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Blog Pollin': Preseason Roundtable, Part One

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Per Blog Poll gatekeeper Brian, who commands all voters to bash their own ballot in hopes of creating some discussion and movement of certain teams from this week’s practice vote to next week’s officially official offering, which will stand as THE preseason Blog Poll. As I explained when I put out a hasty "eyeball" poll with no attempt at methodology or internal cosistency on Wednesday, the real, obsessed-over top 25 to which SMQ is accountable over the year is coming next week. But since he only asks two questions, and it’s important to be an active, conscientious Blog Poll citizen, I’ll add to the discussion from the ballot I submitted.

Overrated?

Intuitive Blog Poll, Preseason
1. Southern Cal
2. LSU
3. Texas
4. West Virginia
5. Michigan
6. Oklahoma
7. Louisville
8. Florida State
9. Ohio State
10. Virginia Tech
11. Florida
12. Wisconsin
13. Nebraska
14. Georgia
15. TCU
16. Oregon
17. Penn State
18. Rutgers
19. Miami
20. California
21. UCLA
22. Auburn
23. Hawaii
24. Alabama
25. Boise State
I’m leery about the quarterback issues at Oklahoma and Ohio State, but both of those teams are going to be vicious on defense, as usual, and will be able to pound 90 percent of their respective schedules into submission with a very quarterback-friendly running game. But Florida State?

It’s inescapable that, after a solid decade in the top five, FSU has devolved into a shell of its once-great self, and hasn’t even approached the year-end top ten since Chris Weinke left, though they’ve started there or found themselves there within the first few games of the season every year since. Clearly, it takes a disaster of a season with losses to NC State, Maryland and Wake Forest to fully cure the prognostocenti of its perpetual belief in the rejuvneative abilities of all that speed, because our minds have been so conditioned that way: when we see the garnet and gold, we still see the lean, aggressive, quarterback-killing machines that sauntered over the corpses of rest of the ACC. The players look the same, and Bobby Bowden’s still puttering around with his folksy jowls, and so we forget what decade we’re living in.

I should have learned my lesson well before last summer, when I came really, really, ashamedly close to ranking FSU number one or thereabouts in the preseason...

...largely because of an old-school schedule that includes Miami up front, Florida at the back, and not much apparent danger in between. The inexplicable ACC loss, and often two of them, has become the routine in the darkness of the Rix years and on into Drew Weatherford Era, but not necessarily guaranteed to continue. For one, the late season slide coincided with season-ending injuries to three starting offensive linemen, an area that ought to be counted as a veteran asset this year. Two, the win over Virginia Tech and hard-fought overtime loss to Penn State in the Orange Bowl were reminiscent of the old FSU teams that finished up here without fail. And three, Mickey Andrews has another crop of robotic mustangs set on 'destroy.'

The only real requirments for a major comeback season that would include a more convincing conference championship in a vulnerable league are health, a reduction in picks from Weatherford and a better willingness to get the ball into the hands of very dangerous backs Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith. Won't win 'em all, but every game is winnable, at least.

...and yet here I am, thinking exactly the same thoughts about the same team, again, because I can’t let go of the notion that Florida State is so stocked in the bodily-kinesthetic sense that it can’t help but win ten games with the competent guidance it sought and acquired back in January. Until this year, the recruiting classes has steadily topped the ACC.

And so I’m enticed back into the demon grasp of Florida State in the top ten, though the additions of Colorado, Alabama and Virginia Tech are razor teeth on the schedule where Rice, Western Michigan and Virginia resided for half the ‘Noles’ wins last year, because I still believe in the talent (especially compared to the rest of the conference) and the fast-healing powers of Jimbo Fisher, Rick Trickett and Chuck Amato, whose departure for the NC State job (and Mark Richt’s for Georgia) coincided with the precipitous decline of the Jeff Bowden era. On paper, this still looks like a team that can compete nationally. But I still half expect to be writing this exact apologia again the same time next year.


"Florida State" still evokes certain assumptions. Also: nightmares.
- - -
I’m also wondering a little what led me to bump Auburn into the mix, when I was just minutes from excoriating the vulnerability of its skin-of-the-teeth routine last year. A healthy Auburn is still a very good Auburn, but the Tigers’ schedule is unforgiving for a team with so many legit questions on offense. Auburn may be looking at a significant slip in this poll, and I think we’d be right about that in the end.

Underrated?

If you’re going to bother ranking Hawaii and Boise State at all, it might as well be way up at the top, because a one-loss team with either’s schedule may not crack the polls at all. By including them at all, you’re conceding one or the other will probably be undefeated, and therefore they should go rocketing up close to the top five, where an undefeated team from the WAC will tend to finish.

At the same time, the Pac Ten is likely to have a second team in the top dozen, at least, by the end of the year. I find it difficult to distinguish between the merits of Oregon, UCLA and Cal, but to group them all between 16-21 reeks of indecisive hedges and decimal point thinking. Somebody’s got to win those games, and somebody’s got to lose; they can’t split them. So one of that three – I think very high-octane Oregon or, maybe a safer pick given the last three-four years, Cal – is going to pull away to a relatively big year, and one is going to fade out. I don’t think the Pac Ten will earn a second BCS bid, but no matter how cloes they look on paper, they won’t all wind up bunched together.

Cal, as I suggested, might be the pull-away team that finishes around the top ten with a 10-3 or 11-2 kind of year. I don’t like the Bears’ defense in the least, but we’ve also learned not to doubt a quarterback as obviously talented as Nate Longshore after three years under Jeff Tedford. Cal has spent all but two weeks over the last three years somewhere in the polls, a streak only USC has beat (the Trojans have spent about four and a half consecutive years in the AP top ten) and no other Pac Ten teams comes close to matching. Depending on what happens against Tennessee, Cal has the offense in spades to match Oregon’s on the scoreboard, and a better record of stability.