Preseason polls? Yeah, they’re meaningless.

Well, they’re meaningless in terms of what a team can do. As far as generating discussion and shaping offseason narratives, they aren’t meaningless at all. In fact, they’re pretty important in that regard.

The other day, I looked at 5 B1G teams who fell short of reaching some lofty preseason goals/expectations. Today, we do the opposite.

And remember, this list is based entirely on preseason expectations and what we thought a team’s potential could be heading into the year:

T5. 2017 Michigan State

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Final AP ranking: No. 15 (10-3, 7-2 vs. B1G)

Coming off perhaps the most disappointing season in MSU history, I remember thinking that the Spartans would be lucky to get to a bowl game. Even worse than the 3-win 2016 season was a horrifically bad offseason in which 4 players (Donnie Corley, Josh King, Demetric Vance and Auston Robertson) were kicked off the team for sexual assault/misconduct charges.

Yet even with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in position to be juggernauts, MSU had one of those years. It wasn’t quite a 2015 season, but the Spartans beat Michigan and Penn State, and then they shut down Mike Leach’s offense in the Holiday Bowl to earn that all-important 10th win. It was quite the turnaround for a team whose lone conference win the year before came against Rutgers.

T5. 2015 Michigan

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Final AP ranking: No. 12 (10-3, 6-2 vs. B1G)

Yes, it was the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh era and people were excited for that. But the buzz was about Michigan’s long-term outlook, not necessarily 2015. All Harbaugh did was take a 5-win team to double digit victories. Did that team have mostly Brady Hoke players? Absolutely, but let’s not forget the job that Harbaugh did taking Iowa backup Jake Rudock and turning him into one of the most prolific single-season passers in Michigan’s rich history.

The Wolverines might’ve gotten blown out by Ohio State, but they still came into that game with an outside chance to play for a B1G Championship. Considering a year earlier their final home game was spent losing to Maryland for an opportunity to clinch bowl eligibility, that was still an incredible feat.

And one could say that it set the bar pretty high for the Harbaugh era.

4. 2016 Wisconsin

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Final AP ranking: No. 9 (11-3, 7-2 vs. B1G)

What happened with 2016 Wisconsin is one of the things that I hate with preseason polls. It’s almost like a ref anticipating a call. Because the Badgers’ schedule looked so daunting, they were unranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 2009. It didn’t matter that the likes of Jack Cichy, Vince Biegel and Corey Clement returned for that team, which still won 10 games in Year 1 of the Paul Chryst era in 2015.

So what did the Badgers do with that schedule? They nearly became the first 2-loss team to make the Playoff.

The opening weekend victory against No. 5 LSU set the tone for that.

When the Badgers demolished No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing (that team ultimately turned out to be a disappointment), they smashed any notion that their schedule would prevent them from being one of college football’s best.

Wisconsin suffered 7-point losses to No. 2 Ohio State, at No. 4 Michigan and against No. 8 Penn State in the B1G Championship. Had the Badgers won any of those games, they might’ve earned a Playoff berth. Instead, they settled for a New Year’s 6 win against P.J. Fleck’s Western Michigan squad.

3. 2015 Iowa

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Final AP ranking: No. 9 (12-2, 8-0 vs. B1G)

I remember writing stories about Kirk Ferentz’s insane contract and whether or not 2015 would push Iowa to try and eat it. Coming off a 7-win 2014 season in which Iowa finished with a 3-game losing streak and an epically awful collapse at home against Nebraska, expectations were low heading into 2015.

But then, C.J. Beathard, Desmond King and the Hawkeyes did something magical. They tore through their 2015 schedule and became the most polarizing Playoff subject. While the world debated their strength of schedule schedule, all the Hawkeyes did was rack up win after win en route to the program’s first 12-0 start in school history.

They wound up being an L.J. Scott goal-line reach away from playing for a Playoff berth, and obviously the Christian McCaffrey-led Rose Bowl blowout loss ended things on a sour note. But still, that Iowa team that looked like a 7-win group nearly pulled off one of the most improbable Playoff bids imaginable.

2. 2014 Ohio State

Preseason ranking: No. 5*

Final AP ranking: No. 1 (14-1, 8-0), National Champs

Why is that asterisk there, you ask? Well because that preseason ranking came out before Braxton Miller was ruled out for the year.

After news spread of his shoulder surgery, Ohio State’s Playoff odds went from 10-1 to 40-1. The Buckeyes went from the overwhelming B1G favorites at 5-4 to third at 3-1, though Michigan State and Wisconsin were only at 5-2. Shoot, Ohio State’s ticket prices dropped 10% on the secondary market on the first day after the news hit the masses.

Needless to say, it worked out for the Buckeyes without Miller. The J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones combination led Ohio State to a season it wasn’t supposed to have. This ranking isn’t based on in-season lows like the Virginia Tech debacle, which brought out a lot of the same critics who counted the Buckeyes out after the Miller injury.

This is a tricky ranking because while Ohio State did what few thought it could do to reach a national title, it was still a team that before the Miller injury, was tabbed as a legitimate Playoff contender. Even though some argued Miller was the most important player of anyone in college football entering 2014, it was still an NFL-loaded roster that was a year removed from a 12-2 season.

But in the wake of the Miller news, nobody in their right mind would’ve picked the Buckeyes to beat Alabama and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota en route to a national title.

1. 2016 Penn State

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Final AP ranking: No. 7 (11-3, 8-1 vs. B1G)

In hindsight we look back at the 2016 Penn State team knowing how special Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and Co. were and we think, duh, of course that group was capable of winning a B1G Championship and nearly winning the Rose Bowl. But back in the 2016 preseason, what suggested that kind of year?

The ever-polarizing Christian Hackenberg was gone, but more importantly, so were All-B1G defensive linemen Anthony Zettel, Austin Johnson and Carl Nassib, as were both coordinators. James Franklin had yet to beat Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State, and he was starting to feel the pressure to win in the post-Jerry Sandusky sanctions era.

To Franklin’s credit, that’s exactly what that group did. Even more impressive was the fact that Penn State went into October with 2 losses already, yet it still nearly clinched a Playoff berth with an incredible 10-game winning streak that included the miracle upset of Ohio State, and a comeback win against Wisconsin in the B1G Championship. The latter doesn’t get talked about enough considering how special that aforementioned Badger defense was:

Even though the Lions got snubbed from the Playoff, it was still a “we’re back” season that few saw coming.

It’s worthy of the top spot on this list.