But what makes this selection a little curious is the fact that LSU must replace its two starting signal callers from last season. While the No. 1 ranking is a clear demonstration of the level of respect voters have for the LSU program under Les Miles, there's no getting around that it is also very rare for a team without a returning starter at quarterback to be picked as preseason No. 1.
The last team to get the preseason No. 1 nod from the coaches without a returning starter under center was Florida in 1997. The Gators were the defending national champs and had to replace Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel. However, Steve Spurrier's long reputation as a quarterback guru convinced voters that whoever started at that spot would be productive.
The year before, 1996, also saw a defending champ get the No. 1 nod without a returning starter at quarterback, this time Nebraska. But this was again a case where voters put their trust in a long-proven system to produce the necessary results. Given Tom Osborne's track record, it seemed a no-brainer to think Scott Frost was destined to be the next great Husker quarterback.
You have to go all the way back to 1984 (Auburn) and then to 1973 (USC) to find other preseason No. 1 teams that also had to replace a starter at quarterback.
That's four teams in 40 seasons, with not one of them living up to the lofty ranking that the pollsters gave them.
LSU certainly has a chance to break that pattern. It's a valid argument so say that any quarterback replacing Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee constitutes an upgrade. New starter Zach Mettenberger attempted only 11 passes last season, but he clearly has the talent to be a successful college quarterback. The big question is whether LSU's current offensive system is capable of incubating a legitimate passing threat to keep defenses honest, thus allowing a loaded running backs group to rumble unabated.
It's also worth noting that the last three national champions--all SEC teams--have featured first-time starters at quarterback. It appears that having experience at the most important position on the field is diminishing as a major factor, especially in the defensive-minded SEC.
This preseason poll shows that some voters have finally caught on to that notion.