Enough of my moaning. The teams still need to be ranked.
At a total loss Tuesday afternoon as to how to rank the top 25 preseason teams, I thought of the criteria with which I generally judge teams.
(1) Game performance. For example, last year I’d have knocked LSU down to #3 or #4 in the polls, based on the fact that they were trailing in five of their last six conference regular season games (Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas) and went 3-2. Could’ve swung either way, but that was not a dominating team by any measure. They certainly lacked the panache of a Duck Hunt at the Big House or a Trojan obliteration in the desert. Not that these teams were particularly convincing either, but no team was more disappointing over the last month than the Tigers.
For the preseason, obviously (1) goes out the window. Leading us to…
(2) Strength of victory. For example, if Hawaii spots ‘last place in the Pac-10′ Washington a 21-0 lead in a must-win home game, then has to spend the rest of the game catching up to gain that BCS spot, this strength of victory ranks significantly lower than Oregon outlasting first place USC at Autzen in what seemed (at the time) like a changing of the guard. Context and quality matter.
Unfortunately, the only victories that have been determined are for freshmen looking for playing time. So there that criteria goes.
This leaves us with our final and least desirable measure of a team.
(3) Talent. Ew.
You just hate ranking teams based on talent because it’s such a nebulous term. How do you tell one unit is more talented than the other? Are there dance-offs? Plus how do we factor in the strength of a coach? Why don’t we rank the 30 best secondary coaches in the country and correlate that in? No such subjective measurement exists yet.
For now though, it’s close enough to the effective truth for me. So I went over Phil Steele’s magazine (if you haven’t bought it, order it. NOW) because he knows more about college football than anyone (I mean, he says it at least 4720 times in his magazine!) and came up with an arbitrary compilation of the most talented teams. It’s a convoluted way of finding the best preseason team, but for these parameters it fits our purposes.
I weighted each unit differently from what I considered most to least important in football: In this case, OL ranked first, followed by LB & DL, then QB, RB, Secondary, WR, Special Teams. Then I compiled them by their top rankings at each position (i.e. if it was a list of the top 32, I assigned 32 points to the #1 ranked unit in that category, 31 to the #2 unit, etc. down to 1 for the #32 unit). Multiplying them by the weight at each position, I summed everything up for final positioning.
I balked when I saw the first poll because there were several teams that just didn’t appear to belong, ESPECIALLY at the places I put them at. However, after several modifications, I really didn’t get much anywhere, and ended up with this ballot (#3 on Mr. Bold; hooray!):
Breakdown by conference: 7 SEC, 5 Big 12, 4 ACC, 3 Big Ten, 3 Pac-10, 2 Big East, 1 MWC.
More about discrepancies and Cal’s position after the jump.
Top Dogs: Not much different from everyone else. Ohio State arrived to the title game a year ahead of schedule, and based just on their overall talent at every unit they are far ahead of the rest of the competition. One tough game (USC) and then a conference to bulldoze through. Even if they lose to the Trojans, the possibility of everyone else faltering is not out of the question.
Oklahoma and Florida are close behind, and even though their schedules are favorable, they have brutal conferences to battle through. USC, Georgia and LSU are right behind them.
Warts outside of the top 25: A black hearted Iowa program is 33rd. A rebuilding Michigan was 29th in this poll. New Mexico State (yes, the fighting Lobos) somehow managed 38th place, ahead of Illinois, Notre Dame and Maryland. Okay, so it’s not perfect.
The sore thumbs: FSU at #8 (WTF???) and Miami at #19 (coming off a grand 2-6 in the mighty ACC). Obviously, this poll does not weigh the fact that half of FSU’s team is about to get suspended, or how the chemistry in the Miami locker room is as toxic as Kafka Beach, but I figure such factors will settle themselves out as the season moves along.
Neverthless, by virtue of their strong defenses (all of their units on that side of the ball are ranked pretty highly), I’ve placed them here. Hopefully I’m wrong and they go away quickly.
Boston College at #23 just confounds me. They’re in no one’s top 50, much less top 25. But apparently their front seven is stronger than ever, and I love me some front sevens. In the offensive retardant ACC it should serve them well (caveat: FSU and Miami’s defenses are better, as is Clemson).
I have never talked so much ACC football in my life. Not even when I lived in Florida.
Ole Miss at #25 is an interesting quandary, but I like Houston Nutt in that situation. Their offensive line and front seven are both very good, so they could end up surprising a strong SEC contender this year.
Notable omissions: There are some significant ones, most notably Arizona State. Despite returning the best quarterback in the Pac-10 and a fairly sturdy defense, they are short at the skill positions and (most notably) their offensive line is a huge question mark. I’m sure ASU will climb into the rankings after Week 1, but talentwise I’m wary of their long-term ambitions.
Oregon State lost their front seven. Still feel uncomfortable leaving them off, since Mike Riley is capable of sorcery with a smile.
Virginia Tech’s exclusion is surprising, but other than quarterback or secondary they don’t appear to be quite that strong this year. Wake Forest is not on here either, but unfortunately I forgot to factor in coaching to the equation. Jim Grobe>>>everyone else in the ACC. It certainly would’ve downgraded Bobby Bowden a few notches.
I figured Utah would make it on here, but I’m sure I’ll make room for them by Week 2. Alabama has a strong enough O-line but it appears the rest of their team hasn’t quite caught up. Illinois has Juice Williams and strong line play but not much else. And sorry Ken, but Notre Dame’s going to have to start the season 5-0 before I put them up the rankings.
Ranking our opponents by this methodology…
USC #4: Uncertainty at the quarterback position and their offensive line drops them down from the coveted #1 spot–they will be vulnerable on that side of the ball, at least through the first few weeks and especially against Ohio St. The opponent that could give them the most trouble is…
Oregon #13: Solid O-line, check (Max Unger is ranked a better center than even Alex Mack). Excellent D-line, check. Quarterback…err…crap.
Cal #22: Three strongest positions in order: Linebacking corps, offensive line, quarterback. You can never be that bad if those are your best three units.
ASU #27. Discussed.
Maryland #38. Looks like this’ll be our stiffest OOC test. Good linebackers, good o-line, decent receivers to work against our raw secondary.
Oregon St. #42. Discussed.
Arizona #44. We might see a lot of passing in this one. Just going out on a limb.
Washington #50. Jake Locker vs. the world.
UCLA #54. They have good special teams…so, yeah, better watch out for that. Also an all-star list of coaches. If only they could play.
Michigan State #76: Javon Ringer better be the Messiah. Otherwise Enlightened Spartan’s blogpoll needs to be confiscated. I wish I had the balls to rank Cal #1.
Stanford, Washington St. and Colorado St. did not make the cut. Translation: We need to beat them down.
With that, I’m spent. Shall be back next week with the Michigan State preview.
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