Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My take on the coaches' poll top 25

This poll came out a few days ago but I'm only just now getting around to glancing at it to see what the conventional wisdom is on the upcoming college football season. The interesting thing about the modern information age is how much you can control the information you have access to. This is, no doubt, a part of why politics are becoming increasingly hostile as everyone is largely insulated.

Anyways, here's the top 25 per the coaches' poll with my own annotations on these teams:

1. Alabama

Fair enough, right? Who's their QB again? Doesn't really matter unless it's Jalen Hurts and then this season gets really interesting.

2. Clemson

I'm betting on Florida State to win the ACC but Clemson is just a no-brainer. They're insanely loaded on offense and you don't to bet against Venables on defense.

3. Oklahoma

I think there's little chance that Oklahoma justifies this ranking. Their offense will blow the doors off most of the Big 12 and the defense will be athletic enough for that to be enough more often than not but they won't be as lucky as they were in 2015 and they may not be as good either.

4. Florida State

Like I said last week, I'm high on the 'Noles this year. This is a team that is perfectly assembled to allow Francois to do tremendous damage by just competently getting the ball outside to their underrated receiver corps when they're facing favorable match-ups. Thanks to Dalvin Cook, that will be occurring on the reg.

5. Ohio State

I don't think it's reasonable to put tOSU this high unless you simply have a ton of faith in Urban Meyer's ability to fashion young talent into a team very quickly. I suppose we've seen him do it before. This is a team that could be a rolling ball of butcher knives late in the year if they can hang on early when the young defenders are still figuring things out.

6. LSU

There's actually quite a lot that has to come together for LSU to justify some of their loftier rankings. Aranda's confusing scheme has to translate (not unlikely), their DTs need to play better (not unlikely), Maea Teuhema needs to transition from a phenom freshman guard to a phenom sophomore left tackle (still not unlikely), and Brandon Harris needs to master Cam Cameron's pro-style offense (iffy). Should be easy to tell early in the year if LSU is going to underachieve and join the Tom Herman sweepstakes or keep rolling with the grass-eater.

7. Stanford

I was generally dismissive of concerns about Stanford replacing Kevin Hogan until I noticed recently that the Cardinal finished 5th in the nation last year in 3rd down conversion rate and were one of two power 5 conference teams in the top five. I think a lot of that had to do with McCaffrey, who returns, but certainly Hogan must have played a part as well.

I still think Stanford will be strong, but I'm less bullish on them going to the playoffs now.

8. Michigan

The only questions with Michigan are if they can find a pair of reliable linebackers to replace the decent guys they lost and if Harbaugh can make something of John O'Korn. I wrote an article for MGoBlog's annual publication "Hail to the Victors" where I explained why I think that latter point is a very good bet.

I'd rank Michigan in the top 4, personally. Do you feel better about Harbaugh molding O'Korn or Meyer developing his defense? Michigan overcoming the Big 10 or Oklahoma winning out in the Big 12?

9. Notre Dame

Interesting. This is a team that lost seven guys to the NFL and currently aren't sure which of their two very talented quarterbacks will be the starter. Meanwhile, their defense is largely rebuilt and has struggled with VanGorder's complicated schemes for a few consecutive seasons now. I'm sure they'll be good but top 10 seems generous.

10. Tennessee

They're going to be nasty on defense, that's for sure, but that was also true a year ago. I'm less sold on their offense and am just not confident that they'll put together a season that puts them amongst the nation's elite at the end of the year.

11. Michigan State

This is a "respect Dantonio" choice more than a rational take on the likely prognosis for a team that just lost Connor Cook and several other key pieces from a highly underrated offense that carried them in 2015. The assumption is that the defense will pick up the slack but I've not been convinced that will happen. This looks like an 8-9 win team in a competitive division to these eyes.

12. Ole Miss

It's sorta of disrespectful to Hugh Freeze that although, like Ohio State and Notre Dame, he returns a talented starting quarterback and little else, his team is ranked outside of the top 10. As it happens, I think all three will have some struggles and Ole Miss' schedule is too brutal to bet on them finishing this high.

13. Houston

The Cougars have a fun chance at a special season if Ward is healthy, they beat Oklahoma, and the Sooners go on to beat Ohio State. That will give them a ton of credibility to pad whatever they end up doing to the rest of the AAC. There's a surprising number of good athletes on this team, but Herman and Orlando are also just really good at bringing that out through scheme.

14. TCU

I picked TCU to win the Big 12 and I think they'll end the year ranked higher than this thanks to piling up wins in conference play.

15. Iowa

Iowa wasn't great last year, they were just very solid and impossible to beat unless you had something special about your own roster. This year they face a schedule with more elite talent on the opposing squads so some of their key figures are going to need to make a leap.

16. Georgia

I wish I had paid more attention to how terrible Greyson Lambert was before choosing Georgia to win the championship last year. He was terrible and he's still there. I think Smart is going to have to endure some growing pains before they really get this thing off the ground.

17. USC

I think USC belongs a big higher. For one, Pendergast over Wilcox is a considerable upgrade and the Trojan defense has not been good since he left and Wilcox replaced him. The return of elite defense to Southern Cal would make for a noticeable difference in the win-loss column. Secondly, I'm a fan of their offensive system which is run-centric but well augmented by RPOs and play-action passing. That's how you do pro-style in today's college game. Cody Kessler didn't have that hard a job, I think they can replace him more easily than some might guess.

18. Washington

I didn't watch Washington play last year so I have no comment.

19. Oklahoma State

If they don't start running the ball half-decently then they won't finish in the top 25.

20. North Carolina

The Tar Heels? Where's Arkansas in this? Who's afraid of the Tar Heels?

21. Baylor

Sure, if Kendal Briles is actually coaching this unit and not arranging interviews then Baylor will score points but it's going to be hard to own the trenches like they've been accustomed to with a totally depleted OL and DL.

22. Oregon

The Ducks are being criminally underrated. This is one of the most dangerous offenses in the country with FCS superstar Dakota Prukop stepping in to keep their run game going while Brady Hoke turns their defense into something respectable once more. When they're scoring 40 points a game next year and actually making stops on defense this ranking is going to start to look really silly really fast.

23. Louisville

Some of these teams outside of the top 20 look better to me than much of 10-20. Louisville could compete for the Big 12 crown with that defense combined with Lamar Jackson after another offseason with Petrino.

24. UCLA

Until we see how well their new offense is coming together this seems about right to me. The defense has a few question marks but that defensive backfield is going to be very good so I'm not betting against them.

25. Florida

This seems more an homage to what Jim McElwain has accomplished in his career rather than something based off what the Gators have proven on the field. I can dig it though, I'm sure there's tons of talent still stockpiled on that roster and McElwain has won in the past without tons of it.


  1. Best thing for the Big12 is OU beats Houston, Ohio St and loses to TCU. The Frogs go undefeated, OU wins out, Ohio St wins out, FSU goes undefeated. Chaos in the SEC and Pac12 (2-loss Tennessee and 3-loss Washington win championships).

    TCU and OU could both go to the semi's.

    1. What a wonderful dream that would be for the conference.

      I'm betting that a Big 12 with tons of solid teams and no true juggernauts cannibalizes itself and then gets dumped on by fans of every other conference.

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