Full disclosure: My Big East preseason ballot
I'm not entirely comfortable doing this, but I really do like the way my newspaper handles reporters voting in polls and award balloting: You can only vote when the team or players you cover on your beat don't stand to benefit or suffer financially from your voting, and when you do, you should disclose your vote publicly. It's easier to support such a policy when it's not your vote, but for me to have any credibility, for instance, when I make a case for coaches' ballots in their poll being made public, I should be as open with my own. Accountability is always a good thing.
So here I am, explaining my ballot. The Big East has a panel of 24 members -- three who cover each football school -- who are invited to vote in the preseason media balloting. Their votes are collected and tabulated and released as the league's preseason poll, which will come out July 18 at the preseason media gathering in Rhode Island. So without too much more comment, I'll offer my ballot. This might get tweaked between now and our college football preview in late August. ...
1. West Virginia
There it is. And before you go checking, it's (inadvertently) not far from last year's final standings -- no team, it turns out, is more than one position higher or lower than they finished in 2006. I made a point not to look at last year's standings in doing this, but I guess my memory made that a natural model to start with. That tells you I don't think any one team is hugely improved or terribly worse than last season. In general, the good teams return a lot of great talent, and the bad teams don't show me much to think they'll surprise. I'm being quite conservative -- boring, you might say -- here.
A lot of the positions are close enough that I'm breaking ties with an easy default, going with the home team in the head-to-head matchup. Having said that, I have USF below two teams it plays at home, and immediately ahead of a team it faces on the road. You'll probably see USF fourth or fifth in the league's preseason poll, with West Virginia and Louisville clearly at the top, then Rutgers just ahead of USF and Pittsburgh. I'm basically foreseeing one more win from the Bulls than I think most balloters will, and that may come down to whether the Bulls win at Rutgers on a Thursday night in October.
This is the top-to-bottom lineup that makes the most sense to me right now. So fire off your comments, and I'll encourage you to sign your name when you do so, so you can tell me in December how completely right you were about "insert team here" finishing so much higher than I had them. I'll also encourage my fellow media members to post their ballots online as well on their respective blogs. The Big East won't even disclose who the panelists are, though you can usually figure out at least two of the three pretty easy.