though, much of Washington's fortunes hinge on a sophomore QB. Jake Browning threw for 2,955 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. What might be somewhat concerning for Huskies fans is that the bulk of Browning's best performances came against the weaker teams on Washington's schedule:
|Jake Browning 2015 Game Log|
|Sacramento State||2-9 (FCS)||17/24||326||2||0|
ESPN.com's Ted Miller wrote some are drawing parallels between Browning and one of Petersen's best QBs at Boise State, Kellen Moore:
Petersen, like many coaches, doesn't enjoy comparing players but this is not a comparison he resists. Obviously, Browning needs to win 43 more games after winning seven as a first-year starter, but the Moore-to-Browning connection raises more than a few eyebrows among those who've watched both QBs.
Said Petersen, "I know when we recruited Jake, his high school coach, Troy Taylor, who is the [quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator] at Eastern Washington now, way back when, said, 'I know you hear this a lot but I've got to tell you I think we have the next [Moore] for you.' I said, 'Yeah, we do hear that a lot.' So OK, whatever. But then I watched him."
Sitting 14th and 18th in the two preseason polls is a fair reflection of Washington right now. Petersen is obviously a good coach based on his success with the Broncos, and the Huskies have the talent to contend for the Pac-12 title.
It's a bit too early to anoint Washington a Top Five team and a nailed-on national title contender.
Louisville Cardinals (No. 23 in Amway Coaches Poll; No. 19 in AP Poll)
North Carolina Tar Heels (No. 20 in Amway Coaches Poll; No. 22 in AP Poll)
The ACC is seemingly a two-horse race between the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers. For ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, the Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at least deserve to be in the discussion:
The coaches have UNC (No. 20) ahead of Louisville (No. 23), while the opposite is true for the AP poll, with the Cardinals (No. 19) sitting higher than the Heels (No. 22).
Louisville could end up having the better team but still be looking up at North Carolina by virtue of the fact the Cardinals are in the same division as FSU and Clemson. Since moving to the ACC in 2014, they're winless (0-4) against the Seminoles and Tigers.
The Tar Heels play Florida State on the road on Oct. 1, but that's the only conference game in which UNC is the clear underdog. The Miami Hurricanes will almost certainly be favored against North Carolina on Oct. 15, but that's a winnable game for head coach Larry Fedora's team.
Losing quarterback Marquise Williams will hurt, but Mitch Trubisky didn't look bad in mop-up duty. He'll have the luxury of one of the best running back in the country, Elijah Hood, and four of UNC's five starting offensive linemen are returning.
The Russell Athletic Bowl will be fresh in the minds of Carolina's biggest critics. The Tar Heels allowed 645 rushing yards to the Baylor Bears, who were playing without an actual quarterback.
UNC ranked 67th in S&P+ defensive rating, per Football Outsiders. While the defense wasn't a strength last year, it wasn't among the worst in the country, and with seven starters back, the unit should be better in defensive coordinator Gene Chizik's second season.