Although the rankings no longer have any bearing on who plays for the national title, preseason poll releases are still a mile marker on the road to a new college football season. The first Amway Coaches Poll of 2017 is out, and it’s no surprise Alabama sits at No. 1 atop a familiar list of elite teams entering the fall—by this point in the off-season, most outlets have gravitated towards a general consensus about how good each team is supposed to be.
Peel back the curtain on the voting process, though, and you’ll find endless variety in the individual ballots. Take the last week of the 2016 Coaches Poll, in which Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey put three Big Ten teams ahead of CFP semifinalist Washington, while TCU coach Gary Patterson snuck Oklahoma into the top four. (This is all setting aside the tacit understanding that many, if not all, of the ballots are filled out by schools’ sports information directors, not the coaches themselves.)
In a world where their rankings are irrelevant in the face of the College Football Playoff selection committee, the Coaches Poll’s primary entertainment value lies in “Others Receiving Votes”, the diverse list of snubs on the outside of the Top 25 looking in, and the group of also-rans is never more eclectic than in early August. Below, we recognize some intriguing preseason snubs who could make you pay for overlooking the fine print of this year’s initial rankings.
Three teams who deserve Texas's spot
At No. 23, the Longhorns are the only ranked team that finished under .500 a year ago, and while everything about new head coach Tom Herman’s track record indicates Texas will be noticeably better immediately, there are worthier teams on the wrong side of the cut line, at least at this stage.
Washington State, the top vote-getter not to crack the list (99 votes), brings back hyper-efficient passer Luke Falk, and the Cougars’ late fade against Colorado and blowout loss to Washington in the Apple Cup makes it easy to forget had a line on a spot in the Pac-12 title game in early November. Speaking of the Buffaloes (72 votes), they are being slept on in the Pac-12 South in the shadow of USC—after last season’s improbable division title, coach Mike MacIntyre probably should have gotten more benefit of the doubt from more voters as he tries to replace starting QB Sefo Liufau and the three Colorado DBs that went in the first four rounds of the draft (Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tedric Thompson).
And it’s never safe to make concrete conclusions about NC State (39 votes), but the Wolfpack could easily hop into the Week 2 rankings if they outclass South Carolina in the season opener and see a couple teams above them falter. Last year’s NC State team got Lamar Jackson’d in Louisville but otherwise played the ACC’s elites tough, and the talent coach Dave Doeren has accumulated in the trenches could be an equalizer with the more dynamic teams on the schedule.
Week 1's ranked matchups are great, but...
We already knew Alabama–Florida State, Michigan-Florida and Virginia Tech–West Virginia were the marquee games of college football’s first full weekend of action, but make sure you’re keeping half an eye on the handful of matchups between a Top 25 team and an ORV representative.
No. 15 Georgia has stepped forward as the latest Power 5 team doomed to a white-knuckle season opener against Appalachian State (11 votes), which took Tennessee to overtime on opening night last year. The No. 24 Volunteers, for their part, booked another stress-inducing Week 1 opponent and will take on Georgia Tech (10 votes) on national television inside shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And don’t be surprised if you flip over after the end of Bama-FSU late on Saturday night to find that BYU (10 votes) is giving No. 12 LSU a fight early in the second half.
Shoutout to the single vote-getters
It’s been a decade since Steve Spurrier last threw a courtesy 25th-place vote in Duke’s direction, but scanning the teams on the fringe of the fringe of the summer balloting is still the most compelling part of the Coaches Poll. This year’s preseason poll features six teams that earned just one No. 25 vote: Army, UCLA, Colorado State, Michigan State, Maryland and Toledo.
There’s some intrigue in that group, if you look hard enough for it. Colorado State opens a week early against Oregon State because of a late-September road trip to Hawaii, so the Rams will have any rust knocked off by the time they take on Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver. No complaints here with Army getting a little love after its first win over Navy since 2001. (Since only postseason ballots are made public, there’s no way of knowing who’s so high on the Black Knights, although it’s worth noting that Army coach Jeff Monken is among this year’s 65 voters.) And are we sleeping on the Rockets? Senior quarterback Logan Woodside threw at least three touchdowns in every regular season game last fall, and he’s the early frontrunner to be this year’s mid-week MACtion darling.