Breaking down the USA Today preseason poll

Yes, this is Jimmy Clausen.  Hard to believe anyone would give this kid or his team a national ranking after their last two seasons.
Yes, this is Jimmy Clausen. Hard to believe anyone would give this kid or his team a national ranking after their last two seasons.

The USA Today preseason football coaches’ poll was released Friday morning, and the 25 teams included contained a lot of what we expected, but a few shockers.

Here is the complete list, with the number in parentheses being the number of first-place votes received:

1. Florida (53)
2. Texas (4)
3. Oklahoma (1)
4. USC (1)
5. Alabama
6. Ohio State
7. Virginia Tech
8. Penn State
9. LSU
10. Mississippi
11. Oklahoma State
12. California
13. Georgia
14. Oregon
15. Georgia Tech
16. Boise State
17. TCU
18. Utah
19. Florida State
20. North Carolina
21. Iowa
22. Nebraska
23. Notre Dame
24. Brigham Young
25. Oregon State

Florida got 53 of 59 first-place votes, which couldn’t be less of a surprise. This will be the Year of the Florida Gators (in case you haven’t already noticed by ESPN’s coverage of Florida’s 5:30 a.m. practices), and only Florida themselves will be able to play their way out of the BCS Championship Game.

The Southeastern Conference has four teams in the top ten to begin the season, with Alabama (No. 5), LSU (no. 9), and Ole Miss (No. 10) joining Florida. So looking at the top ten, what team is the biggest surprise?

I think it’s Virginia Tech.

If I had the chance to vote, the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference I would deem worthy of a spot in the top ten would be Georgia Tech. I know VT won the ACC Championship and the FedEx Orange Bowl in 2008, but let’s be honest, neither one of those games were against elite teams (Boston College and Cincinnati, respectively).

I have reason to believe VT is ranked as high as they are because it will make their season-opener against Alabama easier to promote. Everyone wants to believe the Hokies are the only team in the ACC with a legitimate shot at a national title run in the near future, but they have done plenty in the past to prove that they aren’t ready.

Moving down the poll, I am shocked to see that GT is ranked two spots below Georgia. I’m not sure what the Yellow Jackets did to deserve that, but I’m sure Georgia will do whatever it takes to squander that advantage by late-November, and remember that this year’s edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate takes place in Atlanta, not Athens.

Below the Jackets are the three “courtesy rankings” of little engines that could- Boise State, TCU, and Utah. Pick one of those teams to rise as high as No. 11 or 12 by the end of the year, and pick the other two to hover near the bottom of the poll. It doesn’t really matter which one you pick to overachieve, but rest assured that there will be whining in December about how they deserve equal consideration for a spot in the championship game.

At No. 19 and 20, we have the only other ACC teams in the top 25- Florida State and North Carolina, respectively. I was a little surprised to see FSU ranked above UNC, but all questions will be answered on Oct. 22 in Chapel Hill, as the Seminoles travel to Chapel Hill for a Thursday night showdown with the Tar Heels.

Finally, at the bottom of the poll, we have the “What the hell?” moment, as Notre Dame checks in at No. 23. What are we basing this off of, their postseason win over Hawaii last December in a virtually meaningless bowl game?

Notre Dame’s schedule looks like absolute garbage (again), but that didn’t stop the Fighting Irish from winning just ten games the last two seasons combined. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen was winning that many games every year in high school.

But I’m sure the magician that is Charlie Weis will turn it all around this year.