Preseason polls don’t mean much, but they’re still conversation points and a basis for discussion heading into every season.
So take it with a grain of salt that the Syracuse Orange were picked last in the Atlantic Division at last week’s ACC Football Kickoff. SU also received the fewest total votes in the league (both divisions).
The 2018 #ACCFootball Preseason Poll is here! @ClemsonFB chosen as the overall favorite while @CanesFootball tabbed to finish first in the Coastal Division. More: https://t.co/dVEEbk9APd #ACC #ACCKickoff pic.twitter.com/oshbnqNLK4— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) July 23, 2018
In part, this is understandable. The Atlantic Division has an overwhelming favorite in Clemson. Syracuse has finished 4-8 for three straight years, and the Orange lose their top two receivers and top four linebackers from last year. I don’t even have a problem with SU being picked last, to be honest. I think the bigger issue is just the perception this voting gap creates around how far behind Syracuse may be relative to the rest of the league’s programs. The seventh place team in the Atlantic could very easily make a bowl game at 6-6, y’know...
What’s a bigger issue is the weight that homer votes likely played here. As you’re well aware, the ACC is located in North Carolina. The ACC Football Kickoff is also in North Carolina. So out of the 148 media ballots turned in last week, it stands to reason that a good deal of those are from in-state folks. Most of those individuals are reasonable and work to reduce bias in doing their jobs. Others... potentially not so much.
Because that’s how you get first-place votes for NC State (two!), Duke and North Carolina. That may not explain the aggressive amount of love being tossed Boston College’s way was well (far and away fourth in the Atlantic). Just the same, these homer votes for the non-Wake Forest Tobacco Road schools do seem to discredit the process.
Expect similar results when the preseason All-ACC picks arrive as well. The best way to deal with these sorts of things is just to prove them wrong. Despite some big wins of late, we’ve yet to really set the record straight for a full season these past few years. Dino Babers certainly wants a strong showing in 2018. The perception from conference media would follow that as well.