Jan 9, 2010

Over/Underrated teams of 2009?

See the final AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches' Poll here.

Let's see what the polls got right (and wrong) in 2009.

The first thing to note is that the preseason polls weren't completely bad. 6 of the top 10 teams preseason finished in the top 10. Also of note is that 6 teams finished within 2 spots of their preseason ranking (Florida, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Utah).

But then there are the bad parts.

Overrated Teams:

Oklahoma: This was by far, the most overrated team of 2009, preseason ranked #3 in both polls, only to finish with 5 losses and unranked. However, you can't really blame the voters for this because no one foresaw Heisman winner Sam Bradford going down in the first game of the season. Would the Sooners have stuck around in the top 5 or 10 if they had Bradford in '09? We'll never know.

USC: They started at #4 in both polls, went on to lose 4 games, and finished #22 in the AP (#20 in Coaches'). This was probably just a bad call by the voters, who were enamored by USC's usual dominance in the Pac-10, and overlooked the huge losses on the Trojans' defense, as well as the starting of a freshman QB.

Ole Miss: The Rebels, a popular preseason pick for "most overrated team" lived up to their billing, although they didn't have a terrible season. They started #8 in the AP, but lost 4 games and finished #20.

Oklahoma State: Ranked #9 in AP preseason, finished unranked with 4 losses (including a shocking loss to Houston early in the season). The Cowboys also lost some valuable players during the year (most importantly star receiver Dez Bryant), but it's likely they were an overrated team regardless.

California: Ranked #12 preseason, finished unranked with 5 losses. They were a trendy pick to surprise in the Pac-10, but they imploded versus Oregon in their 4th game and kept sliding.

Georgia: This one pains me to say, but the Dawgs were technically overrated in 2009, ranked #13 preseason and falling to 5 losses and unranked. I could say we very easily could have beaten LSU and Kentucky, getting us to only 3 losses and a likely 10-15 final ranking, but that would be too biased, wouldn't it?

Florida State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Kansas: Started #18, 21, 23, and 25, respectively, and lost 6, 5, 6 and 7 games, respectively. These teams weren't vastly overrated, considering they were thrown in at the bottom of the preseason rankings, but they deserve mention for being poorly ranked at all by the voters. Especially Notre Dame and Kansas.

Underrated Teams:

Cincinnati: Despite their blowout loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl, it's a little ridiculous that the Bearcats weren't even ranked by either poll in the preseason. They returned a lot of key talent from their Big East Champion 2008 squad, yet they were completely overlooked in 2009. The voters really dropped the ball with this team, which went undefeated in the regular season and finished #8 in the AP.

Boise State/TCU: To be fair to the voters, there are usually 1 or 2 non-BCS conference teams that go undefeated or lose 1 game, ending up with a high ranking despite cries that they never really played any tough teams during the season. Boise was generously ranked #14 in preseason, while TCU came in at #17. Then, they finished the year #4 and #6, respectively. Both actually played at least one tough team during the season, which is improvement, and it seems the media might be considering a much higher preseason ranking, at least for Boise State, in 2010.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes were only ranked #22 in the AP to start the year, but finished strong with 2 losses, a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and a #7 final ranking.

Pittsburgh: Another Big East team that was left out of preseason rankings but ended up with 10 wins and a #15 spot.

Wisconsin, Miami, Texas Tech, Central Michigan, Clemson, West Virginia: All left out of preseason rankings but found their way into the final. Wisconsin notably fought their way to a 10-3 season with a #16 final ranking.

So which conferences, in general, are over/underrated?

This one's pretty easy. The SEC, Pac-10, and Big 12 had the most represented overrated teams in 2009. This was probably to be expected, especially with the SEC and Big 12, which both were riding high after a strong 2008 season. The SEC finished big again with another national champion in Alabama, so don't be surprised to see some more overranked SEC teams in 2010.

Underrated conferences? The Big East was severely underrated, just by the fact that no Big East teams were even ranked preseason. That's a little strange for a big-six conference, isn't it? Then, the Big 10 suffered some underrating and finished strong. And of course the non-BCS conference teams usually find a way to move up in the rankings.

The ACC rankings were remarkably correct for the most part. Virginia Tech went from #7 to #10, and Georgia Tech from #15 to #13. Then, a couple of overrated ACC teams (UNC, FSU) were swapped out for Miami and Clemson.

What does this say for the preseason rankings in 2010?

Expect to see the voters try to rectify their mistakes from 2009 with the next preseason rankings.

-Although the SEC may have been slightly overrated as a conference, the strong finish of Alabama (and a few other SEC teams) should lead to around 5 SEC teams ranked in the preseason again, if not more. Also, the fact that so many SEC teams finished with decent, but not bad records, the voters will likely expect many of those teams to improve in 2010.

-The voters will probably be slightly more cautious with the Big 12 and Pac-10. The obvious teams that will likely retain their high ranking are Texas and Oregon. Nebraska has moved up in favor of the voters and will likely also start high. The rest of each conference is more of a question, so don't expect to see too many highly ranked Big 12 or Pac-10 teams.

-Expect to see more respect for the Big East and the non-BCS conferences. We'll likely see at least one non-BCS conference team in the preseason top 10 (Boise State), and probably 4 or 5 overall in the top 25. The Big East, which had no preseason ranked teams in 2009, can look to having at least 2, if not 3+ ranked teams to start 2010.

-Also expect more respect in the rankings for the Big 10. They'll have very similar rankings to the SEC in the 2010 preseason.

-Finally, it's looking like this could be one of the most difficult preseason rankings to put together in a while. A lot of teams finished with similar records, and it will be hard for voters to determine who should be ranked where. With this in mind, there will very likely be a few questionable teams the find their way into the preseason rankings as voters will have to reach to find teams to fill the list.

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