If you need a sign that college football is truly right around the corner, look no further, because the preseason AP Top 25 poll finally is out for all to see.
For the third time in four seasons, TCU football will begin the season ranked in the poll after checking in at No. 16 on Monday. Only Oklahoma, at No. 7, earned a higher ranking within the Big 12.
Of course, not every voter feels the same way about the Horned Frogs entering the 2018 campaign. So why not dive a little deeper into the voting habits of those who will be submitting a weekly ballot this fall?
Thankfully, our friends at collegepolltracker.com allow us to easily access every ballot on the table. So to all the voters out there, take heed. We can see you — and any questionable rankings that may be jotted down over the next three to four months.
So without further delay, let’s see who is high on TCU and who exactly isn’t.
Highest vote: 8 (Matt Brown, The Athletic)
Brown was the only AP Voter to put TCU in the top 10, and while it may appear somewhat bold given the turnover this offseason in Fort Worth, it’s hardly outrageous. The Horned Frogs have finished in the Top 10 in three times dating back to the 2014 season, twice after starting the year unranked. Needless to say, Gary Patterson knows a thing or two about rapidly developing young players, and if he gets the job done again in 2018, Brown won’t be the only one voting TCU in the top 10 for long.
Most common vote: 15, 17 (10 voters each)
This is about what one would expect, considering the Horned Frogs also checked in at No. 16 in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll earlier this month. TCU enters the year with what should once again be the top defense in the Big 12, but some of that hype has been offset by an offense that has plenty of questions stemming from a first year quarterback in Shawn Robinson and an offensive line that was decimated by departures after 2017. Do the math, and the Horned Frogs regressing from a top 10 but not entirely out of the top 25 — perhaps a 9-3 finish — is the most rational outlook.
The good news? Each of the past three years, the College Football Playoff has featured a team that began the season ranked between No. 14 and No. 19 in the preseason AP Poll. Perhaps TCU could be the latest team to keep that trend going.
Lowest vote: Unranked (John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader; Rachel Richlinksi, WLBT/FOX 40 — Jackson, MS)
Unless the o-line concerns are really weighing heavy on the minds of Clay and Richlinksi, it’s hard to rationalize the Horned Frogs being unranked to begin the 2018 season. Even then, it would be an odd assessment considering Patterson’s comments on Saturday about the o-line being a “surprise” during fall camp. Both of their ballots were incomplete upon submission, so we can only guess that TCU would have occupied one of the vacant spots. But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be a hard decision to place the Horned Frogs at least somewhere in the top 25 based on their consistency in recent years.
Other notable voting habits
Surprise, surprise: The “Texas is back” festival is open for business as the Longhorns checked in at No. 23 on Monday — the exact same position they were in a year ago when they also prepared to open the season vs. Maryland. Granted, Texas is coming off a 7-6 finish opposed this time opposed to a 5-7 mark, and no voter had the Longhorns in the top 10. Alas, it’s hard to envision any other team that finished just a game above .500 cracking the preseason top 25 the following season. We’ll know shortly whether or not it’s just another case of the boy who cried wolf for Tom Herman & Co.
Then again, maybe I spoke to soon, because West Virginia is also in the Top 25 (No. 17) despite a 7-6 finish in 2017. Of course, the Mountaineers’ record last season was skewed due to a season-ending injury to quarterback Will Grier (West Virginia likely beats Texas and Utah with him), so their preseason ranking is arguably tad bit more warranted when compared to the Longhorns. West Virginia may only have three top 10 votes at the moment, but with a preseason Heisman candidate under center, that could change in a hurry for the Mountaineers.
Now, beyond the Big 12, how about the idea of Wisconsin being the No. 1 team in the country? Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette (Champaign, Ill.) is perfectly okay with that after slotting the No. 4 Badgers at the top of his ballot on Monday. Though not egregious, he’s the lone voter in that camp, and it’s not hard to see why with Alabama, Clemson and Georgia all returning plenty of talent that led them all to the College Football Playoff last season. Not to burst anyone’s bubble either, but the Big Ten West isn’t exactly the strongest division in college football either — still looking to produce its first Big Ten title game champion since the current divisions were implemented in 2014. Then again, maybe Wisconsin is due for a Big Ten title after falling in the contest three of the last four seasons.
On that note — stay tuned. Many more questionable polls are on their way, and you better there is more commentary to come with them. Happy football season to all.