If the Associated Press' 2012 preseason top 25 is any indication, then the SEC's reign of six straight national championships is about to come to an end. Because LSU dismissed Tyrann Mathieu. No, really.
First, your Top 10, half of which you will note comes from the SEC. The numbers in parentheses are, of course, the first-place votes for each team.
1 Southern Cal (25)
2 Alabama (17)
3 LSU (16)
4 Oklahoma (1)
7 Florida State
8 Michigan (1)
9 South Carolina
Florida at No. 23 is the only other SEC team in the field. In the "others receiving votes" category, Auburn checks in at a would-be No. 26, Tennessee at a hypothetical No. 31, Texas A&M at No. 34, Missouri at No. 36 and Mississippi State in a tie for 39th.
The most notable difference from the coaches poll, of course, is that the preseason No. 1 is not LSU, which ends up in third, but Southern Cal. Now why would that be? Well, because Mathieu was supsended, of course.
In light of that development, the AP extended the voting deadline. Before Mathieu was dismissed, reportedly for failed drug tests, LSU had received 28 of a possible 60 first-place votes. USC was a close second with 22 first-place votes and Alabama was third with nine.
We can assume that there was also some effect on the 31 voters who didn't have LSU as No. 1 to begin with.
For the life of me, I still have trouble understanding the logic that's going on here. Is LSU worse off without Mathieu? Of course, and no one who knows a thing about college football would argue otherwise.
But the question is whether the Bayou Bengals are a full game or two worse without Mathieu. Because unless you think that missing Mathieu is going to cost LSU a game they otherwise would have won, there's no tangible reason to drop the Tigers. It makes no more sense than when the No. 15 team loses to the No. 1 team because of a late-game field goal and ends up at No. 20 the following week.
The rest of the Top 10 is not that wonky -- except, of course, whoever ranked Michigan No. 1. Then again, my father used to tell me about the one hardy soul who put Alabama atop his 1992 ballot and ended up being right. Preseason polls are all built on educated guesses.
I'm still mystified by the insistence this year that Florida will be Top 25 caliber, and by the fact that Missouri is so lightly regarded, but perhaps that's just me.
Outside of the SEC, OH LOOK IT'S TEXAS AT NO. 15. Because, you know, I always look at teams that went 8-5 the previous season and have a quarterback controversy as Top 15 material. Virginia Tech at No. 16 is notable simply because it's a preseason poll and Virginia Tech is not in the Top 5.
The best part of this is that the release of the Top 25 poll means we're close to the football season. And there will be some great first weekend matchups. The Tennessee-N.C. State game could propel one of them into the rankings, while the Boise State-Michigan State collision is the earliest meeting between two ranked teams. You would think that only Michigan or Alabama could emerge from their game with their No. 1 votes intact.