So for the first time this year, I just took a close look at the AP and the Coaches' Polls. If anyone doesn't know, Wisconsin is 7th in both, the team's highest ranking since 2000, when UW was coming off back to back Rose Bowl wins. Lets hope the Badgers live up to their rankings. I'm not too worried about the defense, but the offense could be questionable, given the loss of Stocco and Joe Thomas, both three year starters. Whoever wins the quarterback job needs to be competent, and the rest of the offensive line needs to step up their games.
The only Big Ten school ahead of UW is Michigan who's 5th in both polls. And Michigan does have a bunch of returning talent on offense, including Henne, Hart, Manningham, and likely top ten draft pick, LT Jake Long. I measure Hart as a very good, but not gamebreaking player, and I don't really fear Henne. But Long is a sublime talent, and Manningham is a legitimately great wideout, when healthy. So I don't begrudge their slot.
The Ohio A&M College is 10th and 11th, after losing all of their starters at the offensive skill positions, including a Heisman trophy winner and two first round draft picks in Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez. UW got lucky by not playing them last year.
Then, confusingly, Penn State is ranked in the top twenty. PSU usually has a stout defense, but their offense seems to consistently underperform. And their biggest offensive cog from last season, running back Tony Hunt, has moved on. He accounted for 36% of their yards from scrimmage last season. And it doesn't look like some other running back was breathing down his throat-- no other back on the team ran for over 200 yards. Unless they think their quarterback play is going to improve markedly (quarterback Anthony Morelli was mediocre last season), I'm not sure how they plan on scoring points. If I was an uber-talented wideout like Derrick Williams, I'd be pissed. I think I'd put them a bit lower.
The development that should be the most hilarious for all Big Ten fans is Notre Dame's status. Or lack of status, as it were. The Bellicose Gaels are unranked in both polls. They are "receiving votes" however, to the tune of 30th in the Coaches, and 39th(!) in the AP. Ouch. Illustrious programs like Rutgers, Hawaii, and Boise State (who also lost its superstar quarterback) are ranked ahead of the Irish.
Now, if you're a Notre Dame fan, you shouldn't be too down. ND's recruiting classes since Weis has been there have been excellent, especially on offense. (Why this is so continues to confuses me, since (A) it is an expellable breach of school policy to have premarital sex (not joking, I know a former Notre Dame RA), (B) South Bend may have the lousiest Steak & Shake franchise in the country, and (C) the world headquarters of the Klu Klux Klan are located just outside of town (do the African-American recruits know this?).) Eventually, the incoming talent should develop, and ND, if current recruiting trends hold up, should again become a fixture in the polls. But other Midwest football fans, all of whom uniformly dislike Notre Dame, should get their jollies when they can. Like right now.
The Notre Dame phenomenon-- that is, traditional power going unranked-- is actually a bit commonplace right now. Other unranked teams include Alabama, Miami (of Florida), and Iowa, who isn't even receiving votes in the AP poll. Ouch again. New coaches are the rationale at Miami and 'Bama, but what's going on in Iowa City? There's no way Iowa isn't one of the best 40 teams in the country.