Preseason Blogpoll Ballot 2009

Submitted by Tim on August 18th, 2009 at 6:48 PM

[Editor's note: I'm handing the blogpoll ballot to Tim this year; it was always a little weird to act as both a voter and the poll's editor or whatever.]

Voting criteria: As per Brian's mission with the Blogpoll, my goal will be to rank the "best season" at a given point. Very early in the season, pre-season ranking may be a contributing factor to "best season" (unless you get pasted in your first game, a la Clemson). After 3 or 4 games though, it should transition into a resume ranking of which teams you've beaten, and how convincingly.

tebow-jonas-brothers

(via Gump 4 Heisman; HT JCCW)

1. Florida. They're probably a near-unanimous choice at the top, and with good reason. The Gators return all 11 starters (and their 10 backups) on a defense that finished #9 in yardage and #4 in points ceded. By the way, they also return The Tebow Child. The holes on this team are basically nitpicks when you look at how solid the rest of the lineup is.

2. Texas. The Longhorns are in a similar situation as Florida: they return most (though not all) of a pretty good defense, a robo-QB in Colt McCoy, and a solid core on offense. Texas will have to prove that the pass rush is still strong without Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton, but returning 4 starters on the offensive line, including 3 who were all-conference to some degree, gives a sense of certainty on that side of the ball while the defense has some time to come around.

3. USC. I'm hesitant to put the Trojans here because they lost so much talent in the NFL Draft. However, it's hard to find another team that deserves to replace USC here. With an outstanding defensive player in Taylor Mays and an already-impressive offensive line that returns almost entirely intact, it's hard to bet against the team that recruits at least as well as any other.

4. Oklahoma. I was initially hesitant to put Oklahoma in the top 5, because their offensive line, though it performed as well as nearly any in the country, loses four multi-year starters. Considering it struggled against the more talented defenses the Sooners faced (18 sack yards, only 107 rush yards against Florida, 3 sacks allowed and only 48 rush yards against Texas, 4 sacks allowed and 25 yards rushing against TCU), and that could bode ill for a rebuilding line. Still, the defense, while only mediocre last year in the high-flying Big 12, returns nearly everyone, and could be better this year than last.

5. Alabama. The defense, which owned fools left and right through most of last year, as Florida, Utah, and Georgia were the only teams to hit the 30-point mark - and the Bulldogs only did it in garbage time in a game that was a blowout at halftime. The offense loses quite a bit, otherwise the Tide would probably be among the nation's top teams. Still, I like Julio Jones no matter who's throwing it to him.

6. Virginia Tech. Tyrod Taylor has to live up to the hype sooner or later, right? If he does it this year, VT could be a very dangerous team. They boast a bruising attack on offense (though diminished with the loss of Darren Evans), and their always-rockin' defense returns 7 starters. The offense being able to come together without the rising star RB will be key for the Hokies.

7. Cal. I came into the offseason thinking that Minnesota's tilt with Cal would be a winnable non-conference game for the Big Ten. While any game is theoretically winnable, I have changed my mind on the Golden Bears. They return 8 starters on defense, including the entire secondary. The linebackers may be a liability, but there is enough talent there to make up for a deficiency. On offense, Jahvid Best is enough to like Cal, but hopefully a restructured offensive line will be able to get him into space.

8. Georgia. Though the Bulldogs lose their starting QB and RB, the entire offensive line is back, along with most of the defense. They were overrated to start last year, but maybe slightly lower expectations will help this team, especially with a slightly stronger core.

9. Ohio State. It is super-annoying to continually rank Michigan's biggest rival this high, but them's the ropes sometimes. While Ohio State has a lot of weak-ish areas, I don't see any serious liabilities. Terrelle Pryor might mature (or he might get in a fight and be kicked off the team, if there's a just and loving god), the offensive line will be boosted by some guy at left guard, and the defense in Columbus, as much as it pains me to say, reloads year after year. Since the Buckeyes weren't elite last year despite having more talent, I could see them moving down from this spot.

10. Ole Miss. I do not like the Rebels this high, do not like it one bit. However, what other reasonable options are there? Houston Nutt's team is riding a wave of momentum of last year's upset of Florida and a huge win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. I think they're likely to fall flat a couple times during the season, as this team wasn't as good last year as the hype indicates (Wake Forest? Vanderbilt? South Carolina?).

11. Penn State. Daryll Clark and Evan Royster will really have to carry this team on offense, as the majority of the offensive line and most of the receivers have left Happy Valley. If Clark can consistently lay like he did early in '08, that might not be a huge problem. Defensively, the front 7 should be pretty good, though there isn't a ton of depth along the defensive line. The secondary is scary though, as all 4 starters depart, and AJ Wallace's paul-johnsonsituation is in question.

12. Georgia Tech. This may be my first wildly divergent team, but look what Tech returns: Only every starter on offense (save one), and 8 defensive starters. Losing 3 outstanding defensive linemen might hurt them, but nearly everyone else is back. Also, I just  really want to see this team do well, because the offense is so damn much fun. If they can smooth out the offensive production in year 2 under Paul Johnson, it could be a fun season in Atlanta.

13. Miami (Yes That Miami). Randy Shannon has been stockpiling talent in Coral Gables over the past couple years, and it's only a matter of time before they break through and start reliving the glory days (either that, or Shannon is gone). Jacory Harris was a more efficient passer last year than starter Robert Marve, and if you believe in talent over scheme, the defense has to be awesome sooner or later.

14. Oklahoma State. I really, really like Dez Bryant, and Zac Robinson can certainly get him the ball. Though both guards are new, the offense has plenty of experience at the other positions. Defensively, there are more questions. The unit wasn't too good last year, and losing 5 starters isn't going to help. If they can slow down some of the better Big 12 offenses (no easy task), the Cowboys could have a quality 2009 season.

15. Iowa. I didn't like Iowa heading into the offseason, but taking a closer look at how the team actually performed, especially over the second half of last year, convinced me otherwise. Shonn Greene is a special back, but the offensive line that helped him to 1850 yards last year returns 3 starters, along with a couple of upperclassmen to fill the void. Speedster Jewel Hampton is no Greene, but he'll have to get at least a bit of success behind that line. Defensively, the Hawkeyes should be golden if they can handle the losses of their two defensive tackles.

16. Illinois. This may be a bit high for the Illini, especially coming off a bowl-free year. However, Juice Williams, Rejus Benn, and Co. showed some serious flashes of brilliance last season. If they can harness all that power for good, this can be an awesome offense. The defense has some serious question marks, but the Illini might be in "outscore everybody" mode.

17. TCU. The Horned Frogs have been among the better defensive teams over the past few years, so I don't doubt their ability to rebuild a bit on that side of the ball. Returning sackmaster Jerry Hughes should help smooth the transition for 7 new starters on that side of the ball. Offensively, the line is the question mark, but it's got some older players, even if they don't have starting experience.

18. LSU. The offense will be less tumultuous with Jarrett Lee on the bench instead of throwing touchdowns to the other team. Jordan Jefferson wasn't exactly a world-beater himself, but at least he wasn't giving away points left and right. Defensively, plenty of starters return, but they'll have to improve as well: they gave up more than 50 points twice, and over 30 thrice more.

19. UCLA. They weren't particularly good last year, but I'm totally feelin' the Rick Neuheisel vibes, man. That and the QB situation should be improved by removing Kevin Craft from the starting spot. The offensive line is experienced, which should cut down on QB pressure and the resultant turnovers. Defensively, 7 starters return.

20. Nebraska. It's time, especially with the division entering something of a down period, for the Huskers to return to their rightful place at the top of the Big 12 North (where they've been only once since 1999). The defense should see some real improvement in year 2 under Bo Pelini, especially with so many offensive skill players leaving the Big 12 North.

21. Boise State. I don't like basing pre-season power rankings on a projected finish, as that's not what power rankings are supposed to be, but Boise state has been so consistently excellent over the past decade (averaging fewer than 2 losses per year) that it's hard to doubt them. They'll have a chance to prove themselves early in the season, as they kick off 2009 with a Thursday game against Oregon.

22. Notre Dame. South Bend, Indiana: Where 5-stars go to die. Notre Dame has loaded up every February, and has been between awful and mediocre the past two seasons. The Hawaii Bowl victory has everyone high on them, but Notre Dame also lost to Syracuse, and was mostly outplayed by a terrible Michigan team, only winning thpittanks to 6 Wolverine turnovers. The light schedule will have pundits falling in love with them, but this Irish team is nothing special.

23. Pittsburgh. The defense returns 7 starters, and it was actually pretty good to start with last year. The offense takes a big hit with the loss of LeSean McCoy, but senior Bill Stull should be a steady quarterback. The offensive line has some experience, and the  Panthers look like the early favorite in the Big East. Also, including Pitt gives me an excuse to post a picture mocking Notre Dame.

24. Clemson. The Tigers are routinely one of the most talented teams in the ACC, but that hasn't meant results. As a matter of fact, Clemson has never even won the Atlantic Division, despite being favored at some point in each of the past three seasons. CJ Spiller is among the best offensive playmakers in the ACC, and a pretty good offensive line will clear the way for him. The defense returns 8 starters. The team chemistry seemed to improve after Dabo Swinney took over last year.

25. Oregon. This may be my version of the "OMG OLE MISS BOWL VICTORY WOOOO!!!!!1," but Oregon looked kind of awesome against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, and Jeremiah Masoli really came of age. The offensive line will be mostly new, but that hasn't prevented Oregon from putting up huge rushing numbers in the past. The defense could be a huge question mark, but what team at this point in a ranking doesn't have obvious deficiencies?

The whole thing:
Where have I gone horribly wrong? Let me know in the comments.

Comments

ohio-michiganfan

August 18th, 2009 at 6:57 PM ^

About #9 Ohio State you wrote Terrelle Pryor might get into a fight and get kicked off the team. Get in a fight maybe, but get kicked off the team? Not gonna happen. He might have to sit out the first play of the game but he will not get kicked off the team.

Amazin-Blue

August 18th, 2009 at 7:05 PM ^

So, is this NEW criteria?

"it should transition into a resume ranking of which teams you've beaten, and how convincingly"

I sure hope so. In the past, it has usually been "how you think the teams will end up after 12 games".

Which, of course, has resulted in some pretty ridiculous rankings.

Not a Blue Fan

August 18th, 2009 at 7:35 PM ^

Nothing here that deviates too wildly from the apparent consensus, though I think the consensus has some nits to pick. Alabama will be good by the end of the year, but they're breaking in a new QB, RB, and LT. That spells trouble on offense. Similar situation at Georgia. VT continues to inexplicably garner high regard. Georgia Tech will probably be much better than most of us think at this point.

And no, OSU doesn't deserve to be #9 based purely on what they bring back to the table. They'll earn it this year; they're probably a top 5 team, but 5-15 is about right for them, depending on the breaks.

Engin77

August 18th, 2009 at 7:24 PM ^

Tough schedule; five conference road games (the down side of round robin scheduling) and a game at Tennessee (which has alot to prove). I'll be very surprised if UCLA sniffs the Top 25. No way they win in the rain at Oregon State on Halloween (BTW, the Beavers' colors are orange and black).

Irish

August 18th, 2009 at 7:32 PM ^

"and was mostly outplayed by a terrible Michigan team, only winning thanks to 6 Wolverine turnovers."

#1 I am pretty sure turnovers only score points in fantasy football

#2 Yeah it was pretty mean for ND to keep taking the ball away from UM, we should have just given back the ball after the return men decided they didn't want to hold on to it anymore. Hopefully you guys take the ball past the 50 before turning it over this year that way you can't use your "but, but, but we had more yards than them" excuse, and yes that is all it was, an excuse.

ameed

August 18th, 2009 at 8:21 PM ^

I agree with this comment. It is annoying to hear the whole "we beat them in every way but the score" argument. How was the play Mr. Lincoln, you know, besides the hole in your head.

Not that I like Weis or ND, but you dont really need to do anything once you are up 21-0, why not run run run punt for 45 minutes and play prevent D and get the win?

Tim

August 18th, 2009 at 8:47 PM ^

For predictive purposes, turnovers won't help ND this year. If you're unwilling to accept that, I'm sorry, but you're just stupid.

Being outplayed on a down-to-down basis (by a stunning margin) means ND really wasn't as good as they seemed against Michigan last year.

sonofasonofadomer

August 19th, 2009 at 4:08 PM ^

Hawaii may have been the only game ND covered as the fave (or at least felt like it). If they come out of the gate with a strong showing against Nevada, and the opener for UM is tight, it might tick closer to 4.5-5. Of course they have not come out of the gate strong since '05, so I will be waiting with a cynical eye.

Irish

August 18th, 2009 at 10:03 PM ^

ND made fewer mistakes in the game to win against UM last season. They made less mistakes because they were no longer predominantly freshman, had a better handle on both the offense and the defense and players who wanted to show they were no longer a 3-9 team.

Everyone of those bobbled punts and fumbles were taken away from the UM player. They weren't just picking the ball up, it was a ND player taking the ball away, forcing the turnover, wanting it more.

Yeah I think we can count on a few turnovers this year, UM, MSU, Purdue, USC, and UConn are all playing a first year starter if not a freshman. They have a tendency to make mistakes....

Irish

August 19th, 2009 at 12:08 AM ^

No not at all
ND recovering your dropped kicks was them wanting the ball more,

If you can bare it (NBCs condensed version of the game):
http://www.hulu.com/watch/38799/notre-dame-2008-michigan-vs-notre-dame
1:30ish Receiver misses lateral, ND player beats him to the recovery
2:55ish ND gunner rips ball away from returner as he tries to recover the loose ball.
25:25ish RB fumbles as he is being tackled by ND, DB put his helmet on the ball to punch it out. ND recovers it.

I think they make my point, ND didn't play mistake free, but they made fewer than UM and took advantage of them.

Chrisgocomment

August 18th, 2009 at 11:15 PM ^

haha...I knew you'd take exception to that comment as soon as I read it...

I sort of agree with you in that you can't really say "well, without this mistake and that mistake my team would have won" - well, woulda coulda shoulda you know? Michigan turned the ball over, they lost, end of story. I don't like discounting turnovers like that because you take away from what the other team did to cause them. Should we say that Michigan's win over Wisconsin last year doesn't count since Wisconsin played like shit in the 2nd half? NO!

Tim

August 18th, 2009 at 11:36 PM ^

You're correct that the results are the results. Michigan deserved to lose that game, Notre Dame deserved to win it, fair and square.

However, for predicting the future, you can't assume that Notre Dame is going to get the benefit of a +4 turnover margin in order to get wins. Being outplayed down-to-down by a terrible team means that you got lucky, and will likely regress in the following season in that respect.

blue note

August 19th, 2009 at 12:22 AM ^

I think everyone remembers the ND game a bit differently than I do. In the first half, ND had a short field twice and scored and also made some big plays in the passing game.

The second half was a complete torrential downpour, and ND completely gave up on the passing game and tried to run out the clock with little to no success. Meanwhile, McGuffie had some great runs on counters and a screen and racked up a lot of yards.

I just checked the stats and Clausen had a 136 yards passing in the first half on 8 completions and 11 yards passing in the second half on 2 completions. So considering its unlikely the 2009 game will be played half in a monsoon and ND will probably throw it 40 times, I hesitate to take to much out of this game.

sonofasonofadomer

August 19th, 2009 at 4:03 PM ^

...I am a lurker and pretty much never post. Great blog, particularly for its tactical breakdowns (I came here originally from Bluegreysky blog). The one error I see in the current assessment of the Michigan/ND matchup this year is the prevailing assumption that only Michigan will improve, and the opposing team will stagnate. I think it is fair to say that the skill position players in the ND offense will be even better, as much of their talent are now experienced juniors. The Irish D has a lot of question marks but at least those getting the the majority of reps this year will likely get a whiff of the draft in coming years, unlike most of the exiting starters. It remains to be seen (and I wanted Weis fired) but his offense at least was pretty strong when he inherited some experience upon his arrival. Also, to be frank, it is the Michigan D I believe will be the chief concern for the Wolverines this year based simply on depth. This is a problem than can only really be improved upon with a couple of recruitment classes. One more painful year, and then I think the stars begin to align for Rodriguez (which would be great since UM is killing ND's SOS....that was a joke...sort of). There are simply too many unavoidable growing pains when you have a true freshman manning the ship of a team coming out of the season you just had.

Regarding the poll: Miami is too high (they will see their season ruined with the rough 4 games to open), Illini have nothing on D, and UCLA, particularly based on recent years (egads, Weis actually beat them his 3-9 year!!) does not belong in the top 25. Oklahoma lost enough that I think they slip to a 3 loss season (same for 'Bama) and me-thinks the Big 12 and SEC creep back toward a big heap of parity, save the one loss Gators who will return to the championship game. Sidebar, Weis has zero excuses to not go 10-1 with that schedule, given the other teams losses and the fact that on paper the irish are likely favored in almost every game. Will he?? Sigh....doubtful.

Tim

August 19th, 2009 at 5:29 PM ^

"The one error I see in the current assessment of the Michigan/ND matchup this year is the prevailing assumption that only Michigan will improve, and the opposing team will stagnate."

I don't think anybody's making that assumption. The issue is that "not much better and likely worse than a horrible, horrible team" is still not very good.

sonofasonofadomer

August 20th, 2009 at 9:47 AM ^

"I don't think anybody's making that assumption. The issue is that not much better and likely worse than a horrible, horrible team" is still not very good." - Tim

^^Umm, I have absolutely zero idea what that statement means. :)

But if I am to take it that ND is supposed to be not much better and likely worse than the horrible, horrible UM squad, I think the maize and blue blinders might be on. If you were fair and took a look at the progression of Clausen and the returning starts, etc, ND should be (coach notwithstanding) an improved team this year. Your defense is thin. RRod's got one more tough year, and little on defense past your two top flight linemen. 2010 will bring the legit optimism that some UM fans are putting on this season (akin to the unrealistic optimism of 2007 for ND fans, although your team is slightly ahead at this point comparatively). I think Rodriguez is a very good coach, but if your first true pieces of your offensive puzzle lean toward underclassmen, there will still be many bumps in the road.

Related to the poll - I notice a poster reference the absence of OSU which I agree should be looked at again. I personally feel UNC is overrated, given ND was the better team that day. Weis, just like in the Pitt game, failed to make basic adjustments coming out of the second half when the D dropped back and basically rushed 2/3 linemen and put the rest in pass coverage. God I want the season to start...

blue note

August 19th, 2009 at 12:22 AM ^

I think everyone remembers the ND game a bit differently than I do. In the first half, ND had a short field twice and scored and also made some big plays in the passing game.

The second half was a complete torrential downpour, and ND completely gave up on the passing game and tried to run out the clock with little to no success. Meanwhile, McGuffie had some great runs on counters and a screen and racked up a lot of yards.

I just checked the stats and Clausen had a 136 yards passing in the first half on 8 completions and 11 yards passing in the second half on 2 completions. So considering its unlikely the 2009 game will be played half in a monsoon and ND will probably throw it 40 times, I hesitate to take to much out of this game.

Not a Blue Fan

August 19th, 2009 at 7:17 AM ^

I know this is an M blog, but that is very optimistic. They certainly could crack the top 25 by the end of the year, but ranking them there in the preseason seems a little generous (if you're using a resume type scheme, rather than a end of season predictive scheme).

The King of Belch

August 18th, 2009 at 7:45 PM ^

They have some holes to fill on offense, starting with quarterback.

The defense should be very good--All American DT in Suh.

And if you want to talk about weak schedules--holy shit. Two toughest games are at VaTech and Oklahoma at home. The rest are eminently winnable.

Fill the holes adequately, and I see them going 10-2, playing for the Big 12 championship, and becoming a force again.