So if preseason polls aren't worth more than the paper they're written on, what does that make predicting the preseason top 25 poll six months ahead of time worth? Well, probably not much, but what else are we supposed to do in the offseason?
Mr. Phil Steele himself released his annual prediction of the Associated Press' Top Ten with the new twist this year; expanding the predictions to the top 24. As he makes clear in his blog post, this isn't his preseason poll, but rather just a prediction of where teams will begin the season in the AP poll. He's nailed nine out of the top 10 the last several reasons so it stands to reason he'll be fairly close when it comes to the top 24 (leaving one spot for a "wildcard" team).
It's interesting to read his criteria he feels the AP voters look at when compiling their preseason polls.
- Returning starters, particularly at the offensive skill positions. - Okay, makes some sense.
- Performance of a team in a bowl game. Really? That couldn't be more irrelevant in my mind.
But anyway, onto the predictions.
He predicts LSU, USC, and Alabama will open the season as the top three ranked teams and it's tough to argue there. Hopefully this means there's another great chance of LSU and Alabama meeting in the BCS title game again!
As for the Big 12, the league will have a strong presence in the preseason top 25 if he predictions turn out to be accurate. He predicts six of the ten teams will start the year in the top 25.
Here's where he predicts the teams in the Big 12 will begin the season in the AP poll with some thoughts on each.
5. Oklahoma - this sounds about right. The Sooners didn't live up to the hype last season after starting the year atop the polls so maybe starting back a few spots will work in their favor in their favor. Landry Jones return for his fourth season as the starting quarterback which should give OU and immediate leg up on the rest of the Big 12. Oklahoma's defense hasn't been terrible of late, but with Mike Stoops returning to coordinate the D once again, it wouldn't be shocking to see a big jump on that side of the ball.
11. West Virginia - it's tough to know what to expect from the Mountaineers in their first season in the Big 12, but this sounds about right - maybe a little high if anything. We will know much more about West Virginia after their first road game of the season when they travel to Austin to take on the Longhorns. One thing we know for sure, Dana Holgorsen's offense will put up some points in the Big 12.
13. Kansas State - the Wildcats return 18 starters from last year's team including quarterback Collin Klein so it wouldn't be shocking to see them start even a little higher. How they fare in road games at Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU will be the determining factor in where they finish the season. The Wildcats won a lot of close games in 2011 and it might even be accurate to say they overachieved. The thing to remember with Kansas State, however, is that overachieving is more the norm rather than the exception so it stands to reason they'll do it again.
15. TCU - it's going to be a big change for the Horned Frogs playing the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State on a weekly basis in place of SMU, San Diego State, BYU and UNLV. Here's guessing they'll handle it the transition just fine. Casey Pachall returns at quarterback and their top three rushers are back, as well. They have big holes to fill on defense but Gary Patterson knows how to coach a defense so here's guessing they'll hold their own in the spread-happy Big 12.
22. Texas - this sounds about right for the Longhorns to start the season, although I'm betting they finish the year ranked higher. It's already been said a million times before, but if they get solid play from the quarterback this year, they are going to be a tough team for anyone to beat. But talk is talk and until they prove they're back on the field, there will continue to be a hint of skepticism surrounding the Longhorns.
23. Oklahoma State - this is a tough team to predict. It goes without saying, replacing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will be no easy chore. The positive for the Cowboys are that the systems are in place and there are guys that have been in the program ready to step up. Whether they do or not is another matter entirely. But I'd say a top season inside the top 25 should be well within expectations.