5 takeaways from the strange preseason AP Top 25
If what you saw from the preseason Associated Press Top 25 surprised you, well, you weren’t paying attention.
That came out wrong. To be clear, I’m not blaming you if you didn’t realize that teams without fall seasons would still be in the preseason poll. There are a million things going on right now. Stuff falls through the cracks.
But we have known for weeks that this poll would be treated as if everyone is playing. The deal is that the teams without fall seasons won’t be ranked once games start.
Keep that in mind as you dissect what was always going to be a strange, strange preseason AP Top 25.
1. I get why they ranked teams without fall seasons … but it’s still weird
Why did the AP elect to keep teams with canceled seasons in the preseason poll? It’s simple. Programs love to be able to brag about that stuff. It doesn’t matter to them that this year is going to have an asterisk on it in a variety of ways. This is still the type of stuff that a team prides itself on because showing up in the preseason poll is a sign of stability. It’s a sign that even in this canceled year, “hey, we’re in the hunt every year.”
But yeah, it’s still weird.
It’s weird because voters, far too often, like to project how they think a team will finish as opposed to where they believe they should start. I can’t imagine how many voters had their brains in a pretzel trying to overthink that.
It’s weird to think that teams like No. 2 Ohio State and No. 9 Oregon aren’t going to be ranked after games are played.
It’s weird to think that the poll is going to look drastically different throughout September, and that Power 5 teams that haven’t played a game through mid-September are going to be ranked while the Ohio States and Oregons won’t be.
It’s weird that a total of 9 teams that aren’t playing this fall are ranked in the preseason Top 25 as if it’s just business as usual.
It’s all just weird.
2. 6 of the top 13 (and 7 of the Top 25) is why the SEC will get the benefit of the doubt in 2020
I’ve been saying for a while that those concerned with the SEC cannibalizing itself in this conference-only season need not worry. The preseason narrative about a conference is massive in a year like this one, at least as it relates to the College Football Playoff. Why? Well, how is that narrative going to change in a conference-only season?
The SEC will benefit from having 6 teams ranked in the top 13 and 7 in the entire Top 25. In case you missed it, here they are:
SEC teams ranked in the 2020 preseason AP Poll
#13 Texas A&M
Kentucky and Mississippi State in the “others receiving votes” category
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) August 24, 2020
Compare that to the other Power 5 conferences. The ACC had No. 1 Clemson, No. 10 Notre Dame (still getting used to that) and No. 18 UNC. Yikes. The Big 12 had No. 5 Oklahoma (more on that later), No. 14 Texas, No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 23 Iowa State.
To recap, the SEC has as many Top 25 teams as the ACC and Big 12 combined. That is important.
3. The team I whiffed the most on in my prediction was … Minnesota
In my defense, I think I was within 3 spots of every team that made the AP Top 25 (here is my on-the-record prediction). That’s not that bad considering how wild this offseason has been. I’m gonna give myself a pat on the back for that.
I predicted that Minnesota would be ranked No. 25 following the news of Rashod Bateman’s opt-out. Instead, they cracked the polls at No. 19. Their ranking was a bit all over the place to begin with coming off their top-10 finish (not a typo). And to be fair, I was high on the Gophers with Tanner Morgan back with that entire 2019 offensive line also returning. But I assumed that a team that has been mediocre for most of the 21st century would get treated as such.
That’s the weird thing is that the voters were supposed to be factoring in the opt-outs, but I’m not entirely sure that they did. At least it didn’t appear that way with a certain Big 12 champ …
4. No. 5 Oklahoma being ranked of No. 6 LSU is flat dumb
Here’s the thing. Even if Kennedy Brooks was still playing for the Sooners this year, which he’s not, Oklahoma looked like an FCS team when it shared a field with LSU. I get it. The Tigers have a very different team, but consider this. Did anybody see how even LSU’s second-stringers were just as good, if not better, than Oklahoma’s first-stringers?
I cannot rank Oklahoma ahead of the SEC’s contenders having watched 3 consecutive years in which the Sooners had either the Heisman Trophy winner or the runner-up … only to lose to 3 different SEC teams. The 2 most recent losses were over by halftime.
This is a perfect example of voters overthinking things. We have yet to see Oklahoma win a non-Big 12 game of substance since 2017. I need to see it before I can believe it against the nation’s elite with Lincoln Riley’s squad.
5. Which SEC teams will slide in by the conference’s opening weekend?
Kentucky is the obvious choice as the SEC’s leader in the “Others Receiving Votes” category. The Wildcats got 20 votes to unofficially rank them No. 34. Mississippi State got 3 votes to come in at No. 43. Those are the 2 most obvious teams that could move into the Top 25 once those 9 ranked teams that aren’t playing are removed at the start of the season.
That means Ole Miss, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Mizzou are on the outside looking in. Would it surprise me to see some voters sneak Ole Miss into the mix with Lane Kiffin? It’s possible, though I think that would be dependent on him adding some big-time last-minute transfer. Otherwise, it’s hard to envision any of those other SEC teams sneaking into the mix.
Still, don’t be surprised if at some point during 2020, there are 9 or 10 SEC teams ranked.