Most people don’t put a lot of stock in the preseason polls but it’s hard not to be attracted to them, especially when all you have to look forward to is golf and baseball.
It’s absolutely up for discussion as to whether or not the preseason polls mean anything beyond their entertainment value and then if they have any affect what so ever on what actually happens during the season.
You could make a good argument that the polls put pressure on the teams that are ranked high but it’s more difficult to get a sense for what (again, if any) impact a lower ranking has on quality teams, that in fact, could be ranked higher.
Does it give these teams further motivation to “prove” themselves, a golden opportunity to “fly under the radar” or instead do lower rankings equal less notice and therefore less favor with the all important voters?
The following slideshow identifies eight teams that may be hurt, rather than helped, by a “lower” ranking in the preseason polls.
As a note, I have utilized a combination of both the Athlon and Sporting News preseason rankings to establish where (if at all) these teams fall in the national listings.
The Cowboys are ranked No. 12 in the Sporting News and are also listed at No. 12 in Athlon.
As the season draws closer, Oklahoma State seems to be losing ground in the rankings as folks are both further removed from last season’s stunning success and more in tune with the fact that offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and running back Kendall Hunter are gone from Stillwater (and yes, what about the lack of defense).
Still, No. 12 is a very lofty ranking for a team that is expected to finish below both Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the new, slimmed down Big 12.
What “hurts” OSU is the fact that they will have to literally scratch, crawl and fight to move any higher in the rankings, and if they lose early they’ll be back in the 20’s before you can scream “T. Boone Pickens!”
Oklahoma State earned our respect last season but still it seems hard to give it up and maybe that’s because we live in a college football world that has been trained to say “Sooners” before “Cowboys” and “Wolverines” before “Spartans.”
This fact puts “secondary” state schools at a huge disadvantage on an already uneven playing field.
The Spartans are ranked No. 22 by Athlon and No. 17 by Sporting News; curious for a team that finished 11-2 last season and returns a flock of starters, especially at the offensive skill positions.
The difference for State in 2011 is a schedule that presents the Spartans with a far more perilous journey to 10-plus wins or a share of any sort of title.
But still, this may be one of the more “complete” teams in the Big Ten coming into next season which makes you realize that the Spartans will have to prove themselves all over again to be taken seriously.
Last season, MSU flew under a lot of folks' radar but this season it seems ridiculous to think it could happen again.
Was it all smoke, mirrors and magic or is Michigan State really that good?
In my opinion, everybody’s favorite green toga wearer is both helped and hurt by his preseason ranking.
Not surprisingly, Air Force does not figure into either Top 25 but does receive a mention at No. 29 in Athlon’s extended rankings.
The lion’s share of the attention and therefore voters and rankers' action in the Mountain West goes to teams like TCU and Boise State (with good reason) but Air Force may be the team to beat in the revamped Peak league.
The Falcons return enough talent to improve on their 9-4 mark from 2010; and don’t forget that the four losses came to Oklahoma (in Norman, by three points), San Diego State (a great team, by two points), at TCU (38-7, but the Horned Frogs proved they were good enough to win the big enchilada) and Utah (another excellent team, by five points).
Is it because they are a service academy, because they run option or because they can’t stop the run?
Who knows, but the Falcons are very easily just a few big wins away from a thrilling shot up the rankings.
Does the neglect shown Air Force by a blue turf-obsessed world hurt? Again, in this case, I say yes because even if the Falcons win every single game this season (that’s the goal, isn’t it?), they haven’t been a part of the all-important “conversation” long enough to get anything more than a mention for a BCS bowl.
And that, my friends, is exactly what is wrong with modern college football.
The Gamecocks are ranked No. 19 by the Sporting News and No. 21 by Athlon and both positions seem awfully low to me.
South Carolina is a team that has a bunch of the pieces in place necessary for a run and they already ticked off the huge accomplishment of winning the SEC East last season, so they also have momentum and they believe.
What really tips the scales of opportunity for the Gamecocks in 2011 is a schedule, which by SEC standards, is quite agreeable.
LSU and Alabama don’t grace the regular season calendar at all; Florida, Auburn, Kentucky and Clemson are all home affairs which leaves road trips to Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi State.
It won’t be easy but what else other than win games can South Carolina do to convince pollsters that they deserve to be considered an “elite” college football team?
You have to figure that’s the answer because even the fame and notoriety of Steve Spurrier hasn’t garnered the Gamecocks a Top 15 preseason ranking.
Lower rankings sometimes mean a bigger Mt. Respect to climb up and over.
The Sporting News has the Badgers ranked at No. 25 while the friendly folks at Athlon have them at No. 23.
Now, to be fair, both these magazines were published before both Tressel and Pryor packed up their duffels and left Columbus but still, they have Ohio State at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively.
Come on, man.
I think that you could have argued, even with zero scandals at Ohio State, that Wisconsin could have been ranked ahead of the Buckeyes going into this season.
Yes, they lost QB Scott Tolzien but Wisconsin retains their dynamic running duo of Montee Ball and James White and at the end of the day this is a team that ranked No. 75 in passing and No. 12 in rushing in 2010.
Wisconsin has got to be considered the front-runner to take the Leaders division in 2011 and could easily be a favorite to make a return trip to the BCS, which makes a low Top 25 preseason ranking seem almost ludicrous.
Does it hurt Wisconsin? Again, it all depends on how much stock you put into the impact of rankings.
Athlon has Missouri at 8-4 while our friends at The Sporting News make no mention of the Tigers in their Top 25.
Missouri finished 2010 at 10-3 and enter 2011 approximately one great quarterback short of a full returning squad.
Is this the reason the Tigers have fallen out of favor with the college football brain trust or instead is it a people overwhelmed by the potential in other Big 12 teams such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M?
Who knows. But regardless, the Tigers are dangerous and if QB James Franklin can get it done (which is exactly the assumption with a new QB being made at places like Alabama and Florida State) don’t be surprised if Missouri finishes 2011 ranked above at least two of the conference front-runners.
I think this ranking (if it sticks and becomes “official") actually does hurt the Tigers more than it helps them, mostly because they lose early votes and support that could help down the stretch.
The Terrapins come in at No. 33 in Athlon’s expanded rankings while they receive no mention in the Sporting News Top 25.
Neither fact is a shocker, but it is worth mentioning that if, say Clemson, Miami (FL) or even Virginia had gone 9-4 last season and then returned a high percentage of starters (and momentum) you would have definitely seen them garner, at minimum, a low ranking in preseason Top 25 listings.
But, this is Maryland and they have a new coach, and they play in the same ACC Atlantic division with streaking media darling Florida State.
Neither of these (and a myriad of other excuses) works in favor of what is, in fact, a very good Maryland team.
What if the tomahawk choppers are wrong? What if lowly Maryland is the best team in the ACC Atlantic and what if they go to the title game instead?
I don’t know if a low ranking or a non-ranking really affects a team like the Terrapins, who have so much to prove, even to themselves.
The Razorbacks are ranked at No. 16 in the Athlon rankings and No. 11 in the Sporting News analysis.
What’s curious about Arkansas, and the reason that their ranking seems “low” is that replacing QB Ryan Mallett looks to be the catch-all reason for the Razorbacks falling out of favor going into 2011.
Aren’t teams like Alabama, Florida State and Virginia Tech all facing similar challenges? And, these teams are all ranked higher than Arkansas.
And, hey, isn’t this the same team that was in the BCS last season? Out of the three listed above only Virginia Tech can claim that and I think it’s safe to say that they didn’t look near as good in their postseason game.
LSU and Alabama are being touted as the class of the SEC West (again) but both have huge question marks all over the field.
I’m not sure that the ranking “hurts” Arkansas but I do think you could make an argument that the Razorbacks are consistently overlooked as a true contender in the SEC and these rankings are indicative of this theory.