Once again TDG will be a part of the CBSSports.com Blog Poll (the one MGO birthed and raised to it's current level of stardom). The first poll will be released on Monday which means I need to submit a ballot before then. As is usually the custom I will post my first draft ballot, you can all rip it apart by pointing out my flaws, I will argue with you then either change it or assume you are more of an idiot than I am.
So let's get started with my first draft. PLEASE bear in mind this is a FIRST DRAFT. I have not poured hours into this (yet) so there will be flaws, I am open to changing this ballot. Secondly, remember this is highly subjective (especially in mid-August) so let's not get too worked up if I have Team X in the top 10 and you think they don't belong in the top 119. Seriously, let's remember this is not a matter of life and death, this does not count towards anything other than bragging rights and did I mention it is highly subjective?
The bulk of my research was heavily influenced by Phil Steele's top 40. Why? Because when all is said and done he is more accurate than most of the other pre-season lists. The preseason is tricky and I always struggle with am I ranking the 25 best teams right now or the 25 best teams by the end of the year? If it is right now, then shouldn't my ballot look awfully close to my final 2008, cause if I try to factor in 2009 rosters then I'm edging toward predicting how good they will or will not be? And if this ballot is supposed to be a predictor then am I looking at rosters for the most talented 25 teams or do I look at schedules and factor in who will beat who into where they will finish?
I'm dizzy already. I think this kind of a mixture of both, but I'm leaning more towards who will be the 25 best teams in the country by the end of the year. Then after week 1 I can re-evaluate. If I think Minnesota is going to be a top 25 team and they lose to Syracuse in week 1 then that kind of damages where they will end up after 12 games. So maybe this is kind of an eliminator for the first 4 or 5 weeks and then it transitions into a power poll.
Anyway, here is my first draft ballot with some notes below.
#1 - Florida - Personally I think they'll lose a game due to overconfidence, but it is impossible to not pick them at the #1 team until proven otherwise.
#2 - USC - I firmly believe that at the end of the year last year USC was the best team in the country and would have rolled everyone in a mythical playoff. They don't have nearly as much returning as Florida does so I cannot justify ranking them ahead of the Gators. This team will be very good, as always and if they can avoid another upset in conference play, they'll be in the conversation about who belongs or doesn't belong in the BCS title game.
#3 Oklahoma / #4 Texas - Somebody give me a good reason one should be ahead of the other. They are similar teams and their game in October is probably the most anticipated of the year in all of college football.
#5 Cal - I think Cal is in line for a special season. If they can beat USC at home then they stand a great shot at a mythical title game in January. Those top 4 teams are clearly the heavy favorites and after them Cal is amongst a host of teams hoping to crash that party. Ultimately, if Minnesota can have a successful season, Cal's likely win in Minneapolis will give them an SOS boost.
#6 - Alabama - Talent is king in college football and Saban is bringing it in. But Saban also has proven that he can also coach said talent, which makes the Tide dangerous. A new QB is always scary, but their schedule couldn't be any better. They avoid Florida and Georgia plus they get LSU and Tennessee at home. Obviously at Mississippi will be the conference game of the year for Bama.
#7 Penn State / #8 Ohio State - I feel pretty good about Penn State being slightly ahead of Ohio State. I feel like there is a sense of entitlement that has set in for the Buckeyes and they'll finish short of their goals this year (again). The Buckeye defense will be very good but the Penn State run game is what gives them the nod for now.
#9 - Notre Dame - I'm anticipating this will catch the most heat and as I mentioned above I'm basing much of this (especially this ranking) on Phil Steele. Here is my justification. 2007 saw the Irish returning just a handful of starters and they ended up starting nine true freshmen throughout the season and getting their ass kicked. Those freshmen are now upperclassmen, along with the other young kids who have seen significant playing time early in their careers. 7-6 last year, with this young team, and they blew a few double-digit leads. It has been a bad two-year run for the Irish but they will get back to the top 10 this year. They are nowhere near USC (who will kill them), but they'll win a lot of games with what is a talented roster.
#10 - Mississippi - personal opinion is that they're preseason hype is largely a product of their Florida upset in 2008. Let's not forget they lost to Vandy and followed up that Florida win with a 2-game losing streak. They are good but not a national title contender.
#11 - Virginia Tech - I'm assuming a loss to Alabama in week 1 which will put them behind the 8-ball to start the year. They return a ton of starters and have a favorable conference schedule getting Miami and BC at home so they could easily be a top 10 team, but I am giving no love for the ACC.
#12 - Oklahoma St - this year's Texas Tech? They avoid Nebraska, get Texas and Mizz at home. Their telling game will be Georgia to start the year. With Georgia breaking in a new QB and it being at home they might get this game in week one. Georgia may ultimately be more talented but I'm giving the nod to the Cowboys.
#13 - Georgia - see above for why they are behind OK St. I love the non-conference schedule which includes a Big 12, Pac-10 and ACC team. But add that to their regular SEC schedule and having to replace Moreno and Stafford, this could be a tough year for Georgia fans.
#14 - LSU - tough conference schedule. I'm assuming losses against Florida and Alabama. Then they travel to Georgia and Mississippi which could be two more losses. They did well with some younger talent in 2008, which should pay dividends in 2009 but for now this is where I put the Tigers.
#15 - Boise St - they could have top 5 talent (which they don't) and I still don't think I would rank them higher than this. Why? Because it doesn't matter. Who thinks if they go undefeated they'll get a shot at a title game? I am NOT anti-non-BCS, but in this case strength of schedule matters. I was a proponent of Utah last year because they did what they could schedule wise, and really the MWC offered a few tough games. Boise has Oregon on their schedule and winning that game could propell them into a BCS game, but they were vastly outgained by TCU in their bowl game last year their schedule is weak enough that I'm not going to show them much love until they earn it.
#16 - #25 - some notes...
- I think Iowa will be pretty good this year with a great offensive line and defense. They are not as good as their fans think they are but they are better than the rest of the country thinks.
- I think we'll see a resurgence from Nebraska. They've had some good recruiting classes and they just might put it together this year.
- Kansas has a potent Reesing to Meier combo and they return seven starters on defense. I don't foresee any huge upsets but they'll be good.
- Rutgers returns 10 starters on offense.
- Eastern Carolina - 19 returning starters! They won't be overlooked by Virginia Tech and West Virginia this year but this team knows they can win and they'll get their chance to prove it a few times against BCS teams.
- Utah is not ranked, they had a great year last year and more than any other non-BCS team ever , they deserved a shot at a mythical title. But they lost a lot (10 starters) and they aren't established enough for me to believe they just reload.
Well...let me have it!