College football season is rapidly approaching, and on Thursday, USA Today released its first coaches’ poll of the year. Unleash the Twitter fan base debates.
Sometimes preseason polls prove to be prophetic; other times, looking back on them in January provides a hearty laugh. Regardless, there are some interesting components to this year’s poll.
Here are five key takeaways.
- Fellow coaches love them some Urban Meyer
The Buckeyes lost pretty much every contributing skill position player from last year’s squad sans J.T. Barrett, yet Ohio State comes in at No. 5 in the coaches' poll. That’s how highly opposing coaches think of Meyer.
Barrett knows he’s the man under center this season, and if he can replicate his 2014 campaign in which he accounted for 45 touchdowns, the Buckeyes could win the Big Ten title.
- Another year on the College Football Playoff sidelines for the Pac-12?
The Pac-12 watched last year’s College Football Playoff festivities from home, and Stanford is the only top-15 Pac-12 team in the preseason coaches' poll.
Stanford has Christian McCaffrey and a solid defense, but with Kevin Hogan’s departure, it will need to find an answer at quarterback. USC, Washington, Oregon and UCLA are all ranked, but they’re slotted at 17, 18, 22 and 24, respectively.
Parity defined the Pac-12 last season. Good teams beat up on other good teams on a weekly basis. That makes for an entertaining brand or football, but not one necessarily suited to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
- As it turns out, close losses do shape perception
Just ask Tennessee. The Volunteers had ample hype going into 2015, but stumbled out of the gate to a 3-4 start.
They lost those four games by a combined 17 points; two of which came to eventual playoff teams in Oklahoma and Alabama.
The Vols reeled off six consecutive wins to close out the season, and they’re ranked No. 10 in the preseason coaches' poll. They are the only team in the top 15 to lose four games last season. Still, the respect they’re getting in 2016 is well-deserved.
Tennessee returns the vast majority of its key players, including the stud backfield combination of Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. The Volunteers wore the ‘new kids on the block’ label for the past few years, but this season, they’ll be the veterans. Hopes are high in Knoxville.
- Houston is head-and-shoulders above non-Notre Dame and non-Power 5 schools
The Cougars are the only non-Power 5 school ranked in the coaches' poll, and they come in at No. 13.
Tom Herman’s squad had a magical run in 2015, going 13-1 and trouncing a solid Florida State group in its bowl game. They return plenty, including star quarterback Greg Ward, Jr.
Ward, Jr. is a force on the ground and in the passing game. He ran for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015 and threw for 17 more scores.
The Cougars face fellow top-25 teams Oklahoma and Louisville this season, which will be extremely important games to monitor. We’ll see if Herman can build on the immense success he tasted in 2015.
- The 2017 College Football Playoff could look a lot like the 2016 College Football Playoff
The top three teams in the coaches' poll (Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma) were all College Football Playoff teams in 2016, and they should all complete for berths in 2017. Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield are returning to Clemson and Oklahoma, respectively, and Alabama is Alabama. It would be foolish to disrespect the Tide.
No. 12 Michigan State is no slouch, either. Connor Cook is off to the NFL, but between running back L.J. Scott and a having perennially good defense under Mark Dantonio, the Spartans always seem to be in the mix.