When I was nine years old, my father and I attended the Michigan-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor. I was a huge Michigan fan and I was very excited when the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 35-21 and clinched the Big Ten title.
The next morning, we stopped at a breakfast restaurant on our way home. The waitress gave me a kid's menu – one of the paper ones with Tic-Tac-Toe boards on it – and some crayons. Instead of playing the games on the menu, I used my crayons to craft a college football poll that reflected Michigan's win the previous day.
That crayon poll was my first brush with college football rankings, but I've always loved the concept of polling in college sports. The idea of creating (probably flawed) order out so much chaos has always appealed to me. Now, 15 years after that first poll, I present my inaugural official ranking. I am an AP Poll voter for this college football season and I will provide my rankings and some rationale behind them every Monday on this blog. Here is my preseason poll, along with each team's 2017 records:
1. Alabama 13-1 2. Ohio St. 12-2 3. Clemson 12-2 4. Wisconsin 13-1 5. Oklahoma 12-2 6. Miami 10-3 7. Georgia 13-2 8. Notre Dame 10-3 9. Washington 10-3 10. Auburn 10-4 11. Penn St. 11-2 12. West Virginia 7-6 13. TCU 11-3 14. Michigan 8-5 15. Stanford 9-5 16. Southern Cal 11-3 17. Arizona 7-6 18. Michigan St. 10-3 19. Texas 7-6 20. LSU 9-4 21. Virginia Tech 9-4 22. UCF 13-0 23. South Carolina 9-4 24. Boise St.11-3 25. Florida St. 7-6
Since this is a Notre Dame blog, it makes sense to discuss the Irish first. I ranked Notre Dame No. 8, which is generally a few spots higher than most voters had them (the Irish are No. 12 in the official AP Preseason Poll). At the risk of sounding like a "homer", I think the Irish are better than that official ranking. Their defense was very good last year and returns nearly everyone important outside of linebacker Nyles Morgan. Drue Tranquill seems to be settling in well at "buck" linebacker and the secondary will be dangerous with newcomers Alohi Gilman and Houston Griffith patrolling at safety. The offense will likely be explosive and inconsistent (sound familiar?) but it has more weapons in the passing game than it did last season. The Irish will be very good.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's Week 1 opponent, Michigan, checks in at No. 14 in my poll and in the official poll. I wrestled with this one, because I believe Michigan to be a supremely talented team, especially on defense. The question, as it's been the whole Jim Harbaugh Era, is at quarterback. Is Shea Patterson – who was officially named the starter today – the type of quarterback that can make big plays rather than just trying to avoid mistakes? After watching him at Ole Miss, I'm skeptical and don't think Michigan will be among the nation's elite this season. Hence, a ranking outside the Top 10.
On the other hand, I did rank five Big Ten teams in my Top 25 and I nearly had a sixth in the group. Northwestern, coming off a 10-3 season and boasting the longest active winning streak among Power Five teams at eight games, was one of the toughest teams to leave off. I think the Big Ten will be among the best conferences in the country this season and I'll be surprised if it gets left out of the College Football Playoff again.
If you have comments you'd like to make about my rankings, feel free to tweet to me @DylanSinn or email me. Again, this is the first post in a weekly series, so you'll have opportunities to point out my mistakes all season.