The folly of the ‘pre-preseason’ top 25

Let’s face it, an obsession with listmaking — otherwise known as glazomania — is ingrained into probably 90 percent of the human race. For college football pundits, this is probably just as well, since listing and ranking everything from teams, players, and coaches to the wieners at various stadiums’ concession stands probably makes up two-thirds of their weekly workload. These days, though, CFB opinionmakers aren’t even waiting for the field to get cold from the national-championship game before popping out their absurdly early projections for the following season.

Of the “pre-preseason” top 25s that have been issued in the past couple months, there seems to be a consensus that the Florida Gators, who lose Percy Harvin going into ’09 but retain nearly everyone else of note, will once again be the team to beat; Texas and Oklahoma are also expected to return as powerhouses. Below that, though, the selections range from the brave to the downright silly. Among the most inexplicable:

•Tony Barnhart (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) was the first out of the gate, throwing up a top 25 literally the same night as the BCS National Championship Game, and it shows. Barnhart has Alabama in the top five despite the fact that they lose their starting QB (and were less than a week removed from getting punked by Utah), Oklahoma State at #7, Florida State at #12, and Vanderbilt at #25. I realize you’re an SEC guy, but jeez, Tony. He also provided an object lesson in the dangers of sticking your neck out too early by putting Pittsburgh at #10 based on “running back LeSean McCoy and seven starters on defense coming back”; McCoy declared for the NFL draft less than a week later.

•Dennis Dodd (CBS Sports) shared Barnhart’s optimism for Alabama (#4) and pumped Kansas at #14, saying “any team with quarterback Todd Reesing is capable of anything.” Anything except for winning the Big 12 North, evidently.

•Matt Hayes (The Sporting News) will see your Notre Dame optimism and raise you: He’s got the Irish at #11 based on “the confidence QB Jimmy Clausen gained from his play at Hawaii.” Yes, there’s nothing like beating up on the nation’s 88th-ranked pass-efficiency defense in a bowl game to mold a player into a leader. Hayes also has Ole Miss at #5 and Auburn at #24, which would make him one of exactly four people in the country who think Auburn will be better with Gene Chizik than they were with Tommy Tuberville (and the other three are Gene Chizik, Jay Jacobs, and Jay Gogue).

•Stewart Mandel (SI.com), like Hayes, has Ole Miss at #5, and like Barnhart he gets burned by early personnel assumptions gone wrong: He puts Oklahoma State at #6, explaining that “nearly every key player is back” on the Cowboy offense, but three of OSU’s top four receivers left the program for one reason or another within a month of Mandel posting his list. He’s also got Florida State at #18.

•Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News) says he updated his list on January 21, which makes one wonder what his original rankings looked like. He’s got Florida State at #7 and Oklahoma State at #6, saying he actually dropped the Cowboys because he’s “now counting [the Oklahoma game] as a loss for OSU.” The Sooners, last seen piling 61 points on the Cowboys, are grateful for your generosity, sir. Wilner also thinks Pitt and West Virginia will be better without LeSean McCoy and Pat White, respectively — he’s got both in his top 25 despite the fact that neither team cracked the final coaches’ poll of 2008.

•College Football News is buying into the ACC big-time in ’09: They’ve got North Carolina at #9, Georgia Tech at #11, and Clemson at #15. And based on their color-coding system, CFN thinks Miami “should be worse” than they were last year, yet they’ve still got the Hurricanes, 7-6 and unranked at the end of 2008, at #19 on their list. Strangely, the one ACC team to get downgraded relative to last season is the defending conference champions — Virginia Tech winds up just one slot ahead of the ‘Canes.

•Mark Schlabach (ESPN.com) has also revised an earlier list, but he’s still got Alabama at #4 despite openly conceding what huge losses John Parker Wilson and Andre Smith will be; he’s also got Notre Dame at #22.

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Doug Gillet is the proprietor of Hey Jenny Slater and a regular contributor to Dr. Saturday.

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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