One of the distinguishing features of the College Football Blog Poll is that it is a discussion. Voters not only submit ballots, but they converse about each other's ballots. Odd ballots are scrutinized, with fellow voters urging each other to explain the methodology of their selections. Groupthink, as it's commonly understood, is discouraged, but group discussion is insisted upon. It's a characteristic sadly missing from the voting which (in large part) actually determines who plays for the national championship.
Though I've noted my disdain for preseason polling, we're under the gun here, and the draft version of the preseason BlogPoll has been compiled. This week's roundtable urges voters to discuss which teams may be over or underrated by CFB bloggers.
CFB BlogPoll Potential Overrated Teams
This feels to me a lot like the votes for Auburn at #2 last year, of which there were several. Yes, there's a lot of talent on this team, and yes, the schedule sets up nicely for LSU this year, but I cannot, in good conscience not think LSU is overrated when they are projected to be #2. Why? That means we're not dinging them Les Miles points.
And if there is one thing I have learned since I started this gig, it is: Always ding Les Miles points.
Aside from having a coach who will find a way to lose a game or two he probably shouldn't, Matt Flynn is hardly the slam dunk that a #2 ranking implies. Could he be a very good quarterback this year? Absolutely. Could he be a disappointment? It's definitely possible.
Meanwhile, the offensive line, though full of strong prospects, isn't as experienced as a year ago, losing their starting right guard and both tackles. I count five starters being replaced - one of them being Jamarcus Russell - and that offense scored 3 points at Auburn, 10 points at Florida, and 24 (not counting the game winning kickoff return) at Arkansas.
Add it all up, and LSU may have #2 talent and a favorable schedule, but they also have Les Miles. Two losses for the Tigers.
You can make a very strong case for LSU (if you don't hate Les Miles), but I'm less sold on the love for the Badgers. Perhaps voters are remembering that Wisconsin beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl last season. Perhaps they are remembering that Wisconsin finished the season 12-1.
They are not, clearly, remembering that PJ Hill rushed for 36 yards on 19 carries against the Razorbacks. That Arkansas outgained Wisconsin by over 100 yards. That a healthy Darren McFadden means Wisconsin finishes the season 11-2, with their best win being against Penn State (in Madison, 13-3).
If you believe, as I do, that Wisconsin should and will be underdogs at Penn State, at Ohio State, and versus Michigan, it's tough to imagine them being a top 10 football team. I think you can make a good case that this year's Wisconsin team is better than last year's. I just don't think we ever found out much about last year's team. Consider me dubious.
CFB BlogPoll Potential Underrated Teams
This starts with my own ballot, to be honest, and it's a revision I'll be making. The offseason drama in Fayetteville has distracted me (and others) from the fact that the Razorbacks return the nation's best running back, a strong offensive line, and, necessarily, improved quarterback play. (Casey Dick simply can't be any worse than he was in '06.) Marcus Monk is no slouch, either.
Amazingly, the Razorbacks only play three true road games (they'll play Chattanooga and Mississippi State in Little Rock). If they upset Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, or LSU - just one of them - they're likely to finish with 8-9 wins. If they're better than that? Well, we've all underrated them.
I'm not going to gush about the Aggies, for obvious reasons, but this is a better team than voters are recognizing. The offense will be well above average, and though the schedule is tough and the defense isn't anything to brag about, they're going to win a lot of football games. The Big 12 is the most improved conference in the country this year, by a wide margin, but A&M is going to put up enough points where it's feasible for them to have a 10-win season. Disgusting, but true.