The only rankings that matter in college football won't come out until Nov. 3, and the only set of those that really matter won't be out until Dec. 6, when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its final top 25.
College football still loves its preseason polls, though, even if the coaches poll and AP poll are no longer part of the national championship system. The coaches poll was released by USA Today on July 30, and the AP released its media poll on Sunday. The results from the coaches and the media are, not surprisingly, nearly identical: Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Baylor comprise the top four in both, and each top 25 is made up of the same 25 teams. No team in Sunday's AP top 25 is more than two spots away from where it is ranked in the coaches poll. Voters have reached their typical preseason consensus, even more so than usual, with the first few weeks of the season sure to subvert many of our expectations.
Ohio State is a unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll -- the first ever in the preseason rankings -- while the coaches gave the Buckeyes 62 of 64 first-place votes, with TCU and Alabama receiving one each. Remember, even though Ohio State is an overwhelming favorite, no preseason AP No. 1 team has won the national championship since USC in 2004 and only 10 have ever done it since 1950, so the Buckeyes are fighting against history.
And, again, none of this will matter come November. But in a sport built around debate, preseason perceptions are always a huge talking point. Sports on Earth's preseason rankings will be published next week, but before that, let's take a look at which teams might be slightly underrated and overrated in the 2015 preseason AP poll.
19. Oklahoma. I've written a column about the Sooners as a strange sleeper team this year, as they could crash the party in the Big 12, widely assumed to be a two-team race between Baylor and TCU. After last year's disappointment -- Oklahoma went from No. 4 in the preseason to unranked, with a horrible bowl performance vs. Clemson -- the Sooners find themselves ranked lower in the preseason AP top 25 than they've been since they opened the 2000 season ranked ... 19th. That was Bob Stoops' second season, and you may remember that they won the BCS national title. By no means do I think history will repeat itself, but Oklahoma could certainly be better than this No. 19 ranking. Despite the blowout bowl loss, this team was probably better than assumed last year, and there is enough returning to talent -- tailback Samaje Perine, receiver Sterling Shepard, linebacker Eric Striker, cornerback Zack Sanchez, etc. -- to believe that Oklahoma can turn things around, especially behind new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
23. Boise State. The Broncos have finished 18th or better in 10 of the last 13 seasons, with four top-25 finishes. Last year, they ended up 16th in the debut of head coach Bryan Harsin -- the offensive coordinator for three of those top-10 seasons -- with a Mountain West title, a Fiesta Bowl win over Pac-12 South champion Arizona and a 12-2 record. This year, they do lose steady quarterback Grant Hedrick and star workhorse running back Jay Ajayi (347 carries, 50 catches), but they return 17 starters, with talented, experienced lines and All-America candidates on defense in end Kamalei Correa and safety Darian Thompson. There are a few losable games on the schedule, but this looks like a one- or two-loss team at most, and while a beatable schedule overall helps, Boise State should be good enough to hang with just about anyone.
27. Texas A&M. Maybe being outside the top 25 is an overcorrection for last year's out-of-control early-season hype following the opening blowout win over South Carolina. And, in a loaded SEC West, it's certainly possible that the Aggies will finish outside the top 25 again. This, however, is the year where Kevin Sumlin's recruiting efforts can pay off -- 11th or better in three straight classes, according to 247Sports -- as the Aggies boast a receiving corps loaded with potential, a solid offensive line, a potential rising star at quarterback in Kyle Allen (plus all-world freshman Kyler Murray) and a new defensive coordinator in John Chavis. Chavis won't pull off a miracle and make this a shut-down unit right away, but there is talent to build around, starting with star sophomore end Myles Garrett. Throw in one of the SEC's most favorable schedules, and there's a lot to like about Texas A&M, especially if it can out-duel Arizona State in an intriguing opener in Houston on Sept. 5.
29. Virginia Tech. Given what we have seen from Virginia Tech recently, the Hokies probably don't deserve to be ranked. But preseason rankings are projections, and what happened last year isn't necessarily going to happen again this year. Last season, nine teams that began the season outside the preseason AP top 25 finished within the final top 25 in January. Virginia Tech is a good bet to be one of those teams this year. The Hokies return one of the best defenses in college football, with a deep front led by Dadi Nicolas and Luther Maddy and a fantastic secondary led by Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. (Maddy and Facyson both missed much of last year, and the defense was still really good.) Improvement on offense should be met with skepticism until the Hokies actually prove it after three lousy seasons in a row, but this team has also dealt with its fair share of bad breaks. The backfield and offensive line should be healthier, and the receiving corps has young talent led by wideout Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges. Virginia Tech might not upset Ohio State again, but it will be much better than last year and is a worthy contender in the ACC.
5. Michigan State. The Spartans have earned the benefit of the doubt under Mark Dantonio. They've finished in the top five of the AP poll each of the last two years, and the quarterback who brought them there, Connor Cook, is back for a third season as starter. He's joined by a great offensive line and a great defensive line, meaning the Spartans have an outstanding foundation to build around: senior All-Big Ten quarterback and proven veterans in the trenches. The Spartans are, however, replacing many of the key skill players around Cook, including go-to deep threat Tony Lippett and steadily productive tailback Jeremy Langford, and the defense behind that line has more questions than it's had in a while. The Spartans dropped from first to 27th nationally in yards per play allowed last year (to be expected after they were so dominant in 2013), and now they lose coordinator Pat Narduzzi, cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond, plus they unexpectedly lost linebacker Ed Davis to a preseason injury. This will be a good Michigan State team, but the sense here is that it will be more top-15 good than top-five again.
6. Auburn. Overall, the AP and coaches polls both did solid jobs, with no egregiously bad choices. So we have to stretch a bit here. Auburn, like Texas A&M last year, is coming off an 8-5 season and is trying to fix a broken defense by hiring a high-profile coordinator -- in this case, Will Muschamp. They're recruited similarly, and the Aggies return more experience. The Tigers are ranked sixth; the Aggies are outside the top 25. This is not meant to say that Texas A&M should be ranked above Auburn -- I wouldn't agree if the Aggies were, and despite the head-to-head result, Auburn was much better than Texas A&M most of last year -- but skepticism is healthy with Auburn in this division. There's little reason to doubt a Gus Malzahn offense, and assuming receiver Duke Williams can escape from the coaches' doghouse, there's a lot to like, with high expectations for new quarterback Jeremy Johnson. This is a team capable of putting it all together to be a playoff contender, but there are still plenty of uncertainties heading into a daunting schedule. As seen last year, it doesn't take much in the SEC West to go from assumed contender to 9-3 or 8-4, and Auburn may not have the overall depth of some other top contenders.
10. Florida State. The ACC is winnable, and given that the Seminoles are ranked second in average recruiting ranking over the last five years, according to 247Sports data, they're as good of a bet as any to take the division. A top-10 finish is absolutely possible, and the AP voters were a bit more restrained than the coaches, who pegged the Seminoles eighth. The offense has a lot of turnover, though, with Everett Golson and Sean Maguire battling to replace Jameis Winston; Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary gone from the receiving corps; and four starters gone on the offensive line. There's also the uncertain status of the offense's best player, tailback Dalvin Cook, who's suspended indefinitely pending Monday's trial on a misdemeanor battery charge. The defense is more experienced, but the front seven remains thin. A beatable schedule combined with Jimbo Fisher's impressive recruiting can allow Florida State to overcome all the issues that present themselves on paper, but right now this team appears a few steps away from being a top-10 team.