Recently, the fine folks at Saturday Blitz conducted a poll among a variety of FanSided’s college football blogs. The results of that poll have USC on top — thanks to eight first-place votes — with Alabama and LSU also getting first-place votes.
Other things of note? Utah narrowly missed the top-25 with 20 votes for inclusion, while, somehow, the Illinois Fighting Illini got a vote (the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl can do wonders for you, I’m telling ya).
Here’s the FanSided preseason top-25 poll:
|Rank||Team (1st Place Votes)||Points|
Others Receiving Votes: Utah 20, Auburn 12, Washington 10, Georgia Tech 7, Iowa State 6, Louisville 6, NC State 5, USF 4, Washington State 4, Illinois 1, Louisiana Tech 1
Of course, no poll is perfect and, to these eyes, neither is this one (though it’s pretty damn close).
My first issue with it? USC is on top, and although some would say I have some sort of bias, it’s a pretty fair ranking to question. Despite the fact that Matt Barkley is the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, and despite the recent arrival of former Penn State running back Silas Redd, these Trojans are being given quite a bunch of hype for what was essentially just a very solid late-season run in 2011 defined by a win over Oregon and a 50-0 shellacking of crosstown rival — but incredibly embattled — UCLA.
But obviously, college football is being dominated by the SEC for a reason — supposed biases be damned — and that reason just so happens to be defense. While USC certainly has the best offense in the nation with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, Curtis McNeal, Redd and Barkley leading the way, the defense is just alright, and “pretty good” for a Pac-12 school. In case you didn’t notice, the 2012 national champions held an LSU team that averaged damn near 36 points a game to absolutely nothing, and never let them cross the 50 yard line.
USC’s offense is explosive, but the way that SEC defenses can negate the most prominent offensive options is pretty ridiculous. Personnel turnover be damned, either one of LSU or Alabama should have ranked ahead of USC and the case for both of them being ranked higher is fair. A pair of wins via shoot-outs and a great recruiting class is pretty much all the claim that USC can claim to the top spot, and all this hype is predicated on the fact that Lane Kiffin is a great coach, despite the fact that his up-and-down 10-2 season with USC last season was probably the greatest football season he’s ever been associated with.
And the schedule doesn’t seem to cake-y either. They’ll have to stay undefeated in a schedule that involves Stanford in Palo Alto and Oregon (twice, when they play in the Pac-12 title game). They’ll also have to beat Notre Dame at home, while also having to travel to Rice-Eccles Stadium to take on the Utah Utes. Speak of the devil …
Another glaring issue? Utah’s exclusion, yet again, from the top 25. Somehow, Utah fans have sky-high expectations — national championship aspirations, even — and have a pretty nice schedule to go along with their hopes. Utah’s most important game — and, quite honestly, the most important game in recent memory for these Utes — is against USC at home. Aside from that, though, Utah doesn’t have to go through Oregon or Stanford in the regular season and their second-toughest match-up might be the Washington Huskies or their in-state rivals, the BYU Cougars.
They also have arguably the best defense in the Pac-12 and could very well boast a top-tier defense nationally with their level of talent at the front-line and the return of much of their solid secondary. What Utah struggled with last year was offense — is this seriously a Pac-12 team? — and that was due to serious injury. Now, though, Jordan Wynn is coming back and he should be provide the team a much-needed boost at the most important position in football. Meanwhile, John White IV will probably be the top rusher in the Pac-12 considering how much he delivered after Utah leaned on him an incredible amount in 2011.
Utah will be a force to be reckoned with if they’re healthy, and could very conceivably finish the season 12-1 if they can get past USC and make it to the Pac-12 title game. In this writer’s opinion, they’re outside national championship contenders.
Those are lofty expectations, but a couple losses here and there (probably about two, possibly three) won’t kill Ute fans.
Overall, though, FanSided’s college division did pretty damn well in their preseason top-25 and there seems to be broad agreement with it in the college football blogosphere.
Keep an eye out for updated polls throughout the season.
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