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Predicting the Top Ten in the preseason AP poll

We are a good six months away from finding out the official Top Ten in the 2011 AP preseason poll, but that doesn't mean we don't already have a pretty good idea how things will shake out. AP voters are kind of predictable, but in a cute way. Not at all like those Harris Poll voters.

Phil Steele posts an annual February column looking at just such a topic (to be posted sometime this week), and using his formulas and some common sense, we can figure out roughly who will be in and where Boise State could wind up. Join me after the jump for a Top Ten prediction, a look at other early Top 25s, and your guesses on who will make the Top Ten cut come August.

Phil Steele is a genius, according to Phil Steele and others

As college football's resident John Nash, Steele has gained a reputation for extremely bold, highly accurate predictions. How does he do it? Copious research and witchcraft, most likely. His Top Ten prediction uses a formula with a couple of key elements:

  • Returning starters
  • Bowl game result

Steele provided a list of returning starters for each team back in January, and ESPN has a handy bowl page with winners and losers. Armed with this knowledge, here is how some of the country's top teams in 2011 fare:

Returning Starters Bowl Result
Alabama 17 W (49-7 over Michigan St.)
Arkansas 15 L (31-26 to Ohio St.)
Boise State 14 W (26-3 over Utah)
Florida State 18 W (26-17 over South Carolina)
LSU 15 W (41-24 over Texas A&M)
Michigan State 13 L (49-7 to Alabama)
Nebraska 12 L (19-7 to Washington)
Ohio State 13 W (31-26 over Arkansas)
Oklahoma 17 W (48-20 over UCONN)
Oklahoma State 15 W (36-10 over Arizona)
Oregon 13 L (22-12 to Auburn)
South Carolina 13 L (26-17 to Florida State)
Stanford 13 W (40-12 over Virginia Tech)
TCU 10 W (21-19 over Wisconsin)
Texas A&M 19 L (41-24 to LSU)

The Top Ten according to Mark Schlabach and Andy Staples

ESPN's Schlabach and Sports Illustrated's Staples have produced early Top 25s for 2011 based on formulas probably not nearly as nerdy as Phil Steele's. Here are the teams that Schlabach and Staples chose:

Schlabach   Staples
1. Oklahoma   1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama   2. Oregon
3. Florida State   3. LSU
4. LSU   4. Alabama
5. Oregon   5. Stanford
6. Ohio State   6. Ohio State
7. Stanford   7. Texas A&M
8. Boise State   8. TCU
9. TCU   9. South Carolina
10. Oklahoma State   10. Florida State

Note: Boise State was at No. 11 in Staples' Top 25.

Top Ten prediction

Taking into account Steele's key Top Ten elements and the conventional wisdom of two of the top CFB writers around, here is my best guess at what the AP Top Ten will look like this summer:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. LSU
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida State
  6. Stanford
  7. Oregon
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Boise State
  10. TCU

Notes: It seems inevitable that Oklahoma will be preseason No. 1 ... Florida State in the Top Five makes me feel 1999-ish ... I thought about putting TCU ahead of Boise State but then I remembered that I'm a Boise State fan and I can do whatever I want ... Schlabach and Staples talked me into Oregon in the Top Ten, otherwise I wouldn't have put them there ... No Auburn ...

Your Top Ten prediction

How does your Top Ten look? What would you change? What teams would you add? Is Boise State too high or too low? Share your thoughts in the comments.