In its new pre-season Top 25 poll, Sports Illustrated is (no surprise) picking Ohio State as the top team in the country, followed by Auburn at #2, TCU at #3, Notre Dame at #4 and Alabama at #5. The rest of their poll, in order, includes Baylor, Michigan State, USC, Florida State, Oregon, Georgia, Clemson, Ole Miss, UCLA, Arizona, Boise State, Arizona State, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, LSU, Wisconsin, and Mississippi State.
The Amway Coaches Poll Top 25, released days earlier, had Tennessee at #25 instead of Mississippi State. The Amway Coaches Poll is conducted weekly throughout the regular season using a panel of head coaches at FBS schools. Each coach submits a Top 25 with a first-place vote worth 25 points, second place 24, and so on down to one point for 25th.
Bert Caldwell, one of the principle owners of The Kickoff Newsletter, noted significant differences in where several teams are ranked in the two polls.
There are sure to be arguments over why Auburn, for example, is ranked so highly by SI yet only #7 in the Coaches Poll. Or Notre Dame as the fourth best team versus 11th in the Coaches Poll. The two polls also different pretty dramatically on Boise State and Arizona while matching up pretty closely on ranking Clemson, UCLA, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
“It does seem pretty clear, and rightfully so, that Ohio State is a safe bet to defend its national championship,” Caldwell said. “It gets interesting when you get to teams like TCU and Baylor. Are they really that good? In less than a month, we’ll see. There are wild fluctuations about Auburn. (Incoming Defensive Coordinator) Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach, but (predecessor) Ellis Johnson was not stupid. Their defense was really bad last year. We’ll see how the Jimmies and the Joes line up, if they have the talent in the secondary to coach up their level of playing at Auburn.”
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Caldwell loves this time of year when football fans start intensifying their devotion to their teams around the water-cooler and on message boards.
“You can get a back and forth started quickly when you stay how you feel about your team and their rivals this close to the start of the season,” Caldwell said.
He noted that although Auburn and Alabama are the only two SEC teams in the SI poll, the Southeastern Conference has seven teams in the Top 25 overall.
“I find it amazing that SEC coaches in the Western Division are earning millions each year. Nick Saban’s getting $7 million. It’s fascinating that you can finish seventh in your conference division getting paid $3.2 million as Bret Bielema did last season in his second season at Arkansas. Kevin Sumlin earns $5 million and finished sixth in the West after going 3-5 in conference play last year. Fans want instant gratification, so there’s pressure to produce when you’re earning that much money,” Caldwell said.
We’ll see how these teams fare in just over three weeks when the regular season gets underway on Sept. 3rd
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