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Super 16: How I voted in the preseason poll

For the second year in a row, I will be casting a weekly ballot in the Super 16 Poll, a joint effort between the FWAA and the National Football Foundation. Yes, the man who rips polls as often as I do is giving into the system.

The preseason poll was just released this morning. Here is how it looks.

Here is how I voted in the preseason poll, which of course is the most pointless of all weekly polls. I also noted where each team fell in the preseason Super 16 poll.

1. Alabama (No. 1 in Super 16)

It all comes down to recruiting, developing and dominating. Alabama does all three rather well. Sure, they didn’t win the national championship last season, but the Crimson Tide are my pick once again in the SEC, and if they get by Florida State next week, I’ll feel pretty good about Alabama getting through the regular season without a loss. And even if Alabama does lose to the Seminoles, I like their chances to roar back as the season plays on.

2. Ohio State (No. 2)

Ohio State is the only power conference team I have going undefeated this season, and with wins projected against Oklahoma and Penn State, not to mention Michigan and Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will have a good shot at staking a claim at the top spot in the rankings at some point.

3. Florida State (No. 3)

I’m expecting a pretty big year out of Deondre Francois, and hoping that doesn’t come back to haunt me. Florida State’s defense could be pretty nasty this season, and I’m starting to lean toward taking Florida State to beat Alabama in Week 1. But even a loss to Alabama won’t be enough alone to knock Florida State out of my playoff picture. Florida State is my ACC pick, and that will include wins over Clemson and Louisville. With a win against Alabama on top of that, Florida State’s playoff profile would look darn impressive.

4. Penn State (No. 6)

The Nittany Lions are going to have the most entertaining offense in the Big Ten, but they are no longer under the radar. This will be a challenging season for Penn State, but I firmly believe they will be favored in all but one of their games this season (at Ohio State). If Penn State can win all of the games they are favored, they’ll look like a valid playoff candidate that could sneak into the playoff with some help.

5. Oklahoma (No. 7)

My confidence in Oklahoma is not that far off from where I was earlier this summer following the sudden retirement of Bob Stoops, but I have some serious questions about Lincoln Riley taking over with no head coaching experience. Games against Ohio State and Oklahoma State could be possible losses, and a third loss along the way would not be shocking to me. But for now, I’ll play the optimistic card and keep the Sooners here to start things up.

6. Washington (No. 8)

You can probably flip-flop these next two picks if you wish. In the Pac-12 North, I still think Washington is in the best shape to make a repeat run to the Pac-12 North Division championship with Jake Browning back at quarterback and Chris Petersen still having a well-built roster.

7. USC (No. 4)

In the South, USC is all the rage once again and for good reason. But we’ll see if the Trojans can handle the pressures that come with being the preseason favorite. Sam Darnold at quarterback enters the season with much praise, but despite how last season ended I still struggle to go all in on USC as a playoff lock or favorite. But USC is still heading in a great direction.

8. Clemson (No. 5)

The more I look at Clemson, the more I’m actually liking their chances to make some noise once again this season, but losing the players they did is not easy to overcome even for a program that has recruited as well in recent years as Clemson has.

9. Wisconsin (No. 12)

The Badgers may not be one of the top two Big Ten teams, but they may actually have the best shot to get to the Big Ten championship game this season as the strongest team in the Big Ten West. The loss of linebacker Jack Cichy, however, is a serious blow to the Badgers’ typically steady defense.

10. Louisville (No. 16)

Sure, Florida State and Clemson may be the top teams in the ACC Atlantic Division, but don’t sleep on Lamar Jackson and Louisville. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will look to bounce back after a rough end to the 2016 season by getting himself back on track in a big way this season. I’m not sure if Louisville qualifies as a sleeper pick in the ACC, but they could work their way into the mix with a few bounces going their way.

11. Oklahoma State (No. 10)

Between a pair of Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback Mason Rudolph and punter Zach Sinor, what’s not to like about Oklahoma State? The Cowboys are even hitting the road to play Pitt this season. I just don’t think Oklahoma State, or anyone in the Big 12, runs through the season without a loss in conference play. Let’s put it this way; I think Oklahoma State splits with Oklahoma this year. That hurts the Big 12 in the playoff picture more than it will help.

12. Stanford (No. 14)

Everyone is talking about Washington and USC in the Pac-12, so don’t be shocked if Stanford spoils the fun. I’ll play the odds right now and side with the Huskies and Trojans overall, but the Cardinal have a chance to change that outlook with an early game against USC. Stanford will be in action this weekend in Australia, against Rice. Never look past a team coached by David Shaw. Never.

13. Auburn (No. 9)

Auburn has a quarterback (Jarrett Stidham) and a running back (Kamryn Pettway) to take the lead with the offense. I think Auburn can give Alabama a good game, but the schedule is not something I’m overly optimistic about for the Tigers with three straight road games in conference play against LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M in the middle of the season. If Auburn goes 3-0 there, the Tigers could be in contention for the SEC West.

14. Georgia (No. 15)

The strength of Georgia will be the number of returning starters on defense, if you trust Georgia’s defense. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs may have the top quarterback in the SEC (Jacob Eason) and will pack a strong running game with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. I just can’t trust Georgia not to stub a toe or two along the way.

15. Miami (NR)

Georgia’s former head coach, Mark Richt, is doing some good work at Miami now to get the Hurricanes in shape to make a run for an ACC Coastal Division run. It would be the first time Miami has played for an ACC championship if the Hurricanes can live up to the preseason hype. I’d feel better if Brad Kaaya stuck around for another season, but I have Miami winning the Coastal this fall.

16. Virginia Tech (NR)

If it’s not going to be Miami in the ACC Coastal, then it will be Virginia Tech. The Hokies will be fine on defense, as they typically are. The mystery will be how well redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson runs the offense Justin Fuente is using in Blacksburg. Having Travon McMillian back to run the ball is a nice boost.

Who did I not vote for that is ranked this week?

It won’t take much for Michigan to pop in my top 16. Remember, respect is earned. Getty Images.

No. 11 Michigan – I have Michigan losing three games this year, which potentially puts the Wolverines just behind my top 16 teams. If Michigan beats Florida, there is a good chance they will pop up in my top 16 in the next poll.

No. 13 LSU – I’m not at all optimistic about LSU this season. I’m not expecting Matt Canada to have as drastic change with the offense as some might think, and I think the Tigers lose a handful of games just within their division. Simply put, I’m not sold on Ed Orgeron as being the solution. 

As we move through the 2017 season, I will advise you my first weekly ballot may look drastically different from this preseason ballot. I will judge my weekly ballot on the basis of what teams have actually shown on the field and not how I expect them to end the year. Simply put, I’ll be giving teams more credit for good wins against good opponents than wins against clearly inferior opponents. And in the interest of full disclosure, I will be sharing my personal ballot with you each week with some brief explanations for how I voted the way I did.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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