It's time for another Eye on CFB roundtable, in which the crew assembles Voltron-style to address a pressing question or topic surrounding college football.
Tom Fornelli: For me it's hard to really say who is underrated or overrated in a preseason poll, because there are different ways to approach a preseason poll, the stupidest of all polls. Is the voter ranking teams based on how they think things will look at the end of the season, or is their ballot more reflective of how things finished in 2012?
Jerry Hinnen: I hear you--it could also be a straight "power poll," based solely on how good each voter guesses each team is, but without the schedule-influenced prediction aspect.
TF: Personally, I try to find a happy medium between the two ways I mentioned. And using that formula, I think Louisville is underrated, which may seem odd since the Cardinals are a top-10 team in both polls. It's just that the Cards finished the 2012 season by spanking Florida in the Sugar Bowl and also -- as has been brought up any time anybody anywhere mentions this team -- have one of the easiest schedules in the country in 2013.
Frankly, while the schedule may not be enough to get the Cards a title shot, it'll also make it hard for them not to finish in the top five.
As for overrated, I have to go with Oklahoma State and Wisconsin , though for somewhat different reasons. While the Badgers went to their third straight Rose Bowl last year, this was still an 8-5 team. And now it's going through a coaching change, the first time in two decades there is a fundamental change of the coaching staff in Madison. (No, going from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema doesn't count.)
Then there's Oklahoma State, who also went 8-5 last season. But unlike Wisconsin, who's ranked No. 23, the Cowboys find themselves at No. 13 and No. 14. Now, while I expect Oklahoma State to be better this season, I do think ranking them that high is a bit presumptuous. They should be closer to the No. 20 than to No. 10.
Chip Patterson: I'll say this: at least one team from that Big 12 trio of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas is overrated. All three teams fall between No. 13 and No. 16 in the polls, and I think Baylor has as much of a chance to land that high at the end of the season. There doesn't seem to be a lot of confidence regarding the quarterback situation in Norman, so for now I'll pick the Sooners, rather than the Cowboys, as a team that could probably slide down a few spots.
That could -- and likely will -- change by midseason, but the Big 12 is too wide open for all three teams to separate themselves from the pack.
JH: I'm a big "your preseason top 25 is your prediction for how the season plays out" advocate, because anything else is 1. too confusing 2. less fun. And so anyone who's seen my own top 25 knows I object to the distinct lack of Ole Miss in these polls, but as I'm a vast outlier there I'll restrict myself to teams actually in the Coaches and AP top 25's.
And the most underrated of those teams, to me, is Florida State. The 'Noles were one terrible quarter away from starting 11-0 a season ago, boast what should be hands-down the best defense in the ACC, play three of their five road games at the mediocre likes of Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest, and have what I'm expecting to be a budding superstar at quarterback in Jameis Winston. They should be able to split their dates at Clemson and Florida, and that would put them squarely at 11-1 and inside the top 5 at regular season's end.
CP: For me, when we're talking underrated, I understand why LSU is ranked where they are (No. 12 in AP, No. 13 in Coaches). But I don't see them finishing outside the Top 10. With a school-record nine NFL Draft picks to replace, there's some concern regarding the turnover in Baton Rouge -- particularly on the defensive side, with six players selected in the top three rounds.
But consider this--many of those defensive stars were not highly recruited coming out of high school, leading me to believe that the group defensive coordinator John Chavis directs in 2013 is set to become another crop of Bayou-bred NFL talent.
JH: That leaves just my overrated selection. My guess is that Notre Dame's post-Everett Golson offense isn't going to be good enough -- especially against the Irish's typically rugged schedule -- to avoid leaving the Irish in another series of close, tight games, just as they faced in 2012. But after getting several years' worth of breaks in their magical run to the BCS title game, this time those breaks will likely go against them, and leave the Irish with four or even five regular season losses. That's not going to be good enough to keep them in the top 20, much less the top 15.