Posted: 4:09 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013
By Chris Fuhrmeister
The preseason USA Today Coaches' Poll is out, which means one thing: It's time to start second-guessing and judging pollsters. Six SEC teams are ranked in the top 13, and there are several other items to discuss. Some initial reactions:
Overall, voters seem to have used restraint. A few teams come to mind that could have been vastly overrated going into the season. Ole Miss has a ton of buzz, but the Rebs haven't proven they can step up to the next level yet. Auburn made a good coaching hire and could have drawn a few votes, but coaches remembered the Tigers' 3-9 season in 2012. If Texas A&M; had been No. 2, it wouldn't have been much of a surprise. Basically, the coaches did a mostly good job of avoiding the hype.
SEC love is still in full effect. Six ranked teams, all in the top 13, five in the top 10. That's about as dominant as any one conference can be in a preseason poll. Alabama at No. 1 is obvious, and Georgia, A&M; and South Carolina ranked Nos. 5, 6 and 7, respectively, makes sense, too.
Florida is probably overrated. The Gators are coming off an 11-2 season, but like Auburn in 2006, the 2012 edition of Florida probably wasn't quite as good as its final record. Defense was the big strength for the Gators last season, and they only return four starters on that side of the ball. UF brings back six offensive starters, including quarterback Jeff Driskel and wide receiver Trey Burton, but the offense struggled mightily at times a year ago. There's no reason to believe that won't be the case in 2013, too. Florida isn't going to be bad, but Will Muschamp's team will likely take a half-step back this season.
Texas is probably underrated. The Longhorns are loaded, returning 10 starters on offense and nine on defense and losing just 12 lettermen. Mack Brown's team averaged 35.7 points per game last season -- that ranked just seventh in the Big 12 because, you know, Big 12 -- and it should be better this year. With Oklahoma rebuilding a bit, the 'Horns need to take advantage and win the Big 12. Oklahoma State will certainly have something to say about it, but the conference title very well may come down to the Texas-TCU matchup in Fort Worth on Oct. 26.
Oregon-Stanford for a title-game appearance? Has any other annual game gone from obscurity to a national event in recent years? Oregon and Stanford don't have a ton of combined success, but in the last few seasons, they've both become national powers. This year, the Ducks and Cardinal start off ranked Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, and if they can take care of business, the Nov. 7 showdown in Palo Alto will be the biggest Oregon-Stanford game ever.
Time to put up or shut up, Urbz. Once regarded as the best coach in the game, Urban Meyer was knocked off his pedestal by Nick Saban in 2009 and hasn't really been in the elite discussion since. If Meyer wants to get back in the argument, he needs to win big this year. Coming off a 12-0 probation season, Ohio State should easily be the best team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes get nine players back on offense, including playmakers Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, Corey Brown and Devin Smith. There's no reason OSU shouldn't run the table and get a national title shot -- maybe against Saban and Alabama.
The potential for CHAOS. We haven't had a ton of BCS-related freaking out lately, so it would only be fitting to have plenty of controversy surrounding the national championship game. If Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford can avoid big upsets, the Buckeyes and Ducks or Cardinal should be undefeated at the end of the regular season. If an SEC team runs the table, someone's getting left out in the cold. What would be even more entertaining? Let's have two undefeated power-conference teams and a one-loss SEC team. No matter the outcome, there would be plenty crying by at least one fanbase.
So, what from the preseason coaches' poll sticks out to you?