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Breaking down the first coaches' poll

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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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When looking at the USA Today coaches' poll, you have to keep three things in mind:
Coaches' poll — Top 10
Rank
Team*
Points
1
Florida (53)
1466
2
Texas (4)
1386
3
Oklahoma (1)
1358
4
USC (1)
1321
5
Alabama
1134
6
Ohio State
1126
7
Virginia Tech
1020
8
Penn State
988
9
LSU
917
10
Mississippi
889
For the complete poll, click here.
* -- First-place votes in parentheses.
  • The people voting in this poll don't really know some of the teams or players (you think Bobby Bowden or Ron Zook has any clue who the Boise State starting quarterback is?).
  • The voters aren't always the coaches.
  • This is the poll that actually matters. The AP poll is irrelevant and the Harris Poll doesn't come out until October, when the first BCS rankings are released. The coaches' poll means almost everything to the national title chase, so at the moment, if Florida (ranked No. 1) and Texas (ranked No. 2) go unbeaten, they'll be playing for the national championship no matter what anyone else does. As expected, Florida was the preseason No. 1, getting 53 out of the possible 59 first-place votes. Texas is ranked second and got four first-place votes, Oklahoma is third and got one vote for the top spot, as did USC, ranked fourth. The big question in every preseason poll this year will be the fifth slot. Everyone knows what the top four should be — even if CFN has a couple of the pieces switched around — but the No. 5 ranking is up for debate. Alabama getting the nod over Ohio State isn't bad, and considering the Tide's relatively easy schedule, for the SEC, Nick Saban's club should be in a great spot to hover around the national title debate all season long. Of course, getting by No. 7 ranked Virginia Tech to start the season will be Job One, and with the high preseason ranking, the Hokies can rocket into BCS Championship discussion with a win in the season opener. Frank Beamer's club is in position to do big things.
    One of the big stories throughout the year will be how to rank the Big Ten teams. Ohio State (No. 6) and Penn State (No. 8) aren't nearly as good as they were last year, but they have easy schedules and should have great records. Of course, Ohio State has to deal with USC in Columbus on Sept. 12, but that's it as far as the tough dates until the trip to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions. Penn State should be favored in every game it plays this year and gets no one tough in non-conference play. If the Buckeyes can upset the Trojans, then the Big Ten will have everything in place to send two teams to Pasadena. One team to the Rose Bowl (though the Rose Bowl doesn't have to take a Big Ten team that's not the champion), and one team to the national championship. The other key early matchup this year has No. 13 Georgia going to No. 11 Oklahoma State. This will be one of the big statement games on the year for the SEC and the Big 12 and it should establish a precedent for how the teams in each conference are analyzed. If Georgia blows out the Cowboys on the road, then it'll be hard for Oklahoma or Texas to get as much respect for winning the Big 12 South. However, if OSU wins, and does it impressively, then it's game on for the Big 12 season. Ole Miss, the preseason darling in several publications, got a respectable No. 10 ranking, but Rebel fans might think that's too low. Notre Dame starts off at No. 23 to set the expectations at a reasonable level, while Iowa (No. 21) and Nebraska (No. 22) — two teams that bounced back in 2008 and should be just as strong, if not better, in 2009 — might be a little peeved at being outside of the top 20. The non-BCSers got a ton of early love with Boise State ranked 16th, TCU 17th, and Utah 18th (even though, again, I'd bet six bucks and a bag of nuts that not one non-Mountain West coach who voted in this poll could name the starting quarterback on all three teams, if any). Remember, all a non-BCS conference team has to do is finish in the top 12 to get into the BCS, or finish in the top 16 with one of the BCS league champions finishing lower. That means the Mountain West is in a great position to send a team back to a big game, and Boise State has the world in its hands. If the Broncos can beat Oregon early on and finish unbeaten, or even 11-1, they'll almost certainly get an automatic bid, unless one of the Mountain West teams finishes with one loss. Meanwhile, the Big East and Conference USA need better PR firms. While there are three Mountain West teams in the top 25, Southern Miss got a mere five votes, East Carolina received three, and Houston got one. The Big East got absolutely no respect with no one ranked in the top 25 and with Cincinnati ranked 29th, Pitt 30th, West Virginia 31st, and Rutgers 32nd.
    CFN's take on the coaches' poll
    Overrated teams
    Team
    Coaches' rank
    CFN rank
    Boise State
    16
    43
    Utah
    18
    40
    North Carolina
    20
    31
    Alabama
    5
    11
    Virginia Tech
    7
    14
    Underrated teams
    Team
    Coaches' rank
    CFN rank
    Iowa
    21
    13
    West Virginia
    31
    18
    Missouri
    34
    21
    Illinois
    35
    19
    Pitt
    30
    23

    No love for a strong '08
    Team
    Coaches' rank
    '08 record
    Michigan State
    27
    9-4
    Texas Tech
    28
    11-2
    Cincinnati
    29
    11-3
    Missouri
    34
    10-4
    Boston College
    T49
    9-5
    Big programs that got no love
    Team
    Coaches' votes
    '08 record
    Michigan
    One vote
    3-9
    Tennessee
    Two votes
    5-7
    Colorado
    Two votes
    5-7
    Wisconsin
    Six votes
    7-6
    Arkansas
    Six votes
    5-7
  • Tagged: Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Michigan, East Carolina, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Houston, Wisconsin, Penn State, Utah, Boise State, Arkansas, USC, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Virginia, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Nebraska, West Virginia, Virginia Tech

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