1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).
On the whole, I like the poll, with the exception of the top two spots. So we're supposed to believe a team returning 2 starters on defense that must travel to Texas, Iowa, and Michigan State along with hosting Penn State and Michigan is the nation's top team? Yeah the offense should be bang up this season, but they're coached by Jim Tressel, so you know he's gonna play it close to the vest a time or two against the better teams on the schedule. I can see top 5, but #1 overall? And the 'Horns at #2? With the loss of Vince Young, who was the difference maker in games against Ohio State, USC, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, the Horns are a definite top 10 team as they have been for most of Mack Brown's tenure, but not the 2nd best team in the country. Without a player of Young's caliber, Texas could not have completed the stirring second half comeback over Oklahoma State last season.
2. What shold a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?
The preseason poll has to take schedule into account at least to some extent. If you believe two conference rivals are pretty even, the site of the game can be the deciding factor in ranking one team over another. However, schedule should not have a great influence over preseason rankings. For example, Florida will probably finish the season with more losses than Boise State thanks to a schedule that includes Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State, but you'd be hard pressed to convince me Boise would beat them on a neutral field.
3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?
Iowa at #3 is definitely my biggest stretch. Being a numbers guy, I love their great point differential last season. With their poor showing in close games (0-3), a little regression (or progression) to the mean in the luck department along with the scheduling benefit of hosting Ohio State, I had to make them a top 5 team. However, I can foresee them losing to rival Iowa State, Ohio State, Michigan, and possibly one other road slip to finsih with a solid, but hardly top 5 8-4 record.
4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.
As with any voting system, the biggest problem is an uneducated electorate. Of course, I believe the blog poll is much more informed than the AP writers or coaches, I still don't think voters understand just how much influence random chance has over individual games. Because Team A beats Team B on a last second field goal, doesn't necessarily mean Team A is the superior squad. There is a lot of 'noise' that goes in to determining who wins and loses a football game. I think its important to look at other factors besides the final score, such as yardage, penalties, location, previous schedule, turnover differential, etc. to determine if the game was an accurate portrayal of both teams. I realize each of these aspects is highly subjective, but I think sometimes we put too much stock in the end result (final score) without considering the means with which that end was acheived.
5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?
Well, being a Wake Forest fan, it would take much more than one single event to change the fortunes of our program (although I think we are in good hands under Jim Grobe), but the one thing I would change would be not firing Douglas 'Peahead' Walker after the 1950 season. I know it was a completely different era, but under Walker (1937-1950) our cumulative winning percentage was .597 (77-51-6). Maybe if he had stuck around in the second half of the century we would have a little better tradition.