Jablonski: My first AP top-25 poll includes 8 teams not playing this fall

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ryan Day, acting Ohio State head coach, speaks at Skull Session before Ohio State's season opener.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Preseason poll will look a lot different than polls that follow once games begin

The Associated Press releases its top-25 college football poll of the season Monday. For the first time, I am one of the voters.

It was an honor to receive an invitation to vote in June, when there was still optimism about the 2020 season taking place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s still an honor now under very different circumstances. The 2020 season will not look like anything we’ve seen.

I completed my preseason ballot not long after the Big Ten released its schedule earlier this month. Even then, it seemed unlikely the Big Ten wouldn’t at least give it a try this fall. Then the dominoes started falling: the Mid-American Conference’s decision to try to play in the spring followed soon after by the Big Ten and Pac 12 coming to the same conclusion.

Despite the choices by those conferences, as of Monday, it’s looking more and more likely as if there will be college football this fall. The SEC, Big 12, ACC, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Sun Belt all plan to play. In all, 67 of 130 Football Bowl Division teams expect to start their season in the coming weeks.

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The AP poll, too, moves on — though the preseason poll will look much different than the Week 1 poll. The AP told voters to rank teams in the preseason poll as if everyone was playing. The AP also plans to conduct a poll in the spring if conferences play then as some plan and hope to do.

“The preseason poll has always been a speculative ranking of teams based on last year’s results and knowledge about the new makeup of teams,” said Michael Giarrusso, AP’s global sports editor said. “This year, we think it is crucial to give all the teams and all their fans a snapshot look at what the Top 25 would have been to open the season.

“The AP will collect and distribute the votes of our media panel as we always have. Once games kick off, it does not make sense to rank teams that are not participating. There is no solution that will satisfy every fan or every team. But ranking teams that play is the one that makes the most sense.”

Here’s how the preseason poll, released at noon Monday, looks: 1. Clemson; 2. Ohio State; 3. Alabama; 4. Georgia; 5. Oklahoma; 6. LSU; 7. Penn State; 8. Florida; 9. Oregon; 10. Notre Dame; 11. Auburn; 12. Wisconsin 13. Texas A&M; 14. Texas; 15. Oklahoma State; 16. Michigan; 17. USC; 18. North Carolina; 19. Minnesota; 20. Cincinnati; 21. Central Florida; 22. Utah; 23. Iowa State; 24. Iowa; 25. Tennessee.

Below is my preseason poll. The top three were fairly easy to pick. Almost everyone’s voting that way. It will be a bigger challenge once the games begin and all the Big Ten teams, including the Ohio State Buckeyes, have been removed.

1. Clemson: The Tigers feature quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Heisman Trophy favorite with 2-1 odds, according to SportsBetting.ag.

2. Ohio State: Quarterback Justin Fields would have competed with Lawrence for the Heisman. The Buckeyes certainly would have wanted another shot at Clemson in the playoffs after their semifinal loss last season.

3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time in the playoff era.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners have made three straight playoff appearances. Quarterback Spencer Rattler has the second-best Heisman odds at 9-1.

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5. Penn State: The Nittany Lions climbed as high as No. 5 last season and ranked ninth in the final AP poll.

6. LSU: The Tigers will try to build on a dream season that included a 15-0 record, a national championship and a Heisman-winning performance by Joe Burrow, now the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals.

7. Georgia: The Bulldogs won the SEC East Division last season, lost to LSU in the SEC championship game and beat Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

8. Florida: The Gators have won 21 games in head coach Dan Mullen’s first two seasons.

9. Notre Dame: With their non-conference schedule decimated by other teams cancelling their fall seasons, the Fighting Irish moved to the ACC this season. They open the season at home Sept. 12 against Duke.

10. Oregon: The Ducks have improved their win total four years in a row, finishing 12-2 last season.

11. Auburn: Quarterback Bo Nix returns after throwing 16 touchdown passes and starting all 13 games as a freshman for a team that finished 9-4.

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12. Wisconsin: The Badgers have won double-digit games in four of coach Paul Chryst’s first five seasons.

13. USC: The Trojans won 21 games in coach Clay Helton’s first two seasons and 13 in his last two.

14. Texas: The Longhorns are 3-0 in bowl games under Tom Herman, winning the Texas, Sugar and Alamo bowls the last three seasons.

15. Texas A&M: The Aggies are 17-9 in coach Jimbo Fisher’s first two seasons.

16. Michigan: The Wolverines have lost four straight bowl games since winning the Citrus Bowl in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season.

17. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys star running back Chuba Hubbard, who averaged 161.1 yards per game last season.

18. North Carolina: Quarterback Sam Howell returns after throwing 30 touchdown passes as a freshman starter.

19. Cincinnati: After finishing 4-8 in coach Luke Fickell’s first season, the Bearcats have won 11 games in each of the last two seasons.

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20. Central Florida: The Knights have won 35 games the last three seasons.

21. Kentucky: Quarterback Terry Wilson returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury last September.

22. Minnesota: The Golden Gophers recorded double-digit wins last season (11-2) for the first time since 2003.

23. Louisville: The Cardinals finished 8-5 last season, bouncing back from their worst season (2-10) since 1997 (1-10).

24. Appalachian State: The Mountaineers finished 13-1 last season and return quarterback Zac Thomas, who threw 28 touchdown passes.

25. Indiana: The Hoosiers finished 8-5 last season, breaking a streak of 11 straight losing seasons.