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California Golden Blogs College Football Top 25 Poll: 2015 Preseason

How would the CGB writers vote if they were responsible for the national college football rankings?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

College football season is here again! Rejoice, everyone!!

Now, we're all eager to follow the Golden Bears as they embark on their season of redemption, and I'm sure many of you are also broadly aware of the comings and goings in the Pac-12, but there are lots of teams across the country that are interesting and worth paying attention to, and what better excuse to keep up with the national college football scene than to argue about which teams are the best 25 in the whole country!

This year we have a larger group of voters, so we've got some new blood, and hopefully that will also help even out our own inherent biases, because let's admit it, we've all got our biases. So, welcome back to our regulars, Nick Kranz, Berkelium97 and fiatlux, and welcome aboard to our new guys: ragnarak, PerryScope, and mpeters10!

So, with that bit of introduction, here is our inaugural preseason poll:

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

California Golden Blogs Top 25 - Preseason

Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State Buckeyes --
2 Alabama Crimson Tide --
3 Baylor Bears --
4 Oregon Ducks --
5 TCU Horned Frogs --
6 Michigan State Spartans --
7 Florida State Seminoles --
8 Clemson Tigers --
9 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets --
T-10 USC Trojans --
T-10 Arizona State Sun Devils --
12 Auburn Tigers --
13 Arizona Wildcats --
T-14 Georgia Bulldogs --
T-14 Wisconsin Badgers --
16 Boise State Broncos --
17 UCLA Bruins --
18 Missouri Tigers --
19 LSU Tigers --
20 Ole Miss Rebels --
21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish --
22 Oklahoma Sooners --
23 Arkansas Razorbacks --
24 Northern Illinois Huskies --
T-25 California Golden Bears --
T-25 Stanford Cardinal --

Teams dropped from last week's Top 25: N/A

Others receiving votes: Utah Utes, Louisville Cardinals, Tennessee VolunteersKansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas A&M Aggies, UCF KnightsMississippi St. Bulldogs, Utah State Aggies, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Cincinnati Bearcats, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Virginia Tech Hokies, Marshall Thundering Herd, Memphis Tigers, Temple Owls, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Unsurprisingly, Ohio State was an overwhelming #1 choice. In fact, there was a lot of agreement on the top 5, though interestingly, TCU was ranked within the top 4 by everyone except for ragnarok, who somehow did not rank them at all. The Horned Frogs still made it to #5 though, because of how high everyone else had them. Ragnarok also left off Georgia Tech, USC, Auburn and Arizona, which are all teams that most everyone else had. Mpeters10 didn't think Clemson and Wisconsin were worth ranking, though they were on all the other ballots. Nick isn't a believer in Missouri this year, while everyone else ranked them. There was considerable disagreement on some blueblood schools, as Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and LSU were only on 3-4 ballots. Our California Golden Bears managed to sneak onto the ballot entirely on the homerism of fiatlux, who went with his heart over his head and ranked the Bears #1. If he had ranked them as low as #2, Cal would have dropped to #26 and been left off entirely. Hopefully he'll rank a little more realistically and a little less aspirationally once the games start on Week 1.

As you can see by the huge list of "others receiving votes", once we got to about #15 or so, there was a lot of disagreement about who deserved to be ranked and who did not. And well, it's preseason, and because we don't have any actual games to go on, the poll results speak largely to the teams we think highly of, which teams we actually remembered, which ones we're interested in paying attention to, and whatever hunches we might have about some teams we think might be good this year. I have a feeling things are going to tighten up considerably once we have some results to look at.

Okay, that's enough odds and ends. Let's let the voters explain themselves a bit:

atomsareenough: As the defending national champs, and bringing back an absolutely loaded team, Ohio State is almost a no-brainer to slot in at #1 to start the season. I could see even the Buckeyes holding onto their #1 slot wire-to-wire this year. I feel pretty solid about the rest of the top 5 as well. Georgia Tech gets overlooked a lot, but they were phenomenal last year and I think they bring back most of their key players. Same with Michigan State. TCU and Baylor are the exciting teams to beat in the Big-12 this year, but other than them and Kansas State, that's a really top-heavy conference. Maybe West Virginia will take a step forward this year, but we'll have to wait and see. I think Oregon, Florida State, and Wisconsin are going to be good again, but they're replacing some key players (Mariota, Winston, Gordon), so they get knocked out of the top 5 for now until they prove they have replacements. USC has a ton of talent, but we'll see if they live up to it. UCLA is kind of in a similar situation, but also breaking in a true freshman QB, so I stuck them at the bottom of my poll for now. Ole Miss also has a lot of talent but questions at QB, and they closed out the season kind of poorly last year, so they're in the lower half of my poll.

The middle of my poll has some teams that showed flashes of brilliance last year and I think can take a step forward. If USC falters, I think the Pac-12 South will come down to the Territorial Cup between Arizona and ASU. I think Arkansas is going to be really good this year; they lost some heartbreakers to good teams last year and I think their offense is going to take enough of a step forward to allow their great defense to carry them to victory. The back end of the poll I'm less sure about generally. Cincinnati is going to be good with Kiel healthy and a lot of players returning. They'll dominate their conference. Mizzou has now won the SEC East a couple of years running so I'm a believer at this point. I think Utah and Tennessee might be good this year, but I have a lot of uncertainty about it. Northern Illinois seems to win 11 games every year so I'm not going to doubt them this time around either.

What do you guys see this year?

fiatlux: I honestly think the first few weeks are a total waste of time...  so that if you use atoms' approach they then bake in  your biases. Great, one sentence into 2015 and I'm annoyed at atoms already.

Because I think we're going  undefeated, I of course  have to put Cal at #1, because, why not. I have a penchant for  putting  somebody in the poll twice, probably did  that again this year... I wonder  if there is some cool software we could  use to move around teams (there must be). About the third week of the season I start taking this a lot more seriously.

atomsareenough: LOL, sure, *MY* approach will "bake in your biases" says the absolute homer who decided to presumptuously rank Cal the #1 team in the country. :)
Anyway, like I said, I re-evaluate every team on my ballot every week, along with a number of other teams I'm keeping my eye on, and I've demonstrated that I'm not reluctant to punish or reward teams based on their performance and overall résumé. Regardless, I think as long as you try to be objective and thoughtful about it, any approach should work fine, so just give it your best shot, and feel free to mock weigh in on each others' ballots and thinking.

Nick Kranz: I made this week's (entirely meaningless) ballot by picking out 4-7 teams from each conference that seemed likely to have solid teams based on last year's performance, then looked at how many starters each of those teams were bringing back as a tool to rearrange teams based on a vaguely objective criteria. I'm higher on ASU and (especially) UCLA than others likely for that reason. Lots of Pac-12 and SEC schools (7 each) because they're likely the two best conferences, although we'll see how that plays out during the non-conference portion of the season. Some of the teams later in my poll (Arkansas, Oklahoma St., Tennessee, Cal) are teams that seem potentially capable of surprise seasons because they return so many experienced players. We'll see how many of those dark horse picks pan out.

PerryScope: Ohio State is number 1 because they have 2 Quarterbacks that could pretty much start anywhere else in the country (J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones).  With returning runningback Ezekiel Elliot and behind the leadership of HC Urban Meyers, the Buckeyes are favorites to win the 2016 college football playoffs going back to back. I put USC so highly because they truly have the tools to have a special season.  5th year Cody Kessler is looking to build off a great season throwing 39 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions.  With all 5 offensive lineman returning as well as stud receivers JuJu Smith and Adoree’ Jackson, the Trojans have the talent. But can Sarkisian get his team ready for the big time? After week 1 the top 10 will be completely different due to Oregon facing off with Michigan State at East Lansing.  This game potentially means playoff or not because of how each of their respective conferences aren’t as strong as the SEC or Big 12.

Berkelium97: I utilize a performance-based approach that heavily weights results on the field.  I also take into account recent success (over the past 5 years), last year's performance, and returning starters, but the weight of those factors declines as we have more games to use as data points.  I plan on building my ballot from scratch each week to avoid allowing my preseason biases from giving teams too much inertia.  Speaking of preseason biases, I have very few.  I have somewhat of a grasp of what's going on in the Pac-12, but I have no idea what's going on elsewhere.

mpeters10: My methodology for the preseason top 25 is based largely on last season's results mixed with returning starters for each team. I went through each conference to see how each team performed last season and how many starters were coming back on both sides of the ball. As the season goes along there will be a much more substantial basis for having these rankings as we'll have more data. Anyways, now that I've devalued preseason rankings, I'll explain my thought process a bit. I have TCU as my #1 team instead of Ohio State. I know, I know ... the Buckeyes are supposed to be the runaway favorites to repeat as champions, but I am a big believer in motivation from disappointment. TCU is going to be highly motivated after the playoff committee stood them up last season. I thought TCU should have been in the playoff last season and they're going to make sure they don't leave it in the hands of the committee. I have Ohio State at number 2, Baylor is number 3, Oregon is number 4 and Boise State is number 5. It might be a bit high for the Broncos, but they have a lot of talent returning from a 12 win team last season. Call me crazy, but I think the Broncos will be back in the national championship hunt this season.

ragnarok: Since we haven't played any games yet, I decided to look at games that *have* been played. So, I simply ranked teams by the total number of wins they've had over the past 3 years, breaking ties however I felt. I didn't account for competition, but overall the rankings ended up pretty reasonable, although I certainly wasn't expecting Northern Illinois in the top 5. For the first few weeks at least, I'll be throwing out my ballot each week, to avoid whatever biases might be contained in my early impressions of teams, only looking at the previous week's ballot when I'm done to make sure I haven't missed anyone obvious. Later in the year, I may be doing more of the "moving teams up and down a few slots" scheme, as previous ballots will contain actual judgments, and not just preseason expectations.

Full ballot: