Well. It's out. Let the meaningless speculation begin in earnest!
|USA Today Coaches' Poll|
So how'd the Big Ten make out this year? Meh....
No. 10 Wisconsin
No. 11 Nebraska
No. 16 Ohio State
No. 17 Michigan State
No. 25 Penn State
It's hard to argue with these rankings, though I think Michigan St. and Penn St. may be a little high. Wisconsin is starting a new QB and replacing a number of players on it's offensive and defensive lines. Nebraska has similar issues and a quarterback that resembled shattered glass by season's end. Still, these two Red Menaces seem to grow 320 lb linemen with the feet of dancers in their ample corn fields just south of their respective stadiums. Either that our they just grab farm boys off the street, throw a helmet on them and say "block". Whatever it is, it works and both programs have a history of churning out linemen from flour and a little rainwater. The rankings seem about right.
Likewise for Ohio State. While the Buckeyes take a hit losing their coach, starting quarterback, and several other players to suspensions, they're friggin' Ohio State. The program is loaded top to bottom with talent, so any step back from last year's
12-1 0-1 season will be tangible, but not significant. The issue won't be talent, it'll be coaching. And until Fickell coaches a game, 16th is probably right based on talent alone.
Michigan St. on the other hand seems high to me. Certainly they won 11 games, but this year they get most of their tough games on the road, lose 12 starters (including crucial starters in the secondary and offensive line), and have a nice big target on their back. The Spartans snuck up on the league last season, I don't see them having that advantage this season. Still, the Spartans have arguably the best defensive line in the Conference and a veteran QB. A mid teens finish in the rankings isn't out of the question, but it just seems a little high to me right now.
Then there's Penn St. The Lions are suffering a Michigan 2008 quarterback exodus right now, and they're not entirely sure Robert Bolden's sticking around either. The Lions should have a decent line this season, but I'm underwhelmed with their offense's ability to score point. Matt McGloin or Bolden will start, but they're not going to have Evan Royster to take the heat off (even if he was less that overpowering last season) and they're not exactly loaded at WR. The Penn St. defense should be better this year in the secondary but a little worse up front. In particular, uncertainty at Linebacker won't help the run defense. I'm not sold on Penn State as a top 25 team, but in all honesty, they're better suited for it than anyone beneath them.
Looking at the schools in front of Michigan you can certainly make an argument with 16 returning starters that the Wolverines should merit some consideration. However, Michigan's inability to close out the year strong, mixed with new coaches doesn't exactly breed confidence. While I think Michigan should be able to finish the season in the top 15(ish), I won't believe that's a possibility until the 8th game of the season.
The rest of the Poll
The top three make sense to me, though I think people are putting a lot of pressure on Landry Jones. Bama and Oregon, however, are loaded for bare and should stay near the top of the polls all year. Moving on to the fun stuff, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M? Really? That's like buying Enron stock in 2000. Yeah, it looks good and everyone wants to work there, but smoke and mirrors only go so far. Also, insert eye roll over any coach believing in their heart (or on their ballot) that Florida St. will actually put it together this year.
Past that, the poll actually makes some sense. Wait. What? Did I have a stroke?