A scan of the rankings will find the Sun Devils among the dreaded “also receiving votes” category, albeit in the top spot with 158 points, three behind No. 25 Penn State and four behind No. 24 Texas.
The inclusion of those two teams, especially the Nittany Lions, has raised many eyebrows in the hours following the poll’s release.
Penn State is coming off a pedestrian 7-6 season and dealing with a host of issues, including quarterback uncertainty and the loss of star running back Evan Royster. Meanwhile, the Longhorns had their first bowl-less season since 1997 and despite fielding a bevy of talented players, they have many critical questions to answer in a very tough Big 12.
Among ASU’s 2011 opponents, the Missouri Tigers, who the Sun Devils face in Week 2, come in ranked 21st. The Oregon Ducks, coming off their BCS title game appearance, start the season ranked at No. 3.
Two other opponents and Pac-12 South division members join ASU in the “also receiving votes” category. Utah finished with a de facto ranking of 28th, although there was a sharp drop off from West Virginia ahead of them in the point total (149 to 50). The Arizona Wildcats, with 28 points, come in as the 32rd ranked team in the poll.
The debate on the validity of preseason polls is once again brought to the forefront with this year’s release. A low ranking—or, in ASU’s case, lack of one—can really hamper a truly talented team’s efforts for ending the season with the proper positioning that their performance warrants. Conversely, many teams—hello Ohio State—benefit from an aura that isn’t in-line with their likely result.
The arguments for both ASU's inclusion and exclusion each possess great merit.
The Sun Devils boast a roster full of talented players, the vast majority of whom got significant experience in 2010, a season in which the team arguably overachieved by winning six games. They return 18 starters, including their entire offensive line, and finished the season with two-straight impressive victories. Not to mention, having the perhaps the nation's best defensive player (and "meanest man in college football") in linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a huge plus.
However, this is a team that missed a bowl for the third-straight season. The offseason has seen significant players on both sides—cornerback Omar Bolden, defensive end James Brooks and wide receiver T.J. Simpson and now, perhaps, running back Deantre Lewis—lost for the season. Tough early games against Missouri, Illinois and USC will be difficult tests for a team that, for now, has the hype but no results for which to back it up.
Did this ultra-talented Arizona State team get shafted, or did this ranking fit a squad who has yet to prove anything?
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