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Most preseason polls include a footnote listing "Other teams receiving votes" and the number of votes received for each. We won't bother trying to explain the voting process, but for an example refer to the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. See all those teams listed in tiny print at the bottom?
Those teams make up what we're calling The Other 25. We'll be paying particular attention to The Other 25 this year and that's where we'll begin our multi-part season preview.
At press time, the Associated Press had not yet released their Top 25 but we imagine their collection of "also rans" will look somewhat similar to those in the Coaches Poll. But part of the fun in this exercise stems from the somewhat arbitrary nature of The Other 25.
Yet the Coaches Poll offers a few advantages in than it is: more prominent and thus more familiar to casual fans (including, we assume, our readers), easy to find online and in most major newspapers, and easy to track over time. We find the last bit especially intriguing - how will The Other 25 fare over the course of the season?
We will monitor each team and share periodic updates. While The College Football Report will often focus on the Top 25, The Other 25 should act as a counterbalance to the obsession (for most of us, not just the mainstream media) with the big teams, big names, and big stories of the college football season.
The other intriguing aspect of The Other 25 is the possible role some members will play in influencing the outcome of the national championship. Last year, several teams finishing near the top of the final BCS standings suffered defeats to forgettable squads.
While we can't possibly know how the season would have looked otherwise and won't bother offering any "what if?" scenarios, upsets play a huge part in the BCS each season. For example, Oklahoma (#7 in the 2010 final BCS standings), lost two games - to Missouri (#12) and Texas A&M. The Sooners might have survived the road loss to the Tigers, but dropping a game to the Aggies (6-3 at the time) ruined any shot at a BCS title.
The Tigers' season took a turn after losing on the road to Nebraska (#18), which was forgivable, given that Missouri was a seven-point underdog. But any hope of a berth in any BCS game evaporated when Mizzou derailed against Texas Tech in Lubbock the following week. The Red Raiders had already lost four games by that point including an embarrassing 52-38 drubbing at the hands of lowly Iowa State. So much for that idea, Tigers.
You will note that The Other 25 contains a number of scrappy teams from outside the "Automatic Qualifying Conferences" or AQ in the modern, BCS-era parlance. The AQ represent the six power conferences whose champions automatically receive a bid to at least one of the five BCS bowl games. (The Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls followed by the BCS National Championship Game.) Despite protests from the BCS (see page 5) to the contrary, many feel that the system favors the Big Six. Teams from smaller conferences - like Houston, Utah, and others from our Other 25 - often find themselves excluded from competing in the BCS bowls.
Not only does the system cause controversy in the ranking and selection of teams for the BCS bowls (which do not necessarily have to select teams based on BCS rank but can instead choose to honor traditional conference ties - AQ conferences, that is) but the non-AQ folks get a smaller piece of the financial pie. The BCS system guarantees the AQ conferences at least $18 million in revenue each season.
Last year, the Big Six took home $145.2 million of BCS revenue. The BCS awarded less than 15 percent ($24.7 million) of the total to non-AQ conferences.
If you take another look at the USA Today Top 25 Poll, you will find only two non-AQ teams, both from the Mountain West Conference: Boise State (#7) and TCU (#15). We feel top dogs like Oklahoma (#1), Alabama (#2), Oregon (#3) and LSU (#4) already have an edge on the non-AQ teams and receive plenty of attention from the national media. If you want to know all about the stocked backfield in Tuscaloosa, the NFL prospects of Andrew Luck or the Sooners' title hopes you can go elsewhere. Here at The College Football Report, we are all about the little guys.
Below, you will find a rundown of the teams "ranked" between #50-46 with the overall record, conference record and bowl result (if any) for each team. In subsequent College Football Reports throughout August, we will cover the remainder of The Other 25.
50. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7, 4-4 in ACC, L vs. Air Force: Independence Bowl)
Comment: Okay, not all of The Other 25 belong to non-AQ conferences. But the Yellow Jackets aren't exactly a perennial powerhouse either. Despite a streak of 14 straight bowl games, the Rambling Wreck hasn't won a bowl game since the '04-05 Champs Sports Bowl. (Did you know that Foot Locker owns Champs Sports? But the Champs Sports Bowl probably sounds better than The Foot Locker Bowl. The former brings to mind . . . well, champions, whereas the latter evokes Odor Eaters.) Paul Johnson's crew hasn't gotten much love in the national media and won't get much here either. Another (minor) bowl game this year should be considered a successful season.
To get there, Johnson needs to develop a passing game. As we noted last year, former QB Josh Nesbitt produced some incredible plays but nearly all were on the ground. We'll see if new QB Tevin Washington and redshirt freshman Synjyn (!) Days can find junior WR Stephen Hill on third-and-long.
Upset Potential: The Wreck plays Virginia Tech on a Thursday night game on November 10. Although the Hokies might not be in the hunt for a national title, Georgia Tech could knock them out of contention for a BCS game under the lights on national TV. They probably won't, but take note that as underdogs the Jackets are 8-5 against "the number" since 2009.
Name Dropping: The defense should improve, particularly given the emergence of star linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu. We hope to see plenty of defensive highlights from Jeremiah, so we can have an excuse to say "Attaboy, Attaochu!" as many times as possible.
49. The Nevada Wolfpack (13-1, 7-1 in WAC, W vs. Boston College: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl)
Comment: The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? How did we miss that one? See what we mean? The Wolfpack only lost one game - to Hawaii on the road - but turned around six weeks later to beat Boise State (!) in an overtime thriller. Yet Nevada had to play in a bowl so lousy it can't find a proper home - the game is played in AT&T Park in San Francisco, the home field of MLB's Giants. The goofy layout forces both teams to share the same sideline separated by a dividing wall at the 50-yard line. No wonder these non-AQ guys are so pissed off.
If you need any more reason to root for the Wolfpack, consider this: Head coach Chris Ault accepted a reduced salary when the school extended his contract to 2013. Ault released a statement citing his recognition of "the statewide troubled economy and the cuts many of our state workers" as motivation for the voluntary pay cut.
Upset Potential: The national media seems to have little hope for Nevada. We found preseason rankings as low as #72. We agree - this Wolfpack team has little hope to shock the world. An inexperienced senior (Tyler Lantrip) with all of 23 pass attempts will lead the "Pistol" offense.
But you can't say Ault's group won't have an opportunity - the Wolfpack plays #3 Oregon in their season opener. Making matters worse, a tragedy will break up the dynamic wide receiver duo of Rishard Matthews (56 rec, 879 yds, 5 TDs) and Brandon Wimberly (41 rec, 482 yds). Wimberly was released from a hospital in early July after undergoing surgery to repair serious injuries from a gunshot wound. Wimberly was among several Nevada players involved in a fight in downtown Reno in June and was shot in the abdomen. Our best wishes go out to Brandon, who may never see the field again.
48. The Washington Huskies (7-6, 5-4 in PAC-10, W vs. Nebraska: Holiday Bowl)
Comment: Quarterback Jake Locker thrilled Huskies fans by returning for the 2010-11 season, despite being projected as a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Much to Washington's disappointment, Locker went on to post mediocre numbers (2,265yds, 17 TDs, 9 INTs) in his senior season. (Yet the Titans selected Locker eighth overall and will pay him $12 million. Go figure.) We can't help but wonder if Washington would be better positioned for this season had Locker not played last season.
Upset Potential: Head Coach (and CFR darling) Steve Sarkisian hopes to improve his 12-13 career record or his tenure in Seattle may come to a premature end. The Huskies may be in a position to make some noise with 15 starters returning and big games at #6 Stanford (October 22) and against #3 Oregon (November 5).
Name Dropping: This season, one or both of sophomore QB Keith Price or redshirt freshman QB Nick Montana will be under center. (Yes, Nick is the son of Joe Cool himself.)
47. The Pittsburgh Panthers (8-5, 5-2 in Big East, W vs. Kentucky: BBVA Compass Bowl)
Comment: Some people (looking at you, Phil Steele) seem to think the Panthers might be halfway decent this year. Comparing the USA Today rank against several others shows that the Coaches Poll has them lower (i.e. worse) than several others, such as Rivals (#35), Athlon (#41), and Lindy's (#38). We realize that's not a remarkable disparity, but Pitt will return 44 lettermen this year, third most in the conference (USF and Cincinnati return 45 and 50, respectively). One member of the 2010 team will not be returning: Head coach Dave "the 'Stache" Wannstedt.
After some offseason gyrations by AD Steven Pederson, Pitt eventually reeled in Todd Graham from Tulsa. Graham immediately set about stabilizing a program that suffered a disastrous season last year: Players allegedly committed crimes ranging from aggravated assault to resisting arrest.
Then Wannstedt's initial replacement - Mike Haywood - was dismissed following his arrest during a domestic disturbance, most of the recruiting class defected, and three top players bailed early for the NFL. Ouch.
Apart from the returning lettermen, Graham can be thankful for a few things: Pitt has an inherent advantage by playing in the crappiest AQ conference. The Panthers also have a favorable schedule, with eight games at home (four in conference matchups) and only one tough conference road game - in the "Backyard Brawl" at West Virginia, in a clash of Other 25 teams!
That's right, none of the top conference teams managed to crack the preseason Top 25. The Big East, everybody! The Big East is here! The Big East and its ludicrous automatic BCS bid, everybody!
Upset Potential: Pittsburgh plays exactly one interesting game outside of the aforementioned crappy conference schedule - at home against (#18) Notre Dame. The Irish snapped a two-game skid against Pitt last season to win 23-17. While this year's game will be played in Pittsburgh, Graham may be overmatched now that ND HC Brian Kelly has had time to fully install his spread offense.
46. The Oregon State Beavers (5-7, 4-5 in PAC-10)
Comment: The Beavers? More like the Lambs, as in "to the slaughter." Oregon State plays a very tough schedule (#4 in the country according to Phil Steele) in the brand new PAC-12.
Upset Potential: The Beavers played poorly whenever "giving points" last season, covering only one game as a favorite. Mike Riley's crew shouldn't have that problem too often this season against the likes of Wisconsin (#10), Stanford (#6), and Oregon (#3). Yet Oregon State faithful can take heart in the news that star WR James Rodgers (91 rec, 1,034 yds, 9 TDs in 2000) could return as early as the season kickoff against Sacramento State. Rodgers suffered a stomach-turning injury early last season. His return, along with a few lucky bounces, might propel Oregon State to a bowl game.
Coming Friday: The next installment.
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