Preseason polls are mostly for fans

Many coaches are not big fans of preseason polls. And who can blame them?

If their team is picked to win the conference, they are playing with a big bullseye on their back.

If their team is picked to finish near the bottom, there’s probably a good reason and fans will be anticipating a long season.

Tabor College was picked to finish first in both the coaches’ poll and media poll in August. What exactly does it mean?

Well, officially, it means squat, nada, zilch, nothing. Until the games are played on the field and the Bluejays actually win some games, it doesn’t count for much.

But I wouldn’t say it’s completely worthless.

If you’re picked to win it all, it means the coaches and media respect you and believe you have enough talented players returning to contend for a title. The same could be said for the teams picked immediately behind Tabor.

If you’re Tabor Coach Mike Gardner, you know going into the season that everyone will be trying to knock you off. Your hope is that you can coach your players well enough and impress on them that postseason honors are far more important than preseason honors.

In football, or any other sport for that matter, rarely does a team picked at or near the bottom win a championship. The gap is just too great. Oh, there may be an upset or two, but winning consistently or at all rarely occurs for a team picked at the bottom.

The challenge for coaches is to remind their players not to look at the newspaper clippings.

Picking the finish in the KCAC is a little tricky in that I’m not sure anyone really knows how good or immediately helpful the recruiting class is for each school.

Another thing no one knows is how healthy each team’s impact players will be during the season. There will always be injuries, but let’s be honest, some injuries hurt more than others. And if you suffer injuries at a position where you’re thin to begin with, look out.

Preseason football polls tend to undervalue K-State. Not so much this season. The Wildcats figure to be in the top three of the Big 12. They’ll have to win this season without playing the “We don’t get any respect card.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t a fan of preseason predictions, especially concerning his players, as evidenced by his rant when asked about linebacker Christian Miller before the season started.

ESPN reported that when Saban was asked how Miller was faring in practice, he started venting.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Saban. “You guys make all these predictions about everything, about guys who are going to be great players that have been here for two years. Who’s gonna win all the games? I don’t even know why we play. Why do we even play? Why do we even have practice? Why do we compete? Why do we coach guys? How they need to improve. I mean, you guys got all the answers to how guys are gonna be, what they’re gonna do.

“Sometimes I wonder… why do we play? Why do we even have practice? Because you guys have got all these conclusions already drawn about who’s what, how good they are, what they can do. So why would you ask me? That’s what’s puzzling to me. Why would you ask me? I read stuff all the time, like, ‘Oh, that’s nice to know. Where’d that come from?’ And then you ask me?”

Saban cracked a smile and chuckled as he answered the question amid laughs from the media gathering.

“But Christian Miller has done a nice job,” he said. “He’s had a really good camp. He’s doing a good job. He had a lot of production points in the scrimmage, so we’re really happy with the progress.”

There’s a part of me that feels sorry for the reporter who asked the question and a part of me that says Saban makes a good point.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.