I love preseason polls. Not like I love my wife, my kids, or maybe even kittens, but I love them because they're just plain fun. They lead to a lot of discussion about the upcoming season while we're waiting for something real to happen.
Forget these guys who think polls shouldn't come out until five weeks into the season. First - there's the fun aspect, and second - if you don't have a preseason poll, how you going to know which games you really want to watch early in the season? Diehard fans might know, but your casual college football fan won't have a clue - it's not like most people sit around analyzing who has the most returning starters or the top-rated players. They just want to turn the telly on and watch a game.
With this comes the disclaimer that if you take preseason polls seriously, you're either making your living off student athletes, or you're taking this stuff way too seriously.
So, how should teams be ranked? What's the process? It's not just about picking the best teams in the nation. If that were the case, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas - all teams from the SEC West - could be ranked in the top five. They're going to beat each other up (and we're all betting on Nick Saban and Les Miles over Bobby Petrino, right?), so at least one will end up outside the top ten.
Compare that to Florida State, who's a clear-cut favorite in the ACC. Maybe Virginia Tech can challenge them for the championship, but Jimbo Fisher's team has a chance to go undefeated in conference. That's enough to place them in the top ten.
The Big Ten preseason favorites - Wisconsin and Nebraska - should have good teams, but no B1G team clearly stands above any other, despite the slobbering over new Badger quarterback Russell Wilson. The league will beat itself up. Bottom line - the champion is probably a top ten team, but not by much.
The Big 12 has another clear-cut favorite in Oklahoma. Perhaps Texas A&M can challenge (admit it, Mike Sherman is doing better than you'd thought we would), but I'm not sold on Oklahoma State as a top ten team after Dana Holgorsen left for West Virginia.
If Oregon is a favorite in the Pac-12, it can't be by much... unless you think that Stanford is overrated, a distinct possibility after the Cardinal lost their head coach (Jim Harbaugh) and quite a bit off their offensive and defensive lines. Is Andrew Luck enough to carry them? Or do we rank Oregon higher because of their past few years success and the fact that they return quarterback Darron Thomas, running back LaMichael James, and run an unstoppable offense (I answered my own question, didn't I?)?
Boise State and TCU will fight over the Mountain West. TCU has lost a lot of starters, and the Broncos return quarterback Kellen Moore. Fact is, Boise State should be a national title contender. We'll know more about them as they play Georgia on September 3rd - a huge game early in the season.
I will not be ranking any school that's currently on probation. I don't understand how you can do that, but the AP doesn't have a problem with it. Funny that (not really) - the same people who can yell down at their ivory towers about how corrupt the game has become have no problem honoring teams who've cheated. Unfortunately, in another year, it might be pretty damned difficult to remember who's on probation and who isn't, leading to some pretty squirrely rankings.
So, the my top ten could include the following, listed here in no particular order. Where would you rank them?