Full disclosure: My preseason AP Top 25 ballot

Florida State coach Willie Taggart starts his first season with the Seminoles in the top 20 on my ballot. [ COLIN HACKLEY | For the Times ]
Florida State coach Willie Taggart starts his first season with the Seminoles in the top 20 on my ballot. [ COLIN HACKLEY | For the Times ]
Published August 17 2018
Updated August 17 2018

We'll find out where Miami, Florida State and the rest of Florida's teams start the season Monday when the AP releases its preseason Top 25 rankings.

Until then, here's a sneak peek, in the form of the AP ballot I submitted last week.

Clemson starts at No. 1, thanks to one of the best defensive lines in college football history (and no, that's not hyperbole), plenty of talent everywhere else and one of the three best coaches in the country. Maybe one of the top two, depending on what happens with Ohio State's Urban Meyer.

The mess in Columbus is why I put the Buckeyes fifth — two spots lower than I would have put them in June. Although football isn't the most important thing going on at Ohio State, I think the uncertainty surrounding Meyer's future and his time away from the team will have a negative impact on the field, at least in the short term. That was worth putting the Buckeyes behind Wisconsin and Georgia.

Miami is No. 10 overall and my top team in the state. I'm still not sold on quarterback Malik Rosier, but I think he'll look a lot better with a fully healthy Ahmmon Richards at receiver, and his defense should again be one of the best in the country.

Florida State's roster remains loaded, and I think new coach Willie Taggart will make the most of it with his offense. It might not be enough to challenge for an ACC title in Year 1, but it's enough to put the Seminoles at No. 18.

I'm higher on West Virginia (No. 15) than most publications, but that's fine. I think Will Grier is going to be the country's most prolific quarterback (sorry, Florida fans). I'm also a little higher on Mississippi State (No. 14), because I think new coach Joe Moorhead will find creative ways to use quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

RELATED: Dan Mullen's old team will be better than his new one. That's a good thing

I'm lower on Oklahoma (No. 9), because teams usually regress after losing one of their all-time great players (Baker Mayfield, in this case). The same logic applies to USF (unranked on my ballot to start the post-Quinton Flowers era).

UCF fans won't be happy, either, because I ranked the Knights 25th. UCF is still tops in the AAC, but I expect growing pains with the transition to first-time head coach Josh Heupel. UCF isn't even the top Group of Five team in the state on my ballot; that honor belongs to Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic (No. 24).

Before we get to my full rankings, three disclaimers:

This isn't a prediction for how things will look in January. Instead, I ranked teams based solely on how good I think they will be. If the two teams met tomorrow at Land O'Lakes High, I think team No. 1 (Clemson) would beat No. 2, which would beat No. 3, and so on.

I didn't consider a team's schedule, although strength of schedule will become a factor once the season starts. It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy to rank a team high in the preseason because you think it will cakewalk through a soft schedule (or vice versa).

The AP doesn't give too many voting guidelines, but it does not that your "local team does not deserve any special handling" and that homerism "will be challenged and could lead to dismissal." Keep that in mind, USF fans.

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Wisconsin

4. Georgia

5. Ohio State

6. Washington

7. Penn State

8. Auburn

9. Oklahoma

10. Miami

11. Michigan

12. Notre Dame

13. Michigan State

14. Mississippi State

15. West Virginia

16. Stanford

17. TCU

18. Florida State

19. Texas

20. Boise State

21. USC

22. South Carolina

23. Oregon

24. Florida Atlantic

25. UCF

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