Real football is less than a month away (I'm giving Western Kentucky the benefit of the doubt here), and the other major polls have come out, so it's time for me to get to work on my blogpoll rankings. It's more difficult than it sounds, unless you just take the other polls and change them a bit, or go for shock value, like ranking Notre Dame in the top 15.
Reality is you need to have a rationalization to start with any ranking, so this is an attempt at explaining why I'm picking the top ten where I am.
It starts with looking at who's going to win the major conferences - the SEC, the Big Ten, Big 12, and the Pac 10. Those are the guys who are going to finish at the top, along with the regular non-BCS contenders like Boise State, TCU, and maybe Utah.
Looking at those parameters, you'd conclude that:
Alabama is favored to win the SEC (again)
Ohio State is favored to win the Big Ten
Oklahoma is favored to win the Big 12
The Non-BCS teams, Boise State and TCU, will have only a few tough games.
Oregon is favored to win the Pac 10, kind of but that conference is a mess.
Out of that you can take your top four. Which is most likely to finish undefeated? Certainly not Oregon, and probably not Alabama because the SEC is tough all around, but Alabama gets a nod because I'm a traditionalist who believes you're #1 until you're knocked off or there are darned good reasons that you shouldn't be there (coaching turnover, major scandal, half the team comes down with flesh-eating bacteria and is gone for the season).
The Ohio St. Buckeyes are favored to win the Big Ten, but will they go undefeated? With four home non-conference games to start the season, it's unlikely they'll lose before conference play (even though one of those games is against Miami-FL). They get Wisconsin at Camp Randall, Penn State at home, another tough road game in traveling to Iowa, and then finishing against a Michigan team that can't seem to get its crap together.
Undefeated? It's a toss up, but let's compare them against Oklahoma because what we're looking for here is trying to predict their relative seasons.
Oklahoma has three non-conference games at home, one against Florida State and then they travel to Cincinnati. Texas is up next, Missouri and Texas A&M are on the road, but Texas Tech is at home (Lubbock has been a thorn in OU's side, but they beat regularly beat Tech at home). Oklahoma State shouldn't provide much bedlam this year.
Undefeated? Texas is always a big game, but I don't believe Missouri will be able to stop the Sooner offense, and Texas A&M is as inconsistent as most politicians so who knows what will happen in College Station. I don't see rival Oklahoma State creating much bedlam this season, so the Sooners will be safe there.
I'm a Big 12 wonk so, of course Oklahoma will get the nod. This will change next year, obviously (or maybe not, I've hated Ohio State for years and I don't see that changing).
Oh, wait. I'm a Nebraska wonk, too. Shouldn't I be putting Nebraska up there to win the Big 12 (am I committing blasphemy?) or should I keep Oklahoma where they are? Realistically, and to maintain some level of credibility, I don't think you can rank Nebraska above Oklahoma right now because of Nebraska's quarterback situation, and the fact that the offense has to show something before you can really say they're ahead of Oklahoma. The road game against Washington is huge for Nebraska's chance at finishing in the top ten.
Before you get bent, keep in mind that preseason polls mean nothing. We're guessing, and by "we" - I mean everyone who does a poll, everywhere. The coaches ranked Texas #4. What the hell they're smoking I have no idea. They ranked Texas above Oklahoma. Get that? Texas lost their top offensive players (Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley) and has to establish a running game to win against Oklahoma who returns a starter at quarterback (Landry Jones), the Big 12's (arguably) best running back (DeMarco Murray) and wide receiver (Ryan Broyles) set. Again, what were they thinking? Or are they just filling things out because Mack Brown is more likable than Bob Stoops?
Up next, the Pac-10. With USC in deep turbulence, there's no clear-cut top team. Oregon took a hit when quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed. The common belief has the Pac-10 beating itself up, so that no one will finish undefeated. It's more likely the top team will have at least two losses in conference play, so the Pac-10 will be out of the top ten completely.
Non-BCS contenders and Indepenents including TCU, Boise State, Utah, and Notre Dame. Notre Dame... ha! They're not getting anything until they can prove that they can win some games. TCU's non-conference schedule includes Oregon State in Texas, compared to Boise State's opening match at Fed Ex Field, which might as well be a home game for Virginia Tech. The edge goes to TCU, but if Boise State wins their game against the Hokies, it'll be huge for them in the rankings. Even if they jump TCU, TCU will most likely win most their games, so they're a top ten contender along with the Broncos.
Let's not forget the ACC and Big East.... well, let's not forget the ACC anyway. That gives us Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech as the most probable teams to consider. Virginia Tech was picked as the media's favorite to win the conference title, and as a Big 12 wonk, who am I to argue with them? Unfortunately for the Hokies, they seem to lose a couple games each season because their offense sucks - always. Still, a conference champion should be highly ranked.
Let's drop down to second-place finishers, teams who have the highest chance of winning all or nearly all their games, but losing in their conference title games. Again, we're looking at teams from the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC. The most likely candidates in those conferences are Nebraska, Florida, and Iowa. You have to rank the SEC team higher because the SEC is so awesome every year (just ask their fans), so that would put Florida above Nebraska. Is the Big 12 better than the Big Ten? Yes, at least for another year, so Nebraska moves ahead of Iowa.
Wait. Why Florida in the SEC? Florida doesn't return a starter at quarterback, but they return most of their defense. They travel to Tennessee (coaching change), Alabama (picked to win the SEC) and Vanderbilt. They produce players like
And to round out our top ten, we'll throw the Pac 10 favorite in just to appease the people on the West coast.
Given all rationalization, here's my first Blogpoll 2010 Top Ten:
3. Ohio State
7. Boise State
9. Virginia Tech
I know that CN has picked up a lot more followers over the past year, so if you're not familiar with the Blogpoll, consider it the only poll in which you, the fan, get to have a say. You give me some good feedback, and I change my poll. It gets sent in mid-week, every week of the regular season, and compiled with the other participants to create an unbiased ranking of college football teams.
Now, tell me what's flawed.