Today, I'm writing a piece looking at the 2014 polls – before NFL draft lists are finalized, before recruiting is done, before a single spring practice has been held and before the summer even hits.
I never said this wasn't supposed to be fun. Besides, it's tradition.
For the past few years, I've always put together a compilation of the "way-too-early" top 25 lists just to see where Ohio State might fit into the national picture in the upcoming season, and more and more of these lists seem to pop up every year.
This year, I was able to find nine such polls on the internet – lists published on ESPN, USA Today, CBSSports.com, Sports on Earth, The Big Lead, AZCentral.com, the National Football Post, and NationalChamps.net – which I am sure is a new record. Clearly, I'm not the only one who enjoys this meaningless speculation
So without further ado, here's our way-too-eary consensus poll for 2014:
1. Florida State (9)
6. Ohio State
8. Michigan State
13. South Carolina
Big Ten teams also in the mix include Wisconsin at 16th, Nebraska in 27th and Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan receiving votes.
So there you have it. With starting quarterback Braxton Miller seemingly coming back and head coach Urban Meyer riding a 24-2 record in his two years in charge, Ohio State is the highest ranked Big Ten team at sixth. The Buckeyes are ranked as high as third by Dave Miller of the National Football Post and as low as ninth by both Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com and Clay Travis of Fox Sports. It's a pretty fair span, I'd say, considering the questions the Buckeyes have with the graduation of four senior offensive linemen and power back Carlos Hyde along with a defense that still needs some obvious fixing.
Florida State took every first-place vote – not really a surprise given its 2013 national championship and the fact that Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston returns – while Alabama, Oregon and Auburn were pretty much agreed upon as the next best teams. All received at least one second-place vote, and all were in the top five of eight of nine polls.
It's also worth noting that you can expect 2014 to be another SEC-dominated year, if these polls are to be believed. The SEC has the Nos. 2, 4, 11, 12, 13 and 14 teams in the composite rankings, a sign that while the top of the rankings are a little more dispersed than recent years, the SEC's depth in the polls will likely not be challenged.
Vegas certainly likes the Buckeyes as well. An early line from the Las Vegas Hilton about next year's championship has Ohio State fourth with 12-1 odds. That ties with Oklahoma, with the teams slotted behind Florida State (5-2), Alabama (5-1) and Oregon (5-1). Florida State will have the services of Winston, Alabama will continue to be Alabama and Oregon will be led by star Marcus Mariota.
Among other Big Ten teams, Michigan State and Wisconsin check in at 25-1 (tied for 10th among the best odds) with Michigan at 75-1 followed by Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern at 100-1.
Of course, if there's anything we learned from my piece on preseason polls from a few days ago, you might want to bet the field.