A vote in The Associated Press Top 25 is a chore but also an honor. It’s been the standard since 1936, when LSU finished No. 2 in the very first ranking to Minnesota (believe it or not, the Golden Gophers have won the AP title four times).
Some see the poll as archaic on the brink of the BCS/CFP changeover in college football, but the AP poll has stood the test of time. And I will always argue the LSU fans who shouted down USC’s AP national title in 2003 would have celebrated just as much if the situation were reversed.
Of course, with the College Football Playoff next season, no one will ever experience the anguish of a split national championship again … right?
Here’s a look at the teams I voted for in this year’s preseason poll:
1. Alabama (13-1 in 2012): The Crimson Tide isn’t just aiming to win the last BCS title, but for history. No team has ever won three straight national titles in the AP poll era.
2. Oregon (12-1): The Ducks can add a big question mark to their many uniform combos with Mark Helfrich taking over as head coach. But with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, Oregon can beat anyone.
3. Ohio State (12-0): Yes, the rest of the Big Ten is mediocre, but the Buckeyes have a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Braxton Miller and improved recruiting under Urban Meyer.
4. Stanford (12-2): What makes the Cardinal a major player? Stanford plays the SEC way, with a rugged defense and a no-frills offense led by quarterback Kevin Hogan. The Nov. 7 game vs. Oregon is a BCS elimination game.
5. South Carolina (11-2): As long as Spurrier doesn’t tinker with his quarterbacks too much (Connor Shaw vs. Dylan Thompson), Jadeveon Clowney’s Heisman campaign will lead the Gamecocks to a BCS bowl.
6. Texas A&M (11-2): If Johnny Manziel gets suspended before the season, I would consider the Aggies about the No. 24 team in my poll. This season will end very well or very badly for A&M.
7. Clemson (11-2): Tahj Boyd and the Clemson offense that swept past LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl should take the ACC by storm. Then again, the Tigers have cracked under pressure before.
8. Georgia (12-2): The Bulldogs can be a BCS contender with Aaron Murray and Team Gurshall at tailback, but defense could be their undoing. And that September schedule: at Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. Brutal.
9. Louisville (11-2): Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will take the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship and saunter happily off to the ACC, thank you. Maybe the Heisman, too.
10. Florida (11-2): “In Jeff Driskel we trust.” Will Muschamp has to live by that mantra. I don’t. The Gators could come out on top in the rugged SEC East, but the offense will again hold Florida back.
11. Oklahoma State (8-5): Jeff Gundy hasn’t manned up and picked a starting quarterback yet, but there are enough weapons on this unit to make the Cowboys the highest scoring — and winningest — bunch of desperados in the Big 12.
12. LSU (10-3): If Les Miles comes up with all the right answers, this could be an 11-1 team and BCS contender. Here’s betting that the Tigers can’t answer all their questions but enough to go 10-2 or 9-3.
13. Florida State (12-2): Jameis Winston. If the Seminoles redshirt freshman quarterback grasps Jimbo Fisher’s offense, he could be the game’s next big thing. FSU’s Oct. 19 trip to Clemson should decide the ACC Atlantic.
14. Michigan (8-5): Chuckle one last time at the Legends and Leaders division names, but we should see the Wolverines and Buckeyes end the regular season against each other, then meet in the Big Ten title game.
15. Boise State (11-2): The Broncos potential is great, but its margin for error is small. Joe Southwick must play well at quarterback, and Boise can’t lose a Mountain West game if it wants a BCS berth.
16. Texas (9-4): The Longhorns have spun their wheels the past three years, but there is always talent. If guys like David Ash and Jackson Jeffcoat play big, Texas can surprise the Big 12.
17. Notre Dame (12-1): Some say the Irish are back as a national power, but that debacle against Alabama in the BCS title “no match” is seared in my brain. Five other SEC schools would have beaten Notre Dame, too.
18. Oklahoma (10-3): The Sooners being the Sooners is part of the reason for my pick here, but there are warning bells about OU’s offense.
19. Nebraska (10-4): I’m equally bullish on Nebraska’s offensive potential with Taylor Martinez and crew, but Bo Pelini’s defense could be an anchor.
20. UCLA (9-5): Aside from not owning a regulation-sized practice field, there’s no reason the Bruins can’t challenge USC for supremacy in Los Angeles and beyond.
21. Miami (7-5): The Hurricanes are still waiting to see if another NCAA shoe will fall, but if not, they should win the ACC Coastal.
22. TCU (7-6): The Horned Frogs have dangerous quarterback Casey Pachall back, but offseason suspensions/departures could relegate them to middle of Big 12 pack.
23. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (7-6): Sixteen returning starters is a good sign. Having Lane Kiffin back as coach isn’t. This is a pivotal season for the Boy Blunder.
24. Wisconsin (8-6): The Badgers have a new coach in Gary Andersen but still believe in the same principles: defense and running the ball, but with a bit more passing.
25. Vanderbilt (9-4): Commodores starting to resemble a real SEC football program: better talent on the field, more frequent scandals off of it.
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