Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gator love


Florida is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 released Saturday, followed by Texas, Oklahoma, Southern California and Alabama. But the Gators are in a class by themselves, the most overwhelming preseason No. 1 in the history of the media poll.

Florida received 58 of the 60 first-place votes, or 96.7 percent. Texas got the other two first-place votes.

When you think about some of the most dominant teams in college football history and consider that NONE of them were as overwhelming of a favorite as this year's Florida team -- despite Oklahoma and Texas each returning a Heisman finalist at quarterback -- it kind of puts the expectations in a new light.

The two polls ended up nearly identical throughout the top 25, although the AP obviously showed a little more support for Florida at No. 1. It's a little surprising that Oklahoma didn't get any first-place votes, but there weren't exactly a lot to go around after Florida's take. Other than that, the only significant changes from the coaches' poll were Ole Miss and LSU each moving up two spots into the top nine, Oregon sliding down a few spots to No. 17, BYU jumping up to No. 20 and Kansas sneaking into the very bottom of the poll. Nothing too noteworthy in the poll at large.

It is interesting, though, to look at some of the beat writers' ballots and get an idea of how they assess the teams they follow on a day-to-day basis. For example, Ohio's two representatives, Doug Lesmersis (Cleveland) and Matt McCoy (Columbus), both have Ohio State at No. 10, behind Penn State. On the flip side, Kevin Gorman (Pittsburgh) has Penn State at No. 11 and Ohio State at No. 4. Louisiana's two voters, Glenn Guilbeau and Garland Gillen, have LSU at No. 13 and No. 11, respectively, while the collective poll has them at No. 9. And depending on who you believe, Notre Dame is somewhere between No. 13 (Kirk Herbstreit) and unranked. Also, if you like complete mayhem, check out the insanity submitted by Jon Wilner (San Jose).

Back to Florida, though, this pretty well puts to rest the idea that there are three "favorites" (Florida, Texas and Oklahoma). Not to take anything away from the Red River Shootout, but right now, there's Florida and there's everyone else. ESPN's story includes the standard "preseason polls don't mean anything" qualifier, and in a sense, that's true. But all things being equal, I'd rather start first in a marathon than have to make up ground later -- I'm sure USC would agree.

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