The Absurdity of Preseason College Football Rankings

ap logoIt is an understatement to say that Americans love football, especially collegiate football.  As a society, we are infatuated by the sport, craving it morning, noon, and night year round.

To suggest that anything could possibly be wrong with the sport seems like the most severe form of blasphemy there is.  After all, most of us swear allegiance to a team (or in the case of some fans an entire conference) and will defend our program (again or conference) to the bitter end.

Yet, nothing is perfect. Not even in the realm of college football.

The fact that there are preseason rankings is one of the most bizarre aspects not just in college football, but in all of sports.

How do you rate teams that you have never seen play?

Sure you saw the team that was fielded last season and seasons before, but you have not seen this version of the team perform ever.  Things change, coaches leave, players matriculate, former five star high school recruits fail to develop, while former two star recruits blossom into fixtures in the lineup so how can anybody accurately rank the top 25 out of the 125 FBS schools?

It is less of an issue now that there is a selection committee, but still come on, why should fans even pay these rankings attention for the first four or five weeks of the year?

Voters are doing their best to judge these teams, but they have no relevant information to go on and it shows by season’s end.

About half of the time the pollsters just vote last year’s champion No. 1 to start the year.   In the 65 year history of the AP Poll the defending National Champion started the year off in the top spot  23 times to be exact.  Only three times did said National Champion end the year at No. 1 (USC in 2004 and Oklahoma in 1975 and 1956).

The only things voters can use to gauge how good these teams are at the start of the year are rough predictions about recruits and last season’s results, not actual football games played this particular year.

Seriously ask yourself why does matter if in week 2 of the season Wossamatta U, led by Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose, beat the Mud City Manglers who just so happen to be the No. 16 team in the AP Poll (shout out to all you Rocky and Bullwinkle fans out there)?

It honestly should not matter until the regular season ends and we get to compare wins and losses.  If the Mud City Manglers go on to regroup and lose maybe one or two more games then that is a noteworthy win for Wossamatta U.  However, if Mud City implodes on itself the rest of the season then that win losses some luster, but we will not know the implications until the later in the season.

There are several real life examples of preseason top 25 teams winning games over top 25 opponents. Texas A&M, UGA, and LSU all won their week one games against preseason top 25 teams.

The Gamecocks hardly looked like a Top 25 team against the Aggies, let alone a team that should start the year off at No. 9 in the AP Poll.  Why were they even there, after all they lost Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, and a host of other key players?

South Carolina fell all the way to No. 21 after their opening night loss and if that does not show you how asinine preseason polls are nothing will.  It might seem harsh, but since the only game we have seen South Carolina play this year was that debacle then they should not be ranked.

On the other hand, Texas A&M came in ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP Poll and after crushing South Carolina jumped all the way to No. 9.  That is a 12 spot jump based off of one game against a team that appears to be severely overrated.

Nobody knows how good either team is yet, so pollsters should not waste time ranking them.

To truly see the damage preseason rankings cause take a look at the 2010 college football season.  A season that saw Ohio State start off at No. 2, Wisconsin start the year at No. 12, and Michigan State start the year off unranked.

The Spartans avoided playing the Buckeyes but beat Wisconsin that year.  All three teams finished the season with just one loss, tied for the Big Ten Championship, and ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll.

However, because the Badgers and Buckeyes started off ranked in the preseason poll, they had a proverbial head start on the Spartans in the rankings.  Michigan State did not have enough to jump either school despite being No. 9 in the nation and beating Wisconsin.   Thus, Sparty missed out on a BCS game (they went on to get slaughtered by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl , but using Nick Saban logic the Spartans were just too disappointed to show up after being so close to the Rose Bowl).

There will always be teams that are overrated and others that are underrated, but pollsters should probably wait until actual games are played to start ranking them.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him  @Conradicalness for live tweets from games.

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Five-star prospect John Jacobs visited Mid-South, labeled ‘game changer’ by scouts

GAME CHANGER --- Shawnee (Okla.) High quarterback John Jacobs' talents as one of the nation's top high school prospect were on display in a recent combine in Memphis. The University of Memphis are among a host of schools that are recruiting the five-star, dual-threat prospect. (Photos submitted by John Jacobs, Jr.)

GAME CHANGER — Shawnee (Okla.) High quarterback John Jacobs’ talents as one of the nation’s premiere high school prospects were on display in a recent combine in Memphis. The University of Memphis are among a host of schools that are recruiting the five-star, dual-threat prospect. (Photos submitted by John Jacobs, Jr.)

Shawnee (Okla.) High quarterback John Jacobs III exhibited a masterful showing in a combine last month in Memphis, having clocked in at 4.47 and 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

To his credit, his immense speed and agility as a dual-threat athlete is among the reasons Jacobs has emerged as one of the nation’s most sought-after prospects for the Class of 2015.

According to various recruiting analysts, Jacobs, a Dallas native, has upgraded his stock to a five-star prospect, in large part because he has earned the reputation as one who has the ability to extend plays. In a nutshell, this speedy athlete is widely regarded as a “game changer,” given he helped steer Shawnee from years of futility to a team that enjoyed consecutive playoff appearances.

That was evident this past season for the Wolves, who finished with a 9-3 mark and advanced to the Class 5A championship game.  

Against Guthrie, which edged Shawnee, 23-21, Jacobs — rated the top dual-threat passer in America by former University of Oklahoma quarterbacks coach and current DeBartolo Sports instructor Joe Dickinson — was as good as advertised in what undoubtedly was one of the most remarkable performances in recent memory by an Oklahoma high school quarterback.

Jacobs, who boasts a 6-foot-2 frame, accounted for 363 of the Wolves’ 365 yards of total offense, this after spending a majority of the year nursing a sports hernia.

“Well my whole junior season I had a sports hernia so I couldn’t really play to my full potential I feel,” Jacobs told MemphiSport during a recent telephone interview from Washington, D. C., site of the Nike Elite 11 Combine at the Washington Redskins’ facility. “But I’m glad we stepped up as a team and really shocked a lot of people.”

No doubt, Jacobs’ immense athleticism as a fierce, dual-threat athlete has quickly drawn the attention of a slew of college scouts, many of whom have liken his skills to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

'LIGHTING QUICK' --- Among the reasons scouts are competing to land Jacobs (No. 8) is that he has proven to be just as effcient running the ball than operating in the pocket.

‘LIGHTING QUICK’ — Among the reasons scouts are competing to land Jacobs (No. 8) is that he has proven to be just as efficient running the ball than operating in the pocket.

“He’s a little bigger than Johnny Manziel, but he’s faster,” said John Jacobs, Sr., John Jacobs’ father.

 

John Jacobs, Sr. a longtime evangelist, is widely known as the founder of The Power Team and The Next Generation Power Force.

John Jacobs, Sr. a longtime evangelist, is widely known as the founder of The Power Team and The Next Generation Power Force.

John Jacobs, a longtime evangelist, is widely known as the founder of The Power Team and The Next Generation Power Force. In addition, he played a guest role in an episode of the television series, Walker, Texas Ranger, whose star, renowned actor Chuck Norris is his close friend.

Having raised his son since he was seven years old, John Jacobs, Sr. said most recruiters to whom he’s spoken said that what separates his son’s football prowess from other five-star prospects is that for an athlete who has demonstrated the keen ability to be an efficient passer and runner, he can also extend plays, especially in long yardage situations.

As John Jacobs, Sr. recalls, such skills were initially discovered when his son first began playing competitive football at the age of seven.

“I trained him not to be a quarterback, but a great athlete,” John Jacobs, Sr. said. “My son, for years, wondered why coaches had him catching tennis balls. They had him doing athleticism drills, not just quarterback drills.”

 

STAR WATCH --- Jacobs father says his son's skills have drawn comparisons to former Texas A&M All-American Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

STAR WATCH — Jacobs’ father says his son’s skills have drawn comparisons to former Texas A&M All-American Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

In essence, Jacobs III practiced with a varsity team as an eighth grader at a Houston-area high school, although he wasn’t allowed to play in varsity games that year. Still, his display draw rave reviews from coaches, one of whom said to his father, “Your eighth grader ran all over our varsity defense.”

In addition, Jacobs III routinely trained with former Kansas State All-American Michael Bishop, who lessoned the college prospect on throwing the ball from 40 yards yards out into a trash can. Today, Jacobs III can hurled the ball from 70 yards out into the same target.

Once his opportunity came to assume the full-time starting duties, he didn’t disappoint.

Instead, he made considerable progress as the newly-installed field general for a Shawnee team he engineered to the playoffs as a sophomore. That year, he amassed 2,500 yards of total offense. The next year, he only picked up where he left off in 2012.

To his credit, Jacobs III turned in record numbers as one of the nation’s most fierce dual-threat athletes, having led the state in yards passing (3,550) and yards rushing (1,250). Add to the fact that he garnered 69 touchdowns during his first two seasons under center and it’s no wonder a plethora of scouts are hastening to Shawnee to witness all of the hoopla surrounding this blue-chip prospect.

“John Jacobs has lighting feet,” former NFL offensive tackle Jack Peavey, the assistant athletic director at Oklahoma Baptist University, said of Jacobs III. “He is the hardest working quarterback in Oklahoma. Nobody put in more hours of quarterback training or (weight) lifting in preparation for his future. I have seen him play for the last two years. He refuses to lose.”

Fortunately for Jacobs III, college scouts have taken notice of his have-no-fear demeanor and resilience on the field.

That’s because Jacobs III has already received offers from Troy State and Alabama-Birmingham. Such a list figures to increase considerably in the coming months, given he has generated interests from numerous schools, most notably Memphis, Nevada, West Virginia, Texas, Utah State, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Texas, Minnesota, and San Diego State, among others.

FOREVER YOUNG --- Jacobs III, on the other hand, likens his skills as a dual-threat athlete to NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young.

FOREVER YOUNG — Jacobs III, on the other hand, likens his skills as a dual-threat athlete to NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young.

In addition, Jacobs III has a busy itinerary this summer, considering he is scheduled to participate in a number of 7-on-7 camps and combines before shifting his focus to what many recruiting analysts forecast will be a record-breaking senior season. Under the direction of longtime coach Billy Brown, the Wolves are preseason favorites to win the Class 5A title next year.

“(University of Arizona football coach) Rich Rodriguez told me the one thing he likes about my son is that he isn’t afraid to run. He can also pass with the best of pocket quarterbacks. But he can run with the best of running backs. He’s a show-maker. He’s a play-maker and a fierce competitor who ignites the crowd, converting 90 percent of third and fourth down.”

Both with his solid arm and lightning quick feet, tactics Jacobs III compares to that of NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young.

“He’s my all-time favorite player,” Jacobs III ([email protected]) said of Young.

A dual-threat athlete after whom he’s aiming to pattern as an NFL standout in the coming years.

Stay tuned.

For more information on Jacobs III, Google “JohnJacobsQuarterback”  or “JohnJacobsGreatEscape.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

2012 SEC Bowl Preview

It is believed by most analysts and fans that SEC football has been, and is currently, the premiere conference in the nation.  The combination of size and speed combined with the tactical masterminds of coaches like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Les Miles make it difficult for one to argue otherwise.  After all, the last 6 National Champions hail from the SEC.  With bowl season upon us the SEC has again sent at least one member to the national championship game and another member to a BCS bowl in what is becoming a yearly ritual.  It is a very difficult bowl slate for the conference this year due in large part to the fact that all nine of the teams the SEC faces come from the other AQ conferences (three from the Big 10, two from the ACC, two from the Big East, one from the Big 12, and Notre Dame).  There is no surprise that the conference has nine teams selected to represent in bowls this season.  Yet, it is surprising (at least to me) that teams from the SEC are favored in all nine of their matchups.  Surely the mighty conference will not be 9-0 at the end of the bowl season (last year the SEC went 5-2 with one of those bowl losses coming to another SEC team).  The question is which games will SEC teams come up short in during this year’s bowl campaign?  Listed below are the bowls, with their participants, the spread, a brief description, and whether or not the SEC team will cover their spread.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
North Carolina State
vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt -6 1/2
James Franklin has led the Commodores to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time ever. They are looking to send seniors like Zac Stacy out with a win, and avoid a loss like the one they suffered to Cincinnati in last year’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl.  North Carolina State comes into the game with one of the best secondaries in the nation and must find a way to contain the combination of Jordan Rodgers and Jordan Matthews if they are going to be able to win.  In the end Vanderbilt gets the first bowl win of the Franklin era and covers the spread too.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Clemson vs. LSU
LSU -4

The organizers of the Chick-fil-A Bowl should really considered renaming this the Lord of the Tigers Bowl.  If LSU is going to win they will have to go through one of the most prolific offenses in the country.  Clemson ranks ninth nationally in total offense and sixth in scoring and are led by star QB Tajh Boyd.  He is one of the most dynamic football players in the nation, and it will be fun to see what tricks Miles, AKA the“Mad Hatter”, will pull out to contain Boyd’s explosiveness.  It will be a battle of strength on strength however, as LSU has one of the best defenses in the nation and is 8th nationally in total defense.  There is a 100 percent chance that the Tigers will win this game.  It just will not be LSU as the Clemson offense will prove too much and they pull off the upset.

TAXSLAYER.com Gator Bowl
Northwestern vs. Mississippi State
Mississippi State -2

This is the closet spread out of all of the SEC bowl games this year and for good reason.  While the Bulldogs started off red-hot winning seven straight games, they went 0-3 against ranked teams, and managed to win just one game in their last five, including a loss to arch rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.  Northwestern is entering this contest with one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, averaging 230.9  yards rushing per game.  The Bulldogs have struggled defending the run this year and in their last game allowed the Rebels to rack up 233 yards on the ground. Mississippi State has not beaten a good team all year and Northwestern is a good team.  State loses in a close game and therefore does not cover the spread.

Outback Bowl
Michigan vs. South Carolina
S. Carolina -5

These are two of the best defenses in the nation with Michigan 11th in total defense and 16th in scoring D, while South Carolina is 12th in total D and 13th in scoring D respectively.  The matchup everybody wants to see is Jadeveon Clowney  versus Denard Robinson.  Shoelace is one of the fast players in all of college football and is 14th in the nation in rushing yards.  On the other hand, Clowney is a true beast off the edge and one of the main reasons why the Gamecocks rank fifth in the nation in sacks.  He is also more than capable of containing the elusive Robinson.  The Wolverines will be without their tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint so expect Devin Gardner to play quarterback and Robinson to be the primary tailback. This should be a low scoring game as neither team allows more than 21 points per game.  Three of the Wolverines four losses are to the top three teams in the AP poll (Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Alabama), and Michigan is more than capable of pulling off the upset.  South Carolina loses in a hard-fought contest and fails to cover the spread.

Capital One Bowl
Nebraska vs. Georgia
Georgia -10

Yet another intriguing matchup and it is the third SEC vs. Big Ten matchup of the bowl season.  Both teams are division winners and both are coming off of losses in their individual conference championship games.  Georgia lost a close contest to Alabama, while Nebraska was demolished in stunning fashion by Wisconsin.  Georgia appears to have advantages all over the field, but the one area of concern for Mark Richt and Georgia has to be their rushing defense.  The Bulldogs are allowing 177.7 yards per contest, including 350 yards on the ground to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  Nebraska, led by Taylor Martinez, brings in the number eight rushing attack in the nation which might give the Bulldog defense some issues.  There is a strong chance that this will be Aaron Murray’s last game in a Georgia uniform and in the end he will prove too much for a struggling Cornhusker defense. Georgia wins big and covers the spread with ease.

AllState Sugar Bowl
Louisville vs. Florida
Florida -14

This is the largest spread of this year’s bowl season for the SEC and for good reason.  Even though the Big East is 4-2 in their last six BCS bowl games, Louisville should be underdogs thanks to their struggles late in the season.  They dropped two of their final three games of the regular season and just recently climbed back into the BCS poll.  On the other hand, Florida was one game away from a perfect regular season, a trip to the SEC Championship, and a chance to play for a BCS National Championship. Louisville should not be underestimated though, as they bring in the best red zone offense in the nation. Florida will be the best defense the Cardinals have faced all year so quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to have to put together a stellar game and limit turnovers, which is easier said than done against this Gators defense.  The Gators are fifth in the nation in turnover margin, and have 19 interceptions on the year. The two touchdown spread seems right given the circumstances and the talent gap between the two teams.

AT&T Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M -4 1/2

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies will renew an old Big 12 conference rivalry when they take on the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.  It is a rivalry that Aggies fans probably looked forward to never playing again as A&M has only won two games in their last ten meetings against Oklahoma.  All of the attention will be on Johnny football, as it should be, but do not forget about the quarterback on the other side of the field.  Landry Jones is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and is more than capable of putting up big numbers of his own. Oklahoma has the number five passing attack in the nation thanks to Jones and is every bit as potent on offense as Manziel and the Aggies.  Defensively both teams have their issues, but in the end expect Oklahoma to get the win in what is sure to be a shoot out and an exciting game.

BBVA Compass Bowl
Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss -3 1/2

In his first season as head coach, Hugh Freeze has the Rebels bowling.  Ole Miss is coming off of an emotional win against hated rival Mississippi State and is looking to carry that momentum into their matchup with the Panthers.  Pitt has allowed just one touchdown in their last 10 quarters and is led on the defensive side of the ball by stand out defensive back Jason Hendricks.  Bo Wallace and Dante Moncrief will have to find a way to exploit a secondary that has only allowed 12 touchdown passes all season.  Freeze’s boys certainly have their hands full, but it is nothing that they cannot handle and they should cover the spread with ease.

Discover BCS National Championship
Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Alabama -9 1/2

For the seventh straight year,  a SEC team is in the BCS Championship Game.  Saban is looking for his third national title since taking over as the head coach for the Crimson Tide.  Notre Dame is no slouch though, and if you like defense this is going to be the best game on the bowl schedule.  The Irish are number one in the nation in scoring D while Alabama is second.  Both teams rank near the top in every defensive statistical category and points will be hard to come by, especially in the red zone. Alabama and Notre Dame allowed a combined 11 red zone rushing touchdowns all season (9 for the Crimson Tide and two for Notre Dame) and are in the top three defenses in the nation when it comes to red zone defense.  Manti T’eo and the Fighting Irish defense will have their hands full trying to contain the dynamic duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.  Both of the Alabama tailbacks have over 1,000 yards rushing this year, and are more than capable of exploding for a big game at the same time (ask Richt about them).  With two stellar defenses on the field it is highly unlikely either team jumps out to a comfortable lead. Alabama wins, but does not cover the spread.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.

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