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My Take - What's in a football poll, anyway?

"P" is for preseason. Or more specifically, the largest topic of conversation during the football preseason — preseason polls.
    There are coaches polls and media polls, and they both usually end up being pretty close to the same.
    The Southern Conference released its preseason coaches poll Monday, and the only sure thing about it will be that it’ll spark at least a little bit of conversation. The media poll will be released today.
    I always wondered how people come up with their polls. Are they based on the previous season? Potential? Returning starters? Recruiting classes? Hype? Stats? Rampant homerism?
    Let’s not forget — last season, the Eagles were picked to win only two conference games.
    I don’t know how everybody else does it, so I can’t answer that question. All I can really do is show you the preseason poll I submitted and shed a little bit of light onto why I put them where I did.
1. Appalachian State (10-3, 7-1 in 2010)
    To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. Sure, Georgia Southern defeated Appalachian State 21-14 in overtime at Paulson Stadium in 2010, but nobody else in the league got the job done against the Mountaineers.
    Do they have question marks? Well, who doesn’t. They lose 10 starters and have to contend with quickly-rising Georgia Southern, Wofford and Chattanooga squads.
    But quarterback DeAndre Presley — third-place finisher for the 2010 Walter Payton Award — will be back and the Mountaineers are utilizing a 3-4 defense to capitalize on a deep, Penn State-like linebackers group.
    Oh, and they’ve won six SoCon titles in a row, so the way I see it, somebody’s got to knock them off before we go crowning somebody else.

2. Georgia Southern (10-5, 5-3)
    The Eagles were the last men standing from the SoCon in the 2010 Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, making an improbable run all the way to the semifinals.
    Plus, they hung their hat on the aforementioned win over ASU during the regular season.
    Also, the Eagles return 21 starters on offense and defense and, for my money, the best special-teams unit in the conference, if not the country.
    I’m not going to be like the Atlanta media and start asking if this is the year “everybody figures out the option,” because heck, we all know better than that. Plus, second-year coach Jeff Monken just may have some new tricks up his sleeve.
    On paper, when the Eagles and Mountaineers play on Oct. 29 in Boone, N.C., it will be for the SoCon title.
    The first two spots on the poll are definitely the hardest to figure this early, and the rest are just like filling in the blanks.

3. Wofford (10-3, 7-1)
    We’ve all seen Wofford have a phenomenal season followed by a stinker before, and we’ve seen the Terriers bounce back in a big way, too.
    In 2009, Wofford went 3-8, and in 2010, made it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing a home(ish) playoff game to Georgia Southern.
    The Terriers have eight preseason All-Americans on their roster and the SoCon’s leading rusher, Eric Breitenstein, will come back hungry.
    Plus, over the last decade, head coach Mike Ayers has taught those Terriers how to win.

4. Chattanooga (6-5, 5-3)
    Russ Huesman has the momentum of the Mocs’ football program stampeding in a positive direction, but even after a marquee win against Georgia Southern in 2010 at Finley Stadium, was on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
    Narrow losses to Appalachian State and Jacksonville State early in the season were the culprit.
    With an extremely top-heavy league to contend with, the Mocs still have an uphill battle if they want to be included in the playoffs.

5. Furman (5-6, 3-5)
    The Paladins are nothing but question marks this season.
    Head coach Bobby Lamb parted ways with the Paladins for the first time since the early 1980s, and nobody really knows what to expect from Furman in 2011.
    Still, the fact is that things get pretty ugly at the bottom of the league. That, and Furman’s football tradition, keeps it smack-dab in the middle of the pack.
6. Samford
(4-7, 2-6)
    The Bulldogs are the only team to beat Georgia Southern in each of the last three years, but — aside from a Heisman Trophy winner for a head coach — that’s about it.
    Losing arguably the best running back in the SoCon, Chris Evans, doesn’t help their cause either.

7. Elon (6-5, 5-3)
    There are three reasons Elon has been invited to the party at the top of the Southern Conference for the last four years — Pete Lembo, Scott Riddle and Terrell Hudgins.
    Hudgins left after 2009, and we all saw how that worked out. Now they’re all gone.
    While the defense will keep the Phoenix in ballgames in 2011, the semi-success Elon has seen in recent years will quickly become a thing of the past.

8. Western Carolina (2-9, 1-7)
    The coin toss landed on heads.

9. The Citadel (3-8, 1-7)
    The coin toss didn’t land on tails.
    Plus, last season’s 13-12 win over Samford didn’t hide the fact that The Citadel lost to WCU (by 11) and turned it over nine times against GSU.
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.


2011 SoCon Preseason Coaches Poll
Place     School (First-place votes)    Points

1.       Appalachian State (5)                    60
2.        Georgia Southern (3)                    59
3.       Wofford                                        49
4.       Chattanooga (1)                             45
5.       Elon                                              33
6.        Furman                                        30
7.       Samford                                      25
8.       The Citadel                                  13
9.       Western Carolina                         10
NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team

2011 Preseason All-SoCon Team
13 Eagles selected

Offensive Player of the Year: Eric Breitenstein, Jr., FB, Wofford
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Ameet Pall, Sr., DL, Wofford and Brent Russell, Jr., DL, Georgia Southern

First Team Offense
QB    DeAndre Presley, Sr., Appalachian State
RB    Robert Brown, So, Georgia Southern
RB        Eric Breitenstein, Jr., Wofford
OL        Orry Frye, Sr., Appalachian State
OL        Rodney Austin, Sr., Elon
OL        Ryan Lee, Sr., Furman
OL    Brett Moore, Sr., Georgia Southern
OL        Nate Page, Sr., Wofford
TE        Ben Jorden, Sr., Appalachian State
WR    Aaron Mellette, Jr., Elon
WR    Joel Bradford, Sr., Chattanooga
First Team Defense
DL        John Rizor, Jr., Appalachian State
DL        Brent Russell, Jr., Georgia Southern
DL        Alex Davis, Sr., Samford
DL        Ameet Pall, Sr., Wofford
LB        Kadarron Anderson, Sr., Furman
LB        Josh Rowe, Jr., Georgia Southern
LB        Ryan Consiglio, Sr., Chattanooga
DB        Ed Gainey, Sr., Appalachian State
DB        Ryan Steed, Sr., Furman
DB    Derek Heyden, Sr., Georgia Southern
DB    Laron Scott, Sr., Georgia Southern

 First Team Specialists
PK        Ray Early, So., Furman
P        Charlie Edwards, Sr., Georgia Southern
RS        Laron Scott, Sr., Georgia Southern

Second Team Offense
QB    B.J. Coleman, Sr., Chattanooga
RB        Travaris Cadet, Sr., Appalachian State
RB    J.J. Wilcox, Jr., Georgia Southern
OL        Matt Ruff, Sr., Appalachian State
OL        Dakota Dozier, So., Furman
OL    Dorian Byrd, So., Georgia Southern
OL    Willie Maxwell, Sr., Georgia Southern

OL        Adam Miller, Jr., Chattanooga
TE        (tie) Colin Anderson, Jr., Furman
TE        (tie) Tyler Sumner, Jr., Georgia Southern
WR    Brian Quick, Sr., Appalachian State
WR    Brenton Bersin, Sr., Wofford
Second Team Defense
DL        Josh Lynn, Jr., Furman
DL        Roderick Tinsley, Sr., Georgia Southern
DL        Nick Davison, Sr., Chattanooga
DL        Eric Eberhardt, Sr., Wofford
LB        Brandon Grier, Jr., Appalachian State
LB        Tolu Akindele, Sr., The Citadel
LB        Joshua Jones, Sr., Elon
DB        Corey White, Sr., Samford
DB        Chris Lewis-Harris, Sr., Chattanooga
DB        Kadeem Wise, So., Chattanooga
DB        Blake Wylie, Jr., Wofford
Second Team Specialists
PK    Adrian Mora, Sr., Georgia Southern
P        Sam Martin, Jr., Appalachian State
RS        Travaris Cadet, Sr., Appalachian State
 NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.