CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You might believe the most important men in college football are NCAA president Mark Emmert and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive.But you might check out guys like Mitch Light and Rob Doster.If you're scratching your head, it's understandable. Together, the pair has about 1,700 Twitter followers.They, however, are the managing editor and senior editor, respectively, of Athlon Sports magazine. They are in charge of producing one of the four celebrated preseason college football magazines. (The others are Sporting News, Lindy's and Phil Steele.)And they set the table for your Top 25 polls.Perhaps more correctly, they set your Top 25 polls.They and their writers (full disclosure: I am one) do research. Others copy the work.Think not?Athlon ranked the top nine teams in its magazine like this: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Oregon, 4. Georgia, 5. South Carolina, 6. Clemson, 7. Stanford, 8. Texas A&M and 9. Louisville.Then the coaches' poll came out. It is 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Oregon, 4. Stanford, 5. Georgia, 6. Texas A&M, 7. South Carolina, 8. Clemson and 9. Louisville.
Look familiar? Same teams in a slightly altered order.Give the coaches credit, though. At least there was some variation. When the Associated Press poll was released, the writers almost copied the coaches verbatim.The only difference among the top nine teams in the two polls was a switch of Texas A&M and South Carolina.I kid you not. In a preseason poll. With more combinations and scenarios possible than in a Powerball drawing.One would expect major differences between preseason polls, right? There are no results on which to base votes. There are no right or wrong answers. You have many, many voters from different parts of the country supposedly doing their own research.
Or not.Also, consider that there are different voting philosophies. This season, as West Virginia's AP voter, I tried to pin down which schools had the best collection of talent and ranked them accordingly. The poll is about the best teams, correct?Others, however, look at schedules and rank schools based on how they believe they'll finish. WVU has benefited from that line of thinking in previous preseason poll voting.After this preseason vote, I was deluged with hate from Louisville fans upset I voted the Cardinals No. 21, six spots lower than any other voter and 12 below the Athl..., er, consensus.My question: Can you tell me - with a straight face - the Cardinals have a better team, heading into the season, than Florida State, Florida or LSU? They might have a better quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, but a better team?The reason Louisville is ranked so highly - aside from Bridgewater - is because it has one of college football's worst schedules and enough talent to breeze through it.
Here's Louisville's schedule: Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, at Kentucky, Florida International, at Temple, Rutgers, Central Florida, at South Florida, at Connecticut, Houston, Memphis and at Cincinnati.That schedule is ranked in quality by experts anywhere from No. 98 to 100 among the 126 FBS teams. Now, do I believe Louisville will win many games? You betcha. Do I believe Louisville is better than LSU? No way. Nor do I believe it's better than Oklahoma, Nebraska, Miami, Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Arizona State ...You get the drift. Now, if Louisville proves me wrong, good for the Cards. Great. That's what the regular-season polls are for - rewarding earned stripes. Go ahead and whip a strong Ohio team in Game One. That would be a good start.See, my research tells me Florida State has the most players other than Alabama headed to the NFL. So I voted the Seminoles No. 2. I like Arizona State - with eight returning defensive starters, including All-America tackle Will Sutton - to win the Pac 12 South.According to Pollspeak, a website that compares voters, such selections make me "extreme" and "bad." Upset fans from schools like Louisville vote to make the case.I, though, am sleeping well, thank you very much. I didn't copy from Athlon, even though I did write a preseason story for the mag. I didn't copy from any other publication or the (perish the thought) coaches poll.Extreme? Maybe. You can call me that. I was, after all, the only one to vote for Jadeveon Clowney as last season's AP Player of the Year.And damn proud of it.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.