The AP gave voters in its college football poll a chance to resubmit their preseason ballots after LSU booted star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu a little more than a week ago.
I kept the Tigers No. 1 on my ballot.
I reconsidered the angles. Mathieu’s value falls far beyond his coverage skills. He is a turnover-creating machine (four interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, eight recoveries in 26 career games) and a playmaker capable of turning a game at any moment. Witness his punt returns that led LSU rallies from double-digit deficits vs. Arkansas and then Georgia in the SEC title game.
Yeah, the Tigers will miss that.
On the other hand …
LSU still has great overall size and athleticism on defense (Mathieu might have actually been the runt of the litter physically). The Tigers still have arguably, the best combination of offensive and defensive lines in the country. They have super depth in the running game. Their quarterback play should be improved with the Zach Mettenberger taking the reins.
So, for now, in the absence of evidence — actually on-field results — I didn’t find a compelling reason to change my initial educated guess (LSU) for another educated guess (depth-challenged USC, defense-reloading Alabama, etc.).
USC, with 25 of the 61 first-place votes, begins the season No. 1 in the AP poll. Defending national champ Alabama (which has to play at LSU on Nov. 3), is second, gaining 17 first-place nods. LSU was third, receiving 16 votes for No. 1.
Once the games start, of course, all bets are off.
That’s another reason why I didn’t find it significant to change my preseason ballot. Once the games begin, I re-evaluate the whole Top 25 every late Saturday night. I don’t just tweak the previous week’s ballot.
Just because LSU is No. 1 right now doesn’t mean LSU will be No. 1 after the first week, even if it beats North Texas 70-0.
In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that my new No. 1 after the first week will be the winner of the Alabama-Michigan game in Dallas. From there, the ballot is a work in progress all the way to the national championship game.
Here is how I voted in the preseason:
7. Florida State
9. South Carolina
10. West Virginia
12. Michigan State
16. Ohio State
17. Virginia Tech
18. Oklahoma State
22. Kansas State
25. Boise State