The pre-season USA Today-Amway Coaches Poll has finally hit the street, and the Wildcats check in at #21, which is pretty much exactly where we'd like to be. Three other Big 12 teams are in the top 25, including Oklahoma at #3 and Baylor at #10; Texas is at #24. Oklahoma State and TCU received an average of just under a point per ballot, which isn't nearly enough to actually crack the top 25 when all the "Also Receiving Votes" teams combined for 876 points, which is an average of over 14 points per ballot. In essence, the average ballot could be said to figuratively include a missing team ranked all the way up in 12th place. Texas Tech also received a handful of votes.
Here's the poll, and after, some analysis.
First thing to note: there are only three SEC teams in the top ten. Three conferences each have a pair, while the ACC holds the final spot. Of course, it's the most important one. The top 25 includes half the SEC, six teams from the Pac-12, four each from the Big 12 and Big 10, and three-and-a-half teams from the ACC. The highest-ranked team from outside the Power Five, who are by default your favorites for that extra New Year's Day Bowl spot, is Central Florida, sitting 40 points out of 25th. The next Group of Five team? Marshall. Whoof.
There are a few obvious breakpoints in the poll -- spaces where teams are separated by 93 points or more, which indicate that the team above is clearly considered to be superior to the team below. The first is the gap between #6 Ohio State and #7 UCLA, a 182-point spread. Above that gap, Ohio State and Auburn may as well be tied for fifth, and the gap from Auburn to Oregon is barely more than half a poll position. Worth noting, Florida State's lead over Alabama is well over a full poll position, but not quite large enough to be called a breakpoint.
Another breakpoint separates LSU and Wisconsin in 13th and 14th. The gap between the two teams is almost equal to three whole positions in the poll; the practical effect here is that LSU will hold off Wisconsin for some time simply by having the same results each week, as it will take herculean effort for Wisconsin to convince voters they're better than LSU if LSU is winning.
The final big breakpoint is between #17 Notre Dame and #18 Arizona State, a gap equivalent to over two poll positions. Interestingly, there is no point entirely in the poll where three teams are truly clustered within a space of 30 points or so. That's a relatively rare situation. The gap between #24 Texas and "#27" Florida is only 19 points, however.
As for the Wildcats, they only trail #20 Texas A&M by nine points, and are one place ahead of where the average voter placed them on the ballot. (What does that mean? K-State received 4.14 points per ballot, and 4 points is actually the 22nd spot. Washington, on the other hand, is a spot lower than their average points would indicate, as they received 2.29 points per ballot, meaning the average voter placed the Huskies 24th.) Missouri, Florida, Central Florida, and Mississippi State -- despite being unranked -- are considered top-25 teams by the average voter.
Speaking of the voters, Big 12 coaches with ballots this year are Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson, Bob Stoops, and Charlie Strong.
So we now know what to expect poll-wise when Auburn comes calling, should things play out properly. It'll be a top-20 Wildcat team facing a top-five SEC opponent.