College football is so close, the fans can smell it. There are the aromas on the set of College Gameday, the primetime Saturday night games, and most importantly fans and tailgating. We have an electric first slate of games, including 5 ranked matchups. For those of you that do not know, the Associated Press releases the weekly rankings until the College Football Playoff Committee takes over late in the season. On August 16th, we got our first rankings from the AP. These rankings don't always go over well with teams and their respective fanbases.
Looking back on the previous preseason rankings, they have not always been the most accurate. Just look at FSU in the 2017 rankings. Following a pretty hot 2016 season, this team had high hopes and came in at number 3 week one. They were scheduled to kick-off the season in a highly-anticipated, week one matchup with the defending champs, Alabama. Fast-forward to the actual game, and FSU was beaten by quite a large margin, losing 24-3. They eventually went on to finish 7-6 and unranked.
Now, that example is just one of many screw ups the preseason poll has had over the years. As many times as we see situations like that, the poll is overall statistically accurate. Since 2004, every single national champion has been ranked inside of the top 7, except for 2 teams. Like anything, these rankings have their ups and downs. Let's look at this year's rankings. Today we will be looking at rankings 25-16
#25: Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State is coming off of a 2-2 season after the abbreviated schedule played by the Pac-12. This team is not bad by any means -- they are led by Herm Edwards, who is quite possibly on the hot seat, as he has not lived up to his expectations, his teams have been quite mediocre besides a few key wins. Their quarterback is pretty special too. Jayden Daniels brings Heisman hope to this squad, and is expected to perform exceptionally well. There is talent all around this team, but coming in ranked is pretty surprising after having an underwhelming and average season last year. I personally don't expect this team to make a run at the playoff, but really wouldn't be surprised if they made a run at the Pac-12.
This is the third year in a row Utah has been ranked in the preseason poll, maybe for good reason. After a very underwhelming season last year, Utah returns 19 starters, which is either good or bad, depending on the way you look at it. This team has some high expectations, but only because the Pac-12 is a generally weak conference. Utah has no reason to underperform.
#23: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
At 23, we have our first non-power 5 school. Coming off a fantastic year, the Ragin’ Cajuns have every right to be here. Last season, they finished ranked 15th; that included an upset of eventual Big 12 runner-up Iowa State. I believe this ranking is low for this team, they have all the pieces in place to succeed, are in a weak conference, and are more deserving than a few teams in front of them. They open the season against 21st ranked Texas, so we get to keep an eye on them early in the season.
#22: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Another non-power 5 enters the conversation as Coastal Carolina comes in ranked at 22. They are coming off an unbelievable season, which is probably the main reason they are ranked here. They went 11-1 last year, and finishing 14th in the final rankings, it is going to be tough to replicate that performance even if they do play in a weak conference aside from Louisiana-Lafayette. They have 19 starters returning, including quarterback Grayson McCall, who can provide a spark at any time and not to mention, rocks an awesome mullet.(In case you want to check out that mullet-https://www.instagram.com/p/CKfQk4KhIwE/) I think Coastal is going to fall short of replicating their performance last year and they are taking a spot in the rankings away from another team that might deserve it.
#21: Texas Longhorns
Oh, boy. One of the ´blue bloods´ of college football, Texas has really struggled to find meaningful success in the last few years. Out with the old in with the new this year for Texas, as new head coach Steve Sarkisian comes over from Alabama. Also gone is quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was a 3-year starter for the team. Again, this team has HIGH hopes coming into the season and they look to capture the Big 12 championship. They will play in a pretty strong conference this year and they look to contend with Oklahoma and Iowa State. Now, there was no way the AP was leaving Texas off the poll, so with that in mind I think this is a pretty fair ranking ahead of the previously mentioned week one matchup with Louisiana-Lafayette.
#20 Washington Huskies
The Pac-12 is coming in hot this year, as Washington comes in at 20. Coming off of a 3-1 season, after the abbreviated schedule, Washington looks to make some noise in the Pac-12, and they certainly have the talent to do so. They didn't play any of the ranked Pac-12 teams last year, but they will have to go through Oregon, USC, and Arizona State this year to capture the crown. Washington went to the College Football Playoff a few years back but got steamrolled by Alabama, and ever since they have been average. After losing production on both sides of the ball, this team is ranked a little too high in my eyes, and possibly shouldn't be ranked at all. They put out a decent team year after year, so I really hope they come out and surprise people like me.
#19: Penn State Nittany Lions
At 19 we have our first Big 10 team, the Nittany Lions. There is a lot to unpack here. To start, James Franklin is entering his 8th year as head coach and his seat is HOT. The pressure is on him and this team to perform this year or there will be a change at the head coaching position. Last year Penn St. was extremely underwhelming finishing 4-5 after a sluggish start. When they matched up against Ohio State (One of the best teams in college football), they played pretty well -- only losing by 15. There are bright spots on this team, such as the defense and the always strong running game. But there is a serious problem as to who is under center. Their presumed starter, Sean Clifford, has been abysmal through his college career, and the heir to the QB1 throne, Will Levis, transferred to Kentucky. Based on last year, this team is ranked too high. They shouldn't be ranked at all, as I would rather them play their way into the top 25 rather than underwhelm us all again. I don't really have high hopes for this team as they probably can't contend in the Big 10, but who knows, it is college football. The most important thing to know about this team is that packed white-outs are back, so we can get excited for those.
#18: Iowa Hawkeyes
Coming in at #18 is the Iowa Hawkeyes. A pretty mediocre team the past few years, this team looks to make some noise in the Big 10. Last year was a successful year for the program, finishing 6-2 and 15th in the polls. In a pretty tough conference I don't really see Iowa competing this year, at least with the likes of Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, just to name a few. I dont get why this team is ranked so high to begin the year, but I look forward to watching them compete in the Big 10 this year, because they are always good for an upset.
#17 Indiana Hoosiers
Our third straight Big 10 team as Indiana comes in at #17. Coming off a historic year, the Hoosiers are at an unbelievably low ranking. Their quarterback, Michael Penix Jr is top 10 in all of college football. He is coming off of an ACL tear, but I don't expect him to miss a beat and guide this team to promising year. This team has a pretty easy schedule, but they open up with a crucial game against 18th ranked Iowa. Oh and I forgot to mention, they also have a great coach in Tom Allen. I think this team should be ranked a little higher, but 17 is a solid spot for them to start.
#16 LSU Tigers
The SEC makes their first appearance as LSU is ranked here at 16. Just two years ago this team put together one of the greatest seasons of all time, now two years later the same program sits at 16 on the rankings. Part of that problem has come from the quarterback position since losing Heisman winner Joe Burrow. Coming into this year, LSU had an open competition between Myles Brennan, Max Johnson, and Garrett Nussmeier. Brennan went down with an injury and required surgery, so now it is Johnson or Nussmeier. Both quarterbacks are somewhat average, so the offensive side of the ball remains a question. The defense under Coach O led by Derek Stingley will succeed, so it leaves the offense to perform and this team could become contenders once again. 16 is a pretty fair ranking coming into the season after a disappointing season last year, I just hope this team can become successful once again. And who doesn´t love some Coach O?