EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass in the fourth quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. Barkley was 26 of 34 for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns as USC won the game 38-35. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Matt Barkley and USC are loaded heading into 2012. And voters reward the Trojans with a No. 1 ranking in the first 2012 preseason BlogPoll.
The point of the BlogPoll isn't necessarily to predict the best college football teams in the preseason; it's much better as a tool that combines the insights of dozens of bloggers that follow the sport obsessively, find the smaller teams that are hidden gems, and differentiate between great teams and overrated outfits. That said, we're going to try something new with the BlogPoll in 2012, putting out a few preseason BlogPolls timed to different portions of the college football offseason.
And in the BlogPoll's first preseason top 25 rankings of 2012, USC takes the No. 1 spot.
In a poll that has a significant bit of volatility thanks to a smallish voter base, the Trojans receive fewer first-place votes than No. 2 LSU and still outpoint the Tigers by .36 points per ballot; that's a much smaller difference than the gap between LSU and Alabama, which falls from the overwhelming No. 1 in the final 2011 BlogPoll to a distant No. 3.
Oregon and Oklahoma round out the top five, and Arkansas, Georgia — which earns the lone first-place vote given to a team that ends up in the top 25 that doesn't go to USC, LSU, or Alabama — Michigan, Florida State, and South Carolina finish the top 10.
Wack Ballot Watchdog
A caveat: there are a lot of BlogPoll voters who didn't participate in this preseason poll because of a variety of reasons. (None of them did anything as funny as Dawg Sports' 2031 preseason top 25, which underrates Starfleet Academy, I think.) But there were some weird things this week: Alabama isn't on two ballots, Black Shoe Diaries has LSU 14th and USC 20th (...and Miami No. 1), and, well, it's the preseason, right?
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at No. 25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide (3)||20.73||6.76|
|2||West Virginia Mountaineers||13.00||6.63|
|3||Georgia Bulldogs (1)||17.55||6.48|
After a season of hearing USC Is Underrated on repeat (Pitchfork gave it a 8.9, and heard of Marqise Lee before you), it's possible that Alabama is going to be a 2012 version of the Trojans. The Crimson Tide may be returning fewer than 10 starters from their national championship team in 2011, but there's a lot of faith in Nick Saban and his inexhaustible, possibly oversigned store of players that will have the Tide returning strong in preseason polls.
First up are Mr. Bold and Mr. Numb Existence. The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
|1||Cowboy Altitude||Wyoming Cowboys||ballot||11.26|
|2||Black Shoe Diaries||Penn St. Nittany Lions||ballot||9.31|
|3||Team Speed Kills||South Carolina Gamecocks||ballot||4.08|
|4||Linebacker-U.com||Penn St. Nittany Lions||ballot||3.95|
|5||Building The Dam||Oregon St. Beavers||ballot||3.84|
The preseason is a magical time when ranking Wyoming No. 1, as Cowboy Altitude did, makes as much sense as anything. That will win you some categories, too!
|1||Hustle Belt||Ball St. Cardinals||ballot||2.30|
|2||One Foot Down||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||ballot||2.34|
|3||Alligator Army||Florida Gators||ballot||2.36|
|4||CougCenter||Washington St. Cougars||ballot||2.72|
|5||Block U||Utah Utes||ballot||2.77|
Hustle Belt is brand new to the BlogPoll; I vote for Alligator Army, and have voted in every week of the BlogPoll this year. It's good to see that there are divergent paths to boring.
Next we have the Coulter/Kos Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
|1||Cowboy Altitude||Wyoming Cowboys||ballot||23.86|
|2||Barking Carnival||Texas Longhorns||ballot||8.86|
|3||Block U||Utah Utes||ballot||4.64|
|4||Mountain West Connection||Utah Utes||ballot||2.64|
|5||Smoking Musket||West Virginia Mountaineers||ballot||2.00|
I'm almost sure that this is the highest bias rating in the history of the BlogPoll, but, considering it's a preseason poll and Cowboy Altitude is sort of joking, I'm not sure it counts. Barking Carnival, we should note, has Texas 10th, much as Bill Connelly did in his first preseason rankings for 20112
|1||One Foot Down||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||ballot||-3.73|
|2||Bucky's 5th Quarter||Wisconsin Badgers||ballot||-1.95|
|3||Team Speed Kills||South Carolina Gamecocks||ballot||-1.77|
|4||Big East Coast Bias||Louisville Cardinals||ballot||-1.68|
|5||Corn Nation||Nebraska Cornhuskers||ballot||-1.36|
One Foot Down doesn't have Notre Dame ranked. The BlogPoll does. Often, this category is as easy as that.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
|1||Cowboy Altitude||Wyoming Cowboys||ballot||556|
|2||Black Shoe Diaries||Penn St. Nittany Lions||ballot||460|
|3||Bull Run||Buffalo Bulls||ballot||270|
|4||Big East Coast Bias||Louisville Cardinals||ballot||266|
|5||CougCenter||Washington St. Cougars||ballot||232|
OKAY FINE COWBOY ALTITUDE YOU WIN.
|1||Alligator Army||Florida Gators||ballot||168|
|2||Building The Dam||Oregon St. Beavers||ballot||170|
|3||BC Interruption||Boston College Eagles||ballot||176|
|4||Corn Nation||Nebraska Cornhuskers||ballot||186|
|5||Linebacker-U.com||Penn St. Nittany Lions||ballot||188|
...and I lose!