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Arizona’s Rodriguez stays within conference for his No. 1 in coaches poll

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez says he gets a little help with his Top 25 ballot each week. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez could help decide the national championship race by how his team plays USC and Oregon this season. But barring a major upset, he’ll have to let his voting to do the talking.

Rodriguez is one of 59 head coaches who have a vote in the USA Today coaches poll, which is part of the formula used by the BCS.

The coaches’ preseason poll was released Thursday, and Rodriguez cast his No. 1 vote for Pac-12 South rival USC.

“I think they have the most talented team in the country coming back,” Rodriguez said. “And I’m not just saying that because we’re playing them. I really believe that.”

That’s a reasonable conclusion at this point, and the coaches’ ballots were cast before the news this week that Penn State running back Silas Redd is transferring to the Trojans, joining an already scary offense led by quarterback Matt Barkley and wideouts Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

LSU was No. 1 in a very tight vote of the coaches. The Tigers received 18 first-place votes; No. 2 Alabama was on top of 20 ballots, and Rodriguez was one of 19 coaches to peg USC at No. 1.

Oklahoma and Florida State each received one first-place vote.

Rodriguez said he has regularly been a voter in the USA Today poll in previous stops at West Virginia and Michigan, adding that he has “somebody who helps” him put together his Top 25 each week. Given their busy schedule (and their tendency to be otherwise occupied on Saturdays), coaches are ill-equipped to keep tabs on what is going on in all corners of the country.

“But I look at it every week,” Rodriguez said.

“I don’t just say, ‘OK, turn it in. I look at it and make an adjustment or two. I won’t spend a lot of time deciphering it, but I will pay attention to it.”

The coaches’ ballots remain secret — that lack of transparency is just a fraction of the problem with the BCS — until the final poll after the national championship game. Even then, some of the voting is extremely curious and fraught with potential conflicts of interest, making you wonder about some of the ballots when they are notpublic.

“We have to take it more seriously,” Rodriguez said of the coaches’ poll. “There has been a lot of scrutiny and rightly so. “

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