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Coaches poll analysis: A closer look

4

December

This is the only week of football season when the coaches' ballots in the ESPN/USA Today top 25 poll are published, and I love the chance to see how coaches vote, especially on their own teams. USAToday.com has a great graphic that allows you to easily see how every coach voted for every team. I've just spent an hour playing with it, and here's what I've found:

-- Nobody likes USF more than Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. Remember how Bowden said he'd be "amazed" if USF held onto its high BCS ranking back in October? Turns out he's a fan. He gave the Bulls their highest vote, at No. 17, one spot ahead of where Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema (a friend of Jim Leavitt's) put USF. Four other coaches put USF 19th, including North Carolina's Butch Davis, who lost in Tampa to the Bulls. USF appeared on exactly half of the ballots, and of course went 4-for-4 with Big East coaches, as Steve Kragthorpe put the Bulls 21st, Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano had USF 23rd and Randy Edsall put them 24th. Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who will face USF in the Sun Bowl, put the Bulls 22nd, sneaking his Ducks in at No. 25 on his ballot.

-- Nobody likes UCF more than UCF coach George O'Leary. The Knights won Conference USA and finished 27th in votes, but their highest vote came from their own coach, who put UCF 17th, five spots higher than USF. His Knights lost to USF 64-12 in Tampa. Curiously, only two coaches out of 60 ranked Texas lower than O'Leary did at 23rd; the Longhorns nearly lost to UCF in the Knights' home opener. O'Leary's vote for his own team was the second-highest ranking on any ballot for a team that finished out of the top 25; the only higher vote was Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger putting UConn 16th.

-- Speaking of Schnellenberger, who ranked USF 22nd: He must not have thought much of Florida's 59-20 win against his Owls, because he voted the Gators 21st, six slots lower than any of the other 59 voters. That's the single largest outlier in the poll, high or low. Next lowest individual snub? Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione had undefeated Hawaii 22nd, five lower than any other ballot. What, you ask, was the highest ranked team left off a ballot? No. 14 Boston College, which was not ranked by Washington's Tyrone Willingham.

-- O'Leary wasn't the only coach that liked UCF's 10-3 record more than USF's 9-3 mark: 14 had the Knights ranked above the Bulls. Of those 14, five ballots came from Conference USA coaches -- Bulls fans should actually thank O'Leary, who was the only one of those five to rank USF.

-- Does the SEC not like USF? You'd think the Bulls' win at Auburn would hold currency in that conference, but not really. Of the seven SEC coaches who have ballots, four placed UCF higher than USF (Steve Spurrier 22 and 23; Houston Nutt, 22 and 25). Auburn's Tommy Tuberville didn't rank the Bulls, but ranked Central Florida 25th; same for LSU's Les Miles. Of the other three SEC coaches, Sylvester Croom had USF 25th, while Phil Fulmer and Mark Richt didn't rank the Bulls.

-- Shockingly, coaches like to vote for themselves. It's only natural. Of the 15 voters whose teams finished ranked, seven were ranked highest on their own ballots. It's hard to fault Ohio State's Jim Tressel and LSU's Les Miles for voting themselves No. 1, but Bob Stoops was one of two people to vote Oklahoma No. 1; his good friend Spurrier was the other. Virginia Tech finished fifth, and their highest vote was Frank Beamer, who had them second; Georgia finished fourth, and Mark Richt was one of seven coaches who had the Bulldogs No. 2. Most egregious? Boise State's Chris Petersen, who had his Broncos 14th, eight spots higher than they finished; two other coaches had his team ranked higher.

-- Pats on the back to humble coaches who didn't think that much of their own teams. There were 44 coaches who thought more of Auburn than Tuberville, who had his team 24th. Next-most is the 16 coaches who thought more of Texas than Mack Brown, who correctly pegged his team at No. 17. There were only two voting coaches whose teams got votes, but not from themselves: Wake Forest's Jim Grobe and Michigan State's Mark D'Antonio, who put his old team Cincinnati 25th.

-- Of the 45 voting coaches whose teams didn't make the top 25, only seven voted for themselves, and O'Leary was the only one bold enough to vote his own team higher than 21st. Boo to Houston's Art Briles, whose 8-4 Conference USA team made exactly one ballot: his own, at No. 23 no less. The only five-loss team to get votes was Michigan State; who knows why Kent State's Doug Martin liked the Spartans enough to put them 23rd.

-- Hope you enjoyed all these nuggets -- having open ballots requires this kind of examination as far as I'm concerned. Other things you guys noticed? Thoughts? Comments? I'm going to sleep ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:54am]

    

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