Friday Five: Most overrated college football teams in the 2017 preseason Coaches Poll
Coaches should coach their teams, not rank them
I hate preseason polls.
I hate them more than you hate your rival or the media hates your favorite team.
I understand the purpose polls serve. They get people talking about college football and give fans something to crow about or be angry with in the weeks leading up to the season finally starting. (Hell, we do one, too.) The media pays attention to them because the consumer -- you -- cares, and we're here to serve you.
None of that changes the fact that preseason polls are idiotic.
We're ranking teams based on nothing but hypotheticals. We haven't seen them play a single snap yet, but we pretend to know how good they are going to be. Now, I can live with that on its own. Prognostication is harmless, but preseason polls are not.
A team that starts the season ranked in the top 10 will receive preferential treatment from voters for the rest of the season, while a team that starts outside of the top 25 will have to do more to prove it's worthy of inclusion. That top-10 team could lose a game or two early, but instead of just admitting they made a mistake ranking them so highly, most voters will make an excuse -- whether consciously or not -- for why that team lost because their pride gets in the way of reality.
Thankfully, polls like the Coaches Poll no longer matter when it comes to determining a national champion, but they still have an effect, even if it's an indirect one.
The College Football Playoff selection committee can say that it forms its own ranking, and it does, but it's lying to itself if it believes the Coaches Poll or AP Top 25 doesn't have an impact on the opinions of the people on that committee. They do.
So these preseason polls matter, which is why I feel the need to point out which five teams in the preseason Coaches Poll I believe are overrated. This list does not consist of five teams I think are bad now or are going to be bad this season. They all may turn out to be quite good, but the voters are giving them a bit too much credit right now.
5. No. 4 USC: I can't lie, this is a result of my feelings from last year. USC finished 2016 strong, winning nine straight games -- including one of the greatest Rose Bowls of my lifetime -- to get to 10-3 and end up ranked at No. 3 in the AP Top 25. The fact the Trojans were ranked ahead of three other two-loss teams (though one of whom they beat) bothered me a little.
I can't help but believe the fact that USC is USC played a role in that, and I think that's still the case in this preseason Coaches Poll.
I completely understand the hype surrounding the Trojans heading into 2017. The strong finish, a great Rose Bowl, talent and that USC brand are going to result in plenty of hype, and -- for once! -- the Trojans may live up to it.
But should they be ranked ahead of the defending national champions?
4. No. 19 Kansas State: When the poll came out on Thursday, I was actually in charge of writing a post on it, so I was looking out for it all morning. After it had come out and I was running through the teams, I was legitimately surprised to see Kansas State ranked. And at No. 19 no less.
Don't get me wrong. It's not as if I'm expecting Kansas State to be horrible this year; I was just confused because I'm not sure what the Wildcats had done to deserve the spot yet. They went 9-4 last year, finishing the season unranked, and in 2015, they were 6-7.
The Wildcats have finished a season ranked only once in the last four seasons. That was following the 2014 season when they were ranked No. 18 in both polls.
So what changed over the offseason to warrant not only ranking KSU, but to do so ahead of six other teams in the poll?
The confusion over Kansas State's spot also led me to another confusing aspect of the Coaches Poll: its love for the Big 12. The Big 12 was the only Power Five conference left out of the College Football Playoff last season and spent the entire 2016 season labeled as the least powerful Power Five. Now the Coaches Poll comes out, and there are five Big 12 teams ranked.
That's half the conference!
Anyway, that's a subject for another time. Let's move on to No. 3.
3. No. 9 Michigan: The Big Ten has four teams in the top 10, and if I'm sincere here, it should probably only have two.
Jim Harbaugh has recruited very well since showing up in Ann Arbor, and Michigan's roster will have talent, but the Wolverines have so much to replace from last year's team.
Michigan loses eight players on defense that were named to an All-Big Ten team last year. Eight!
There are only six starters back from last season's team total, so we're going to see a lot of people in new, larger roles this season, and it's hard to truly know how good this team will be before seeing it play a football game.
Michigan will likely be a top 15 team in college football this year. It could end up in the top 10 and compete for a Big Ten title, but it shouldn't start the season there now.
And if it weren't for the fact it was Michigan, and its coach was Jim Harbaugh, it wouldn't be.
2. No. 13 Auburn: In 2013, the Auburn Tigers went 12-2, falling one win shy of a national title. They finished that season ranked No. 2 in both major polls.
In the three seasons since, the Tigers have gone 23-16 overall and 11-13 in the SEC. They have not finished any of those three seasons ranked higher than No. 22 in either of the major polls.
So why in the hell are they starting 2017 ranked at No. 13?
It's pretty simple. Auburn is not just a SEC team, but a SEC team in a conference with a huge vacuum of power behind Alabama. So the thought process is that somebody will have to step up and serve as a legitimate contender to the Crimson Tide this year.
So Auburn's ranking is based more on hope than reality. The same kind of hope voters had last season when LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss were all ranked in the top 15 of the preseason Coaches Poll. At the end of the season, only LSU and Florida remained in the top 15, with Florida the higher-ranked team at No. 13. Both had four losses.
Everybody in the SEC that wasn't Alabama had at least four losses.
Maybe that won't happen again in 2017, but there's simply no reason for Auburn to be ranked this high to start the season.
1. No. 23 Texas: If you looked at the Coaches Poll before reading this post, you really shouldn't have had much doubt as to which school would be ranked No. 1.
Now, before I get into this, I want to make one thing clear. I am a believer in Texas this season. All offseason I've been doing radio hits, and invariably I get asked: "which off-the-radar team do you believe could make a run at the College Football Playoff this year?"
I've answered Texas every single time.
This is a team that could be very good in 2017, but that doesn't mean it should be ranked to start the season. The Longhorns should have to earn their respect before it's just handed to them.
Let's not forget this is a program that hasn't won more than eight games in a season since going 9-4 under Mack Brown in 2012. The last three seasons under Charlie Strong saw the Horns go 16-21 overall and 12-15 in the conference.
This is the same Texas program that has finished only one of the last seven seasons ranked in the polls (that 2012 season).
And they're starting the 2017 season ranked No. 23.
Washington State has won 17 games and gone 13-5 in the Pac-12 the last two seasons. Colorado went 10-4 last season. Boise State has won 31 games over the last three seasons. These three teams can't crack the top 25 to start the season, but Texas can.
Thank god the Coaches Poll no longer helps determine a national champion.
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