More Coaches' Poll Analysis - CFN Thoughts

Posted Aug 3, 2012

Analysis and reactions to the preseason coaches' poll

By Richard Cirminiello

Preseason polls are a lot like an issue of People magazine–fun to peruse every so often, but not steeped in the kind of substantive data that'll carry much weight a few months from now.

Today's release of the Coaches' Poll doesn't move my personal needle. Nor should it yours. It's an opinion based on, well, not a single game of evidence, which is a huge reason why around half of the current so-called Top 25 teams probably won't be ranked in early December. History says that preseason polls are about as accurate as a weatherman … from the 1970s. That established, what jumps out at me is the Big 12. It was only a year ago that most folks, including me, were fitting the conference for a toe tag. Instead, it's alive and well, with six members recognized in the rankings, which is more than everyone except the mighty SEC. And in an ultra-short term comparison, the Big 12's two imports, West Virginia and TCU, are No. 10 and No. 17, respectively, while the exports, Texas A&M and Mizzou, are on the outside looking in.

A lot can change in a few months. A lot will change in a few months. Today, though, the Big 12 and all of its administrators can pat itself on the back for not only surviving, but thriving as the 2012 season quickly approaches.

By Matt Zemek
Let's get the obligatory disclaimers out of the way first: Preseason polls should be abolished. The coaches' poll should be abolished. The following analysis does not represent an endorsement of the poll system or a happy welcoming of this poll. Moving on…

If Alabama beats LSU on Nov. 3, USC and Oregon split two meetings, Oklahoma loses twice, and the rest of the top 10 loses twice (all of these events are VERY possible), you know what could happen, right? A Bama-LSU rematch in Miami for the (cough) "national championship." This really could happen, folks. It's hardly absurd to think as much.

When USC and Oregon do stage their own rematch in the Pac-12 Championship Game, setting the stage for a season split between the two teams, will the college football community realize that split-division conferences are not helping the sport? Then look at the SEC, where the West champion will slaughter the East champion. A clear-cut conference champion is a good thing, but the conferences need to pursue provisional championship games as opposed to mandatory ones within a split-division format. A quick look at the top 10 of the coaches' poll should drive home this point.

Florida State seventh? Gee, not fourth? Maybe coaches are trying to minimize the extent to which they overrate a team that has to deliver the goods before re-earning elite status in the sport. Texas and Florida are also conspicuously high, based seemingly on brand name and little else.

Stanford at 18. Is the program going to endure in a post-Harbaugh, post-Luck world? I'm not seeing it, but David Shaw has a chance to make a name for himself.

By Russ Mitchell
Please Follow me on Twitter @RussMitchellCFB

To get to the fun, first you must overlook the realization that preseason polls are harmful to our sport given they play a material role in determining our sports' national champion, yet are largely based on pure conjecture and are historically more flawed than the Iranian judicial system.

Preseason polls are the whore of college football – more so even than recruiting – for their sole (or soul) purpose is merely to separate you from your money by manipulating your base need for all things college football.

That said…we have bills to pay.

So without further hand-wringing, some observations on the 2012 Preseason USA Today Assistant Sports Information Director/Coaches'-Son-in-Law Poll

4) By what reasonable logic other than blind faith or cold cash is Notre Dame anywhere close to this list?

3) Michigan's ranking is too high. The B1G is once again far from intimidating, and Big Blue's schedule is hardly daunting after Bama. Thus, UM is the odds on fave to win the conference, which many voters still believe is worthy of a top ten ranking. Forgetting whether that maxim still applies, Michigan's is hardly a top ten defense. Not even close. That might be OK if the offense was an unstoppable force, but as Va Tech showed us...

2) Georgia at #6? It is true that Georgia only has two teams on its 2012 schedule that had a pedestrian eight or more regular season wins in 2011 (SC's 11 & GT's 8), and therefore the Bulldogs will once again waltz into postseason play with an inflated record. Yet, there are as many questions about this UGA team as there were last season's, and the overall SEC East will take a step up in 2012. Beating the easy teams on a schedule is hardly a benchmark for greatness, particularly if you lose to the few tough ones (See: UGA 2011).

1) Talk about questions... There is more uncertainty swirling this summer around South Carolina than there is about Tom Cruise. Or there should be. Outside of defensive line, there's not a single unit in Columbia that's a given – not even coaching, with the departure of the very talented DC Ellis Johnson to Southern Miss. SC's biggest weakness is its Secondary/linebackers in pass coverage, and the Gamecocks have a five game stretch vs. Georgia (passing offense), at LSU (a beating win or lose), at Florida (another beating), Tennessee (passing offense) and Arkansas (passing offense). If star tailback Marcus Lattimore isn't 100%, there are four loses in that stretch alone. And remember, even IF he's 100%, Marcus has yet to finish a season in cleats.

By Terry Johnson
Please Follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

I am not a proponent of preseason polls. While they provide plenty of excitement and debate about college football just before the season starts, preseason rankings are more about reputation than actual merits (yes, Notre Dame, I am talking about you).

However, the USA Today Coaches' Poll accounts for one-third of the BCS formula, which makes it more important than any other preseason poll.

So what does Thursday's unveiling of the season's initial poll tell us about the 2012 season?

The most obvious thing that jumps out about this poll is that the SEC champion will play for the national championship again this season. The conference has seven teams in the rankings, including five in the top ten. Any loss within the league will not cause a team to drop significantly in the polls. Why else would the coaches put Arkansas tenth, when the Hogs could lose to three teams ranked ahead of them in Alabama, South Carolina, and LSU?

In other words, it's possible that college football could have another all-SEC matchup in the BCS Championship Game this year.

The initial rankings also validate the concept for a four-team playoff. The SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12 account for 80% of the teams in the Coaches' Poll. Sure, the ACC would still have a puncher's chance at playing for all of the marbles in the playoff system, but the coaches (or those people who cast the vote for them) see a huge difference between the top four conferences and everyone else.

That ought to provide plenty of bulletin board material for the non-conference season, especially for teams in the ACC and Big East.

A final look at the Coaches' Poll shows that there will not be a "BCS Buster" this year. Other than Boise State at No. 22, no non-AQ conference school is even close to cracking the rankings. Even with an upset over an opponent or two from a power conference, teams like BYU, Louisiana Tech, Houston, and Northern Illinois won't earn a spot on the big stage because there's simply too much ground to make up.

Unfortunately, these three things are all that we can glean from the initial Coaches' Poll.

However, the season kicks off in less than four weeks, and the teams will settle any remaining issues on the gridiron.

Phil Harrison
Harrison: Here We Go Again

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

How do you like sequels?

The initial USA Today Coaches poll is out, and if ever there was any doubt that the SEC is a Monarch sitting on the throne of college football, this should erase it. The SEC has five of the top ten teams--including LSU and Alabama who are undoubtedly looking down their noses at the rest of the college football world.

Such is the way of life in the upper-crust neighborhood today where the SEC has taken six straight BCS titles, and is fresh off perhaps its best year ever with two teams from the same division appearing in the national championship game. It was a case of the rich getting richer, with the lesser half feeling the effects of SEC fatigue.


But look, hasn't the SEC earned it? If you live in the Midwest, on the left-coast, or in the heart of tornado alley, arguments just don't hold water at this point. It may have after the 2006 season when Florida got the nod over a one-loss Michigan team, but we know what happened there. It may have as well when the SEC went back to back, and then back to back to back.

But not now. No, not after the SEC continues to pass almost every single test on the big stage, and EVERY test on THE stage for six straight years. Yes, these are clearly the glory days of the SEC, and they may not be ready to come to an end just yet.

Despite what anyone tells you, the preseason poll--at least the USA Today Coaches preseason poll does mean something. Teams that start at the top will get the benefit of the doubt when and if it continues to win. It will get the equivalent of Ronald Reagan win over Walter Mondale if it wins and resides in the SEC. Hello LSU and ‘Bama--hello last year all over again.

That's not to say that both teams will walk through a tough SEC, or that Alabama will breeze past Michigan in the Jerry Dome before it gets out of the blocks. There will be tests--stern tests. Yet the argument could be made that both Alabama and LSU will be favored in every game aside from when they play each other in regular season SLUGFEST part 2 in Baton Rouge on November 3rd.

And if a one-loss SEC team who lost to its future national-title opponent got the nod last year, you can bet that it'll get the benefit of the doubt yet again this year. Yes, it's WAY too early to forecast a season's worth of work, but that's simply where the big, bad SEC is right now.

And it's where it will continue to be until someone knocks the king's scepter to the ground.