The first preseason coaches poll of 2014 came out today, and while the Bulldogs did not make the cut, they did receive 74 votes. That would place them at #29 if it expanded that far. The defending national champion, Florida State, starts off where they finished last year at #1. Surprisingly, only one SEC team received a first place vote: South Carolina. The SEC placed seven teams in the top 25, including three in the top 10. Other SEC teams joining the Bulldogs in the receiving votes category include Missouri, Florida, and Arkansas (laughs out loud). The full list is below.
|RANK||TEAM||RECORD||POINTS||FIRST PLACE VOTES||PREVIOUS RANK|
|1||Florida State Seminoles||14-0||1543||56||NR|
|2||Alabama Crimson Tide||11-2||1455||NR|
|6||Ohio State Buckeyes||12-2||1267||1||NR|
|8||Michigan State Spartans||13-1||1050||NR|
|9||South Carolina Gamecocks||11-2||1009||1||NR|
|17||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||9-4||509||NR|
|18||Arizona State Sun Devils||10-4||358||NR|
|20||Texas A&M Aggies||9-4||266||NR|
|21||Kansas State Wildcats||8-5||257||NR|
|23||North Carolina Tar Heels||7-6||175||NR|
Others Receiving Votes:
Missouri 126; Florida 122; Central Florida 102; Mississippi State 74; Oklahoma State 56; TCU 54; Michigan 53; Iowa 49; Miami (Fla.) 45; Duke 41; Louisville 32; Marshall 27; Brigham Young 18; Boise State 13; Louisiana-Lafayette 12; Virginia Tech 12; Texas Tech 8; Minnesota 6; Cincinnati 6; Northwestern 5; Oregon State 4; Fresno State 4; GeorgiaTech 2; Houston 2; Arkansas 1; Arizona 1; Northern Illinois 1.
Some teams benefited from name recognition alone, much like they do every year in preseason polls. Is Texas really a top 25 team? Come on. All five of their losses last season were by 20 points or more. USC had a good finish to the season but #15 is way too high. Missouri may have lost a lot but still deserves to be in over Washington. Texas A&M in over Missouri AND Mississippi State? Now it's just getting a little comical. Their defense ranked dead last in the SEC in several statistical categories. With Manziel and Evans gone, that offense will not be winning shootouts the way they were able to the last two years. There's no way they finish in the top 25. Several teams could and should be shuffled around in this poll.
The debate every year is whether the SEC or Pac-12 is the best conference in college football. Well, the SEC trumps all conferences in the first poll with seven teams, though the Pac-12 is right on their heels with six. The Big 12 and B1G each landed four. The ACC rounds out the bottom with three teams, and the lone independent team in the top 25 is Notre Dame. With only one first place vote among the SEC, it doesn't look like there is much faith in another national championship streak starting anytime soon. Don't worry, all doubts will be put to rest soon. It's only a matter of time.
MSU vs. top 25
The Bulldogs' schedule features 5 teams in the preseason top 25, all of which come from the SEC west. They should be 3-0 when they head to #13 LSU on September 20th. There's a good chance they will move up four spots by then and crack the top 25 rankings. If so, that LSU game could end up as the National CBS game and garner plenty of national attention. Following a bye week, MSU will face #20 Texas A&M and #5 Auburn at home in back to back weeks, respectively. A trip to #2 Alabama on November 15th looks to easily be the hardest game on the schedule. State rounds out the season two weeks later when they go to Oxford for a heated matchup with #19 Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
The big picture
Different season, same story. Mississippi State has the privilege of playing in what is without question the toughest division in college football. The SEC west is once again stacked. It's a division in which you can finish fourth and maybe even fifth this year and still be a top 15 team nationally. It's an up-hill climb to the top, but with a difficult road comes great opportunity. There will be several chances to knock off highly ranked teams, and Dan Mullen would love nothing more than to get that monkey off his back. You know seeing their rival that they beat ranked 10 spots ahead of them will light a fire under these players.
In the end, what do these polls really mean? Not much of anything. When the BCS still existed, these polls were used as 2/3 of the formula that determined the BCS rankings. With the new playoff system in place, the top four teams will now be chosen by a selection committee. Furthermore, where you start doesn't have any effect on where you finish. Auburn and Missouri started off unranked in 2013 and met each other for the SEC championship game. Auburn came up just shy of winning a national title only one year after going 0-8 in conference play. We don't really know what to expect until we kick it off. I think I speak for all fans when I say forget the polls, the recruiting rankings, the off-season smack talk, and let's play some football!