With the calendar itching to flip to September to mark the beginning of the 2016 college football season, the Associated Press was kind enough to release its preseason poll in order to give us all something to chew on and hold us over.As last year’s edition that saw Ohio State become the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the poll’s history only to miss the College Football Playoff showcased, the summer thoughts of 61 sportswriters doesn’t always amount to much for the actual season.
Still, these polls do provide an interesting look at the high or low regard that some programs are placed in and could have ramifications for some lower-ranked teams throughout the season because they have a taller mountain to climb.
Here are some rapid reactions from the 2016 AP preseason poll.
We’re No. 1Alabama being firmly at the top of the poll with more than half of the first-place votes comes as no real shocker, as the Crimson Tide are coming off a dominant national championship performance and, as always, boast one of the deepest pools of talent in the nation.
Clemson and Oklahoma receiving a good number of top votes isn’t too surprising either, but the other four with a parenthesis by their names are interesting.
Florida State received four first-place votes despite an extremely underwhelming 2015 season in which it limped past some weaker teams before being upset at Georgia Tech and then lit up by talented teams Clemson and Houston (with one quality win at Florida sandwiched in there).
The Seminoles will have a lot of inexperience at quarterback, though they will lean more heavily on running back Dalvin Cook. Still, it’s hard to see them being better than Alabama, Clemson or Oklahoma.
Then we get to the trio of one-votes, each more head-scratching than the last. LSU, Ohio State and Michigan are all very talented, yet very flawed teams. Picking any one of them to go the Playoff would fall on the bolder side, let alone holding them in high enough regard to consider one to be the top team in the country without playing a game. Maybe one of those three voters will end up looking very smart, but those stood out as pretty shocking.
Another item that really stood out was the massive drop in points from the top 10 to the outside. Coming in at No. 10 was Notre Dame with a little over 1,000 points. The next spot, No. 11 Ole Miss, came a whopping 288 points behind the Fighting Irish with 718 points. That means No. 10 was closer to No. 5 (263-point difference) than No. 11 was to the next spot up.That suggests a very top-heavy perception of the talent level. Each of those top 10 teams are loaded with talent, but there is a clear drop-off after that. With the exception of a possible few, it’s hard to see any of the 11-25 teams having a legitimate Playoff bid. But still, two of last year’s Playoff teams in Clemson and Oklahoma opened at Nos. 12 and 19, respectively, last year, so you never really know.
Others receiving votes
Finally, it’s worth taking a quick glance underneath the poll to see who didn’t have enough votes to make it. The biggest surprise is Miami (Fla.), a program that seems to be ready to take a leap back into respectability this season. The Hurricanes ended up at No. 26, 21 votes behind No. 25 Florida.
But how about looking even lower down on the jumbled list of teams to search for some potential darkhorses. Or maybe even making note of what teams are absent altogether.
Last year, Michigan received just two preseason votes and finished the season at No. 12. Iowa started the season without a single vote and was a late touchdown in the Big Ten Championship Game away from going to the Playoff with a perfect record. Houston, another team that received no recognition before the season, also turned some heads and nearly climbed into the top 10 despite not playing in a Power Five conference.
So which teams could be similar triumphant stories this season? Don’t count out Auburn, a potentially strong team that received just 22 votes. Of course, the Tigers will have to go through a grueling SEC schedule, which is kind of the opposite of Iowa and Houston last season, but if they can pull off a win or two against teams like LSU or Alabama they could be a New Year’s Six contender.
Or how about Minnesota pulling a 2015 Iowa? Other than playing the Hawkeyes themselves early on in conference play, the Golden Gophers look to have a very favorable schedule and could be a candidate to enter the late weeks of the season undefeated. Like last year’s Iowa squad, Minnesota didn’t receive a single preseason vote.
Regardless, the first FBS game — a meeting in Australia between Hawaii and California — doesn’t happen until Friday and the first Saturday of action isn’t until Sept. 3, so until we see these teams step on the field none of these perceptions amount to much. But, hey, you have to get your fix somehow, so using the AP poll as a guide to point you in the right direction is a good start.