Column: Preseason polls all about revenue, hype

Jonas Fortune

Can anyone make sense of the preseason Associated Press football poll? Ohio State No. 1? Notre Dame originally ranked No. 2? Come on, let’s get serious about these polls.

Sure, the Buckeye’s high-octane offense brings back many familiar faces from last season, including Heisman hopefuls Ted Ginn Jr. and Troy Smith, and filters in Chris Wells, arguably the best freshman runner in the nation. But, what happened to the Buckeye’s defense?

They are no longer manned by all-world linebackers A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter. Instead they now feature James Laurinaitis, John Kerr and Marcus Freeman. You can hear the casual fans letting out a huge “Who?!”

All three of these men are competent linebackers but have a long way to go before their names can be whispered with Hawk’s name.

The Buckeye’s defense also lost starting strong safety Nate Salley, who graduated, safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Ashton Youboty. The latter two bolted Ohio State prematurely for the greener pastures offered by the NFL.

This leaves Ohio State with a defense that is extremely young and inexperienced. Is it really safe to call this team the best in the nation with so many unfamiliar faces manning such important defensive positions?

Then there is Notre Dame, which until yesterday had the No.2 spot. Don’t get me wrong, I love Charlie Weiss and his merry band of dual-athlete stars, but I guess I just don’t see it. The Fighting Irish will put up points, Tommy Zbikowski will knock you out and Brady Quinn will find Jeff Samardzija, but that’s about it.

Let’s be honest, Notre Dame — which dropped to No. 4 in this week’s poll — was literally destroyed last year in the Fiesta Bowl. Its defense is sub-par and its offense struggles under pressure. All Quinn could do against Georgia Tech on Saturday was dodge bullets.

But then again, that’s what these preseason polls are all about, a total shot in the dark. Teams rarely last the entire season as No. 1. These polls are more of a way to hype games for the season and increase revenue.

A No. 1 Ohio State versus a recently crowned No. 2 Texas in the second week will sure drive advertisers wild. It is already slotted for primetime television Saturday. That’s 8 p.m. on ABC for those keeping track.

The fact of the matter is: This upcoming game, coupled with Ohio State’s strong performance at the end of last season, has led to the

No. 1 rating. Although prognosticators do examine this year’s squad, last year’s finish is way more important in the eye of public opinion.

So, as nice as it is to see Jim Tressell and company sitting atop the AP poll, it really means nothing. Now, if they can hoist their fifth national championship at season’s end, then that would be a whole other story.

Contact sports columnist Jonas Fortune at [email protected].