The offseason is finally winding down and we can start talking about real, live-action football. That’s great, and I’m more excited than I can even put into words. But that won’t stop me from squeezing in a completely pointless article about football teams before football starts.
Yesterday, the Associated Press released its preseason top-25 poll, which is—for better or worse—the most meaningful preseason poll in college football. Much will be said about those 25 teams over the next week or so, but where is the love (and hate) for those who landed just outside the top-25?
Rest easy, friends. I have opinions, and you’re probably not going to like them. Instead of giving you my thoughts on the top-25, I’m going to rank the teams who received votes in the poll but didn’t quite make the cut.
The receiving votes section of the poll is there for a reason—teams are not necessarily represented fairly since, you know… we’re not ranking teams from 26 and down the list. Some teams received more votes than they should have and others may have just missed the cut on many ballots, but didn’t get the votes to show for it. So I’m here to tell you how they should have been ranked:
26. Missouri Tigers (26th in votes received)
Mizzou juuust missed the top-25, and I agree they are the best of the rest. Barry Odom has quietly rebuilt the Tigers back to relevance after a difficult transition to the SEC. Drew Lock may not be at QB this year, but former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant should do the trick. Bowl ban or not, Mizzou has a pretty tame schedule and plenty of talent to improve on their 8-win regular season last year, which would be more than enough to place them in the top-25.
27. Mississippi State (28th in votes received)
If you love smash-mouth football, Mississippi State is the team you want to watch. This team is going to run the ball a ton, but I think this offense could actually improve from last year’s with some new blood at QB. This is a team who will overpower you upfront on both sides of the ball, which is a great formula for winning games.
28. South Carolina (35th in votes received)
It may feel like an SEC lovefest here, but this isn’t bias—I think South Carolina may be one of the most underrated teams heading into the season. The Gamecocks have two things that matter: a good QB and a good defense. The rest should fall into place. Will Mizzou, Mississippi State, AND South Carolina make the top-25 at the end of the season? Absolutely not. But I think they are the three most likely to see their name here at the end of the season.
29. Miami (29th in votes received)
You heard it here first: If Miami can play with some consistency, they should end up in the ACC Championship game. Now, that’s not saying much—the ACC Coastal Division is the easiest race in the Power 5—but there’s real reason to believe the Hurricanes can make some noise. They have one of the best front-7s in the nation and enough talent to compete in the top-25. With a 5-game stretch of home games in the middle of the season, it would be shocking if they don’t make an appearance in the polls, if not for a week or two.
30. Virginia Tech (35th in votes received)
The Hokies are really tough to nail down. There’s no other way to describe Virginia Tech last year than disappointing—Fuente was thought to be one of the best young coaches in college football, yet hasn’t done much to prove that. But the Hokies are going to be solid, as they have been for the last few years, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt one last time before we finally give up on the idea that the Hokies are here to stay.
31. USC (t-45th in votes received)
The Trojans are one of my favorite teams to hate because they are always criminally overrated. Things just haven’t been the same since Reggie Bush left and I don’t know if they ever will get back to that. Clay Helton dodged a big ol’ bullet by not getting fired last year after a 5-7 campaign, but his new offensive coordinator and strong defense could really save him for another year. The Pac-12 is stronger than it’s been in the past, but the Trojans have an opportunity to play a role in the conference race.
32. Northwestern (30th in votes received)
When will pollsters learn to give Northwestern the #respekt they deserve? Well actually, there’s quite a bit to question about this team—the Wildcats lost quite a bit of production from last year (101st in experience, according to Phil Steele) and the Big Ten West appears to be more difficult than it’s been in years. But with a former bluechip Clemson QB taking over the offense and the defense returning another solid unit, I don’t care what the analytics say—Northwestern will be a top-25 threat this season.
33. Minnesota (39th in votes received)
Can Minnesota row their boat to a Big Ten West title? I have no clue! The Gophers have been projected to finish anywhere from 1st to 6th in the West this offseason, although the consensus is that they’ll be a tough out. The ceiling is maybe not as high as the seven teams in front of them, but don’t be shocked if the Gophers power their way into the final poll in a wide open divisional race.
34. TCU (31st in votes received)
It would almost be shocking if TCU didn’t bounce back this year, right? Gary Patterson has had this team playing great football since it was playing in the Mountain West, and it hasn’t let up a bit. If TCU isn’t the 34th best team or better at the end of the season, it may be the beginning of the end of an era.
35. Oklahoma State (t-42nd in votes received)
Much like TCU, wouldn’t it be more shocking if the Cowboys weren’t 35th or better this year? Mike Gundy-coached teams have finished ranked in 7 of the last 11 seasons… do you really want to bet against that? But this is a bit of a make-or-break year for the Cowboys and Gundy—with uncertainty at QB and on defense, the margin for error is slim.
36. Virginia (32nd in votes received)
Another team with a good QB and a solid defense—it’s easy to like them. But in the places there are question marks, they run fairly deep. Their first few games should give them a solid start, too. Then you look at the 5-game stretch at the beginning of the conference slate where they go on the road 4 times, and you wonder if the Cavaliers are built to withstand that stretch.
37. Cincinnati (34th in votes received)
The Bearcats are going to be a good AAC team—I’m confident about that. But their record might not show it. Starting off the season with UCLA and Ohio State will tell us a lot about the Bearcats, but the schedule hardly lightens up from there. If we see the Bearcats ranked at the end of the season, they will have earned it.
38. Boise State (33rd in votes received)
I love and admire Boise State. A program that can survive coaching changes and turnover without missing a beat is rare in college football, especially at the Group of 5 level. Until Boise proves they don’t deserve it, they will always be in the top-25 conversation. But I just can’t shake this feeling that losing a starting QB, RB, and defensive coordinator just might be too much. If the Broncos can impress against Florida State in Week 1, I’ll happily eat crow.
39. Arizona State (t-42nd in votes received)
I laughed so hard at the thought of Herm Edwards coaching a college team, along with the rest of the country, but he was actually… not bad? And the talent he brought in is objectively good. I think he’s another year away from being worthy of preseason hype like this, but the Sun Devils might make some noise this year.
40. Memphis (40th in votes received)
The AAC is actually pretty interesting this year—UCF is the clear favorite and Cincinnati got their blurb above, but Memphis has as good a shot as anyone with a friendlier schedule than Cincinnati and a ton of returning production from a stupid explosive offense. But when the offense struggled or the game was close, the Tigers couldn’t get over the hump. I have a hard rationalizing a 3rd or worse finish in the conference with the talent they have, but having to play both UCF and Cincinnati for the first time in three years is going to be a tough task. Of any team I think I might have ranked too low, Memphis could be my biggest whiff.
41. Arizona (t-45th in votes received)
I don’t love much about Arizona at all. Remember when Khalil Tate was supposed to be the next big do-it-all QB… and then Kevin Sumlin said, “Nah, we’re going to make him a robot pocket passer,” and it absolutely did not work? Yes, me too. The only reason Arizona is above the teams below is because I truly believe they have to improve. If not, Sumlin won’t be there long. They should start 2-0 before taking on Texas Tech and UCLA, where we will learn if they are contenders or pretenders.
42. Appalachian State (41st in votes received)
Is it possible to not think about the blocked Michigan field goal every time you hear about Appalachian State? No. No it’s not. Anyway, the Mountaineers are still really good at football when you consider the level they play at. I’d be surprised if they don’t run the table in the Sun Belt, but non-conference road games against North Carolina and South Carolina will be the true measuring sticks for how good this team can be. The Mountaineers return a crazy amount of experience and might make an appearance in the polls at some point… but they are still a Sun Belt team, and that won’t work in their favor.
43. West Virginia (t-42nd in votes received)
West Virginia is breaking in a new coach and new quarterback and new offensive line and new defensive scheme and new lineba—OKAY WOW. Apparently, one voter likes the Mountaineers at 23rd, but no one else gave them the benefit of the doubt. I really don’t either, although I think we could see the team start figuring things out late in the season. Until then, there are SEVERAL other teams who didn’t receive votes that deserve it over the Mountaineers.
44. Army (27th in votes received)
Here’s the thing—I’m putting Army here for one reason, and one reason only: They would not be a top-25 under normal circumstances. Why? Well, because they are projected to play the 3rd-easiest schedule in the FBS (via Phil Steele) and they play a style of football that is so unique, most teams struggle simply because they don’t see it very often. Army is going to be a fine team, but they’ll somehow win something like 10 games and I’ll continue to be weirdly salty about it.
45. Fresno State (t-37th in votes received)
Fresno State loses more experience from last year’s team than all but 1 FBS team. They have to replace a starting QB, almost their entire offensive line, and anyone who mattered on defense. Do I respect the program for what they’ve done? Yes. Do I think they can replicate it in 2019? Nope.
46. Utah State (t-37th in votes received)
You know what I just said about Fresno State? Yeah, it pretty much applies to Utah State except they also lost their head coach and they probably weren’t quite as good to start with. The Aggies are unfortunately the last team I would consider for this poll.
So there you have it. That is the undisputed, completely accurate ranking of the 26-46 teams in college football. Please send all complaints to @TedFlintKansas on Twitter. Thanks!