The NCAAF preseason polls are always a source of interest and hearty debate but how do these polls affect our college football picks and do they help us or hurt us?
Polls Can Be Positive
If a team makes the AP Top 25 or Coaches' Top 25 poll then you can bet there will be millions of eyeballs on those schools and as a result plenty of interest when the first week of college football commences. While the squares will eat this up like a big bowl of mocha chip the sharps are braced for a ton of public money to flow on these perceived favorites. It's like free advertising and the more bettors allegedly "know" the firmer the public perception is entrenched. We can look at these teams with a jaundiced eye and beware that the college football odds may be shaded by the NCAAF odds makers which can make their less publicized opponents that much more attractive.
Polling can also signal us to watch out for schools that don't hail from the major conferences like the SEC, PAC-12 or Big Ten. For instance Boise State is ranked 24th and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, once a perennial powerhouse, are all the way up to number 11 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. While they too will get plenty of preseason press we can do our homework and find out if they are indeed worthy of the preseason hype.
Teams that are ranked lower than expected or dismissed altogether could be bent on proving all these coaches and pundits wrong. There is nothing like a motivated athlete let alone dozens of them all on one team. The Seminoles of Florida State were knocked out by Oregon in the Rose Bowl last season which was the semi-finals of the inaugural season of the college football playoffs. The polls have them drifting around eighth in the country without the services of quarterback Jameis Winston who departed for the NFL and was summarily drafted with the first overall pick. That could be enough to get this team hyper-motivated if indeed Winston's replacement is up to the task.
Polls Can Be Negative
Let's face it fellow punters, these polls are based primarily on reputation. I would submit that none of these pollsters have been to another team's camp to see how they are gelling as a squad. A team that is fielding a preponderance of returning starters and backups from last season with enormous potential are schools that I want to zero in on with my college football picks in the early going. Team chemistry and an understanding of the system that is still in place from last season is a green light as far as I am concerned just as long as the NCAAF odds are not too heavily skewed against me. Reputation is a factor but it can lead a bettor to ruin if relied on too heavily.
What about incoming true freshman that are locked in as starters? Have we seen these kids play high school football or are we simply relying on his - and here's that word again - reputation? Or how about transfers from others schools that are being counted on to make a difference? Will their perceived talents equate to stellar on-field performances in the context of a brand new system? These are questions that simply cannot be answered in preseason polls but the speculation persist and opinions abound.
Be cognizant that the people rendering opinions on teams that are constantly changing due to the departures of star players to the NFL draft do not have a crystal ball. How often have you seen ranked teams in the preseason drop out after the third week of the season to never be heard from again? I ask a lot of questions because the answers are tough to come by. All we can rely on is what we see on the field and in the preseason polling that amounts to very little.