Poll Watch: The Preseason AP Poll

By Vico on August 25, 2014 at 2:45p
In which we take a look at the preseason AP poll.

Every Monday afternoon this season, I'll be looking at college football polls to check for anything that looks amiss, or otherwise looks interesting. I'll start with the AP preseason college football poll. I scraped data from every voter in the AP poll listed on the AP's website and looked through them for some interesting patterns or, namely, curious ballots. You can download the raw data here in *.csv format.

Knowing well that preseason college football ballots are mere guesswork in the broad scheme of things, here are some interesting items from the AP ballots I gathered and what they may mean for conversations about the college football season that starts this week.

AP Preseason Poll
2 ALABAMA 1361
3 OREGON 1334
6 AUBURN 1198
7 UCLA 1106
10 BAYLOR 966
12 GEORGIA 843
13 LSU 776
15 USC 626
16 CLEMSON 536
18 OLE MISS 424
21 TEXAS A&M 238

Are Auburn and Baylor Legit?

Auburn (no. 6) and Baylor (no. 10) are both preseason top ten teams in the AP. Auburn ranks as high as no. 2 (Adam Sparks' ballot) and as low as no. 13 (Jon Wilner). Baylor ranks as high as no. 4 (Eric Hansen) and as low as no. 15 (Chadd Cripe). The range (the appropriate measure of spread for ordinal variables) is unexceptional compared to other teams for which there is disagreement in the AP (e.g. Ohio State). However, I wonder if their position in the preseason ballot squares at all with what we can expect to see near the season's end.

To Auburn's credit, the Tigers went from unranked and receiving no votes in the AP preseason ballot last season to being on the doorstep of an improbable national championship season. However, "improbable" is the key word. Auburn won close games befitting an SEC champion, but, let's be frank, the wins against Georgia and Alabama are ultimately colossal (if entertaining) flukes.

Auburn returns the starting quarterback but loses the Heisman candidate tailback and starting left tackle. The games at Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss may be bigger issues than the issue of attrition.

Meanwhile, despite Baylor's range in the AP preseason poll, there is some agreement on Baylor as a fringe top-ten team. Baylor's standard deviation (assuming an interval-level measurement for the moment) is much smaller than other teams like Auburn, Michigan State, Ohio State, and UCLA. My question is why we keep entertaining Baylor. Baylor hasn't beat a top-25 team on the road in more than a decade (ed. I stopped looking after 2004).

Further, these losses tend to be total defensive implosions as well. Baylor's defense conceded 49 points (Oklahoma State, 2013), 42 points (Oklahoma, 2012), and 56 points (Texas, 2012) in its last three road losses against top-25 competition. Baylor has other attributes of a good team, but not a great team. It also travels to Austin and Norman this year.

Buy or Sell Georgia?

Georgia is the preseason no. 12 team and the highest ranked team to not appear in the top-25 in some ballots. Chadd Cripe and Logan Lowery left Georgia off their ballots. Meanwhile, Scott Wolf puts the Bulldogs as high as no. 4.

Georgia is a puzzling team to rank. In 2012, it was a goal-line play removed from contending for an SEC championship and berth in the national championship game. In 2013, just about everything went wrong en route to an 8-5 season.

Whatever optimism people may have about Georgia hinges on the ability to replace Aaron Murray. On short notice in 2013 after his career ended with an ACL injury, Georgia stumbled. The hope is Georgia found a suitable replacement while managing the loss of three starters on the offensive line.

We'll find out whether Georgia is a buy or sell after the first week. The Bulldogs host no. 16 Clemson in its season-opener. Its next game, after a quick by in Week 2, is at no. 9 South Carolina.

Why Doesn't Marshall Have More Votes?

Ask Phil Steele about Marshall and he'll likely rave about the Thundering Herd. He has them projected into the Orange Bowl against Auburn, just missing the four-team playoff. Picking Marshall as an undefeated team is quite trendy.

So, why don't the Herd have more votes? The quick answer draws attention to Marshall's schedule, which has non-conference games at Miami of Ohio, Rhode Island, Ohio, at Akron, and at Old Dominion. Their schedule is weak to put it lightly. It hosts Rice (which waxed Marshall in the Conference USA championship game last season) and loses East Carolina to the American Athletics Conference.

Marshall is 32nd on points in the AP poll. The Herd appear as high as no. 15 in one poll (Jon Wilner). Donald Heath puts Marshall at no. 19.

Wack Ballots

The AP Poll is an amalgamation of several individual ballots. Some ballots conform quite well to the poll writ large. Bill Rabinowitz's ballot correlates well with the AP poll, minus his inclusion of Mississippi State at no. 25. Same can be said for Ferd Lewis save for his no. 25 vote for Texas. Jay Binkley and Tommy Deas differ very little from the AP Preseason Poll released last week.

Still, there are some ballots that are quite bizarre, prima facie, and can be highlighted here. Drew Sharp was the lone no. 1 vote for Alabama in the AP. He also puts Florida State at no. 3, Ohio State at no. 11, Michigan State at no. 16, Arizona State at no. 13, and even gave a no. 20 selection to Texas Christian.

Jon Wilner's ballot stops making sense after the first five or so spots. Wilner is one of three no. 2 votes for Ohio State, puts Wisconsin at no. 5, South Carolina at no. 18, Marshall at no. 15, and Oregon State at no. 19.

Others Receiving Votes

Michigan's highest spot in an individual ballot was no. 17 (Seth Emerson).

Florida (yes, that Florida) is nominally the AP no. 27. Doug Lesmerises gave Florida the no. 15 spot on his ballot.

Doug Doughty voted Iowa at no. 14. Logan Lowery voted Louisville no. 15.


Comments Show All Comments

DCBuckeye33's picture

Florida at 15 from Doug? Based on what???


+2 HS
e135800's picture
+24 HS
SC Buckeye's picture

My only regret is that I have but one up-vote to give for your comment...

BoFuquel's picture

All I know is JT and #16; we snuck-up on 'em once, ahh, sweet memories. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

+3 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Normally, I'd LOL at the thought of Marshall being a BCS bowl team, but hell, if Phil Steele says it, I'll give it some credibility.

So what do you think happens to the poll after week 1?  I would imagine most anybody would not have OSU at #5 or #6 with Braxton out, but they can't change the polls until the first games, can they?

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
CC's picture

Auburn won close games befitting an SEC champion, but, let's be frank, the wins against Georgia and Alabama are ultimately colossal (if entertaining) flukes.

Auburn's win vs Alabama wasn't a fluke, the final play was a fluke.  Had they not scored the TD they still would have gone into overtime and had at least a 50/50 chance of winning.

+3 HS
Kurt's picture

100% correct.  Thank you CC.

The UGA win however was a stroke of luck, however, it was a game that Auburn was winning comfortably until relatively late into the 4th.

+2 HS
CTBuckeye's picture

It looks like Logan Lowery just re-submitted his ballot from last season? It lines up with the final standings after the bowls were played.  Not sure if that's because he was just lazy, or thinks pre-season polls are b/s, but either way glad this doesn't count towards who determines the playoff teams now.

Would be interesting if this included newspaper they write for...SEC bias in the media is pretty obvious, but knowing exactly how bad it is would be telling I think.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Firedup's picture

I refuse to believe that 8 SEC teams will be in the final AP poll with at least 9 or more wins. Games should be played on the field and not on paper.  The first ranking should not come out til October when there is evidence for the teams playing in the CURRENT SEASON.  This preseason poll is garbage because it gives bloated SoS to the SEC as the "most difficult conference"  Instead lets wait a bit and see the combined W-L of a team's schedule before we anoint a toughest schedule King.

"Making the Great State of Ohio Proud!" UFM

+7 HS
apack614's picture

I don't mind seeing Iowa in the top 25 at all, I figure soon enough they will easily make there way there. I look for them around 13 to 15 by the end of the season

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

BigZ's picture

One big problem with these polls is that most people are ranking teams on where they think they will finish the season instead of who is best. You see it consistently with teams like Marshall where voters see an easy schedule, say the will win 11+ games, and therefore must be a top 15 team.


+1 HS
Kurt's picture

This is why in some ways Wisconsin at 5 isn't too crazy.  Let's say they run the table (which they very well could) going into the B1G Championship Game.  If they were to end the season with a single loss in the B1G CG then top-5 would be appropriate.

USMC11917's picture

You know, living in SEC country I get tired of seeing credit given to the Mississppi teams. When have they ever done anything incredible? In my mind they are the poor man's Northwestern, minus the notable education. Always a lot of hype, rarely any demonstration of such greatness. The fact that when I argue quantity of quality teams in the Big Ten and mention Northwestern, whom beat Vanderbilt, they get discounted. I know rankings won't illustrate my point but Mich St, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn St, Nebraska and the Ohio State are not just cake walks. I don't know enough about Maryland and Rutgers to discuss them.

+1 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

What I love about CFB is all the surprises.  X is supposed to be really good and Y has low expectations.  X finishes 5-7 and Y goes 11-1.

IOW, no one really knows what they are talking about right now.  :)

+1 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

This guy reminds me of an old, skinny penis - with very large ears.

+1 HS
VintonCountyBuck's picture

Sorry, Marshall.. Those pesky Bobcats are about to ruin your season

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

Seabass1974's picture

In my pre-season poll I have EVERYONE ranked at 125th.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

NuttyBuckeye's picture

Really??  I have everyone ranked #1...  Every team IS undefeated yet, right?

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

Seabass1974's picture

That's an entitlement attitude. Everyone starts at the bottom and moves up.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

kdogg72's picture

I believe Oregon is overrated. The PAC 12 is good this year and Oregon has not recruited well lately. Unless they are exceptional at player development I see more losses than normal