"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.
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.