3 B1G takeaways from the first Associated Press poll: Which conference has bragging rights?
Nothing screams the start of college football like getting mad about preseason polls.
That was my first thought seeing the firestorm of tweets following the release of the preseason Associated Press poll. Nothing gets me fired up like arguing about rankings for a season that hasn’t happened yet.
SO LET’S DO THAT RIGHT NOW.
1. Ohio State falls behind Wisconsin…as it should’ve
I realize I sound like a broken record, but I’ve been saying since February that I have more confidence in Wisconsin than Ohio State in 2018. Because of the uncertainty of this Urban Meyer investigation, it appears that others have come around to my school of thought.
Having Wisconsin at No. 4 and Ohio State at No. 5 showed that AP voters at least acknowledged that. Keep in mind that the Coaches Poll votes, which had Ohio State at No. 3 and Wisconsin inexplicably at No. 7, came in before Meyer was put on administrative leave. Still, it’s not likely that AP voters would’ve had Wisconsin all the way back at No. 7.
Clearly, AP voters have done more homework on a Wisconsin team that returns a Heisman Trophy candidate running back, its entire offensive line, a third-year starting quarterback and a wealth of defensive talent coached by arguably one of the top 3 defensive coordinators in America.
Regardless of what happens with this Meyer stuff, voters got it right by having Wisconsin ahead of Ohio State.
2. Michigan State fans won’t play the “disrespect card” with Michigan
I actually thought there was a decent chance that we’d see the Wolverines ranked ahead of the Spartans in the preseason poll. I thought with the Shea Patterson hype, that would perhaps outweigh the fact that MSU has more returning production than any team in America.
Instead, MSU was a comfortable three spots ahead of its in-state rival at No. 11. Nobody in East Lansing can claim a team getting Playoff love that starts off just outside of the top 10 is being disrespected. At least they shouldn’t. This is MSU’s highest preseason ranking since that 2015 Playoff season.
On the flip side, perhaps some of the Jim Harbaugh hype is cooling off among voters. Michigan has its lowest ranking since Year 1 of the Harbaugh era when it started off outside of the top 25.
A lot of that could be the Notre Dame game. For voters, that season-opening showdown will give them a chance to see if Michigan is a legitimate Playoff contender. Win that game and a top-10 spot feels warranted. Lose it and that’s an uphill climb the rest of the way.
3. The B1G has the bragging rights…right?
Including Penn State at No. 10, here’s the breakdown by conference of teams ranked in the top 25 to start the year:
- B1G — 5
- SEC — 5
- ACC — 4
- Big 12 — 4
- Pac-12 — 4
- AAC — 1
- Mountain West — 1
- Independent — 1
Yes, the SEC has two teams in the top three with Alabama and Georgia at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.
But just in terms of preseason poll bragging rights, they belong to the B1G. Why? Well, the conference has 5 teams ranked inside the top 14 to start the season. Here’s the conference breakdown of teams in the top 14:
- B1G — 5
- SEC — 3
- ACC — 2
- Pac-12 — 2
- Big 12 — 1
- Independent — 1
For what it’s worth, anybody bragging about conference supremacy in a preseason poll probably has a bit too much time on his or her hands.
But what it actually means for the B1G has that its top 5 teams won’t have to do much to convince AP voters that they’re contenders. While AP voters don’t determine Playoff teams, it’s worth noting that we’ve still yet to see a Playoff team who started off unranked in the preseason AP poll. That’s significant.
You know what’s even more significant? We’re less than a week and a half away from voting based on actual football games in 2018.
Cheers to that.