With cocknfire putting out his draft ballot yesterday, I figured it was about time to put mine together. I am philosophically opposed to preseason ballots so I'm not thrilled about doing this, but I feel a sense of responsibility now that I'm (half) a BlogPoll voter.
Before I throw it at you, I want to explain my methodology. The only other time I have done a preseason top 25 was 2007, and despite the chaos of that year, mine was the most accurate among the so-called experts. I don't say that to toot my own horn as much as I do to validate the methodology. It worked then, I'm hoping it works out now.
First, I created a pool of poll candidates. I put every Big 6 conference team in a spreadsheet and then threw in every non-Big 6 conference team that has gotten any love this preseason. From there, I deleted every obvious "no" from that list (i.e. say goodbye, Washington State). That left me with about 35 or so teams left.
Now, I know from looking that every team that has finished in a final poll since the twelfth game became permanent in 2006 has had at least nine wins. I then looked at the schedules of the iffy teams and asked two questions to whittle the list down to 25: can this team win nine games this year, and if they do, will I care? The former was to weed out those who I didn't think would get to that nine win plateau specifically (teams with a hypothetical 8-4 regular season and a bowl win making nine were not rejected outright), and the latter was to weed out those that might get to nine on the back of a weak schedule.
Here was the initial pool of 25:
ACC: Clemson, Georgia Tech, UNC, Virginia Tech
Big 12: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech
Big Ten: Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
Pac-10: Cal, Oregon, USC
SEC: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss
Non-Big 6: BYU, TCU, Utah, Boise State
Next, I put these teams into five categories: elite, very good, pretty good, decent, and filler.
Elite: Florida, Texas
Very Good: Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC
Pretty Good: Boise State, Cal, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, TCU, Virginia Tech
Decent: BYU, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, UNC
Filler: Clemson, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Utah
Don't get too caught up on the last two category names; they're still teams I think are among the top 25 in the country. Also note that the above lists are purely alphabetical so far. These categories are simply for grouping teams to make the poll easier to put together. No one in the Pretty Good category, for instance, will be below a Decent team, but none will be above a Very Good team either.
I also use this part of the method to fool myself into actually ranking how good I think teams are. The categories are also to abstract out the rankings entirely so I can focus on just the groupings and not the numbers. I might end up with a team at, say, 15 and think "wait, that's not a top 15 team" and then go and mess something up. I wanted to get my pure, un-fooled around with thoughts.
Based on the above paragraph, it should not surprise you that I mostly just thin sliced the rankings within the categories. Having done that, I ended up with this for my first draft of a top 25:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Ole Miss
- Virginia Tech
- Boise State
- Georgia Tech
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- Michigan State
I can tell you right now I'm not satisfied with a few things, but that kind of was the point. Anyhow, fire away in the comments, keeping in mind that this is just a draft of a preseason poll.
As a voter I promise two things: 1) I will not blindly follow last week's rankings and instead reconsider things as necessary, and 2) I will not automatically move a team down for losing to a higher ranked team. The second practice among voters especially irks me, because for instance, if No. 20 loses to No. 1, weren't you already expecting that? Why would you automatically move No. 20 down below teams that played opponents that were below No. 1? Why penalize the schedule instead of evaluating the performance?
This is why we need a playoff of some sort. Voters suck.