I hate preseason polls. I hate them more than you hate your rival or the media hates your favorite team.
I understand the purpose they 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.
But 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, that alone I can live with. Prognostication is harmless on its own, 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 preseason 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 own pride gets in the way of reality.
Thankfully, polls like the Coaches Poll -- did I mention Indiana received a vote in the poll and that Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is a voter? -- no longer matters when it comes to determining a national champion. Did you forget that it used to be a part of the BCS formula? Well, it was. There was never a conflict of interest there.
But it still has an effect, even if it's not a direct 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 truly 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 isn't compiled 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. Ohio State: This is a bit of a nitpick, but Ohio State begins the season ranked No. 5 in the Coaches Poll. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. Ohio State is just one of those teams that begins every season near the top of the polls and usually in the top five. I actually believe Ohio State will win the Big Ten this season, which would likely place them in both the top five and the College Football Playoff. My only contention is that I'm not sure the Buckeyes should start this high considering all the talent the team lost off the roster.
The Buckeyes should be in the top 10, but I'd like to seem the new guys prove it a bit more before I put them in the top five. Now, that said, I look at the teams ranked behind Ohio State, and I don't see any team I believe should definitely be ranked ahead of the Buckeyes.
4. Southern California: It happens every damn year. I feel like starting the season ranked higher than it should be is a USC tradition up there with Traveler hanging out on the sideline during home games.
This year, the Trojans, coming off an 8-6 season that saw them lose three of their last four games, begin the season at No. 17. The same USC team that has to replace its quarterback as well as nearly its entire front seven on defense. The Trojans will begin the 2016 season ranked ahead of four teams that won at least 10 games last season (North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Florida).
Yeah, OK, sure.
3. LSU: Remember how well last year went for LSU? Things were so great that many members of the Louisiana state government were trying to get Les Miles fired. They failed, obviously, because nobody has more power in Louisiana than Miles.
Sure, LSU finished 9-3, which isn't bad at all, but those three losses came in consecutive weeks in November after a 7-0 start, derailing the entire season. The offense, which consisted of Leonard Fournette being the first five options, stalled and had trouble scoring. The defense had more trouble stopping other teams than we're accustomed to seeing from LSU.
So, what's changed heading into 2016?
The quarterback situation is still iffy at best, so it's going to be Fournette or bust yet again on offense, which admittedly isn't a bad plan all things considered. On defense, Dave Aranda takes over for Kevin Steele, so we should see an improvement. Still, just improving on defense just isn't enough to justify LSU starting the season at No. 6. If you want to put them at No. 10 or so, fine. You won't get any argument from me, but No. 6? A full six spots ahead of the Ole Miss team that beat the Tigers by 21 points last year?
2. Washington: The Huskies start the season at No. 18, which really isn't that high. I mean, we speculate on up-and-comers at the bottom of preseason polls all the time, but they're usually limited to starting between 20 and 25. Washington's done nothing to deserve being ranked ahead of teams like Oklahoma State, North Carolina or Baylor. It certainly hasn't done anything to earn a spot ahead of an Oregon team it hasn't beaten since 2003 (0-11 in that span) or a UCLA team it's beaten twice since 2001 (2-10).
I get that Washington has young talent and a well-respected coach in Chris Petersen. I do. I just think that maybe we should pump the brakes a little bit and wait until Washington wins more conference games than it loses under Petersen before christening it a top 20 team. But I'm crazy that way.
1. Tennessee: We all knew this was coming. The moment the 2015 season ended, the Vols were destined to be the team ranked too high to start 2016. Well, here we are.
Not only do the Vols start the season ranked No. 10, but they actually received a first-place vote! I looked up the coaches voting in the poll, and since Butch Jones is not one of them, I have no idea who put the Vols that high -- but I'd bet it's an SEC coach looking to pump up his own schedule strength.
Anyway, I believe Tennessee is going to be good this year. In fact, I think they have a really good shot at winning the SEC East, and should they do that, I've no doubt that they'll be ranked in the top 10. Where we run into problems is that, since coming to Tennessee, Jones has gone 3-13 against top 25 teams and 0-9 against teams ranked in the top 10. There have been some close calls, sure, but shouldn't Tennessee actually beat a team ranked in the top 10 before we put it there? Last season was the first time Tennessee had a winning SEC record since 2007.
Again, I believe Tennessee is going to be good in 2016, I'd just like to see them actually be good before we just hand them that top 10 spot.