Phil Steele has released his annual projection of the preseason AP top 25 – sure to be misinterpreted by one in three readers as his own preseason rankings.
Steele has a solid track record of hitting the mark on these, so at the very least, we can take it as a decent gauge of public sentiment five months before the 2014 season kicks off in earnest.
A few knee-jerk reactions and observations:
*Oklahoma starting the year at No. 5 doesn't surprise me. Moving on...
*Yes, Oregon has a great quarterback to go along with talent and experience all over its roster. Yes, the Ducks have a generous schedule. But were people paying attention to how that team played down the stretch last year? As of right now, the early returns on Mark Helfrich as head coach haven't been positive.
*Something about UCLA just doesn't add up to me. It feels as though people want the Bruins to be better than they really are. That's not to say Jim Mora doesn't have a good team, but I don't know if I buy it's one of the 10 best in the country.
*Aren't people underestimating Michigan State's losses on defense? Ditto Baylor. Two well-coached teams, but they don't exactly recruit at a plug-and-play level right now.
(One thing Steele clearly recognizes is our tendency to anchor our perceptions of a team pretty strongly to the previous season.)
*On the other hand, Brian Kelly has upped the level of top-to-bottom talent on Notre Dame's roster. I probably have a higher opinion of the Fighting Irish this year than your average non-Golden Domer, especially with the return of Everett Golson under center.
*Sleep on Kansas State if you like. While you're snoozing, Bill Snyder is building a team that will be among the best of the Big 12 and more than likely one of the top 25 in the nation.