Schrödinger's Rankings: Preseason Predictions Mean Nothing And Everything

Tyler Tettleton #4 of the Ohio Bobcats runs with the football against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit. The Huskies defeated the Bobcats 23-20.

And the long wait is over. As Pre-Snap Read's always anticipated preseason rankings rolled backward from last place, one by one each day, into the top 30, the waiting game finally ended as OHIO showed up at No. 26. It's a darn good placement and also a superbly-written preview.

It's looking more and more like the Bobcats are the clear kings of the MAC, at least right now, when you lump in our preseason positional rankings. Pencil 'em in for 10 wins. Give 'em the MAC title. Dream for a BCS bowl, sure. (As a man who does not love absolutes, that will not happen.)

This won't mean much to many, but in the 2011 list OHIO was No. 52, tops in the MAC. Northern Illinois won the MAC at No. 59, third in the MAC behind Toledo at 56. In 2010, Temple was the top at No. 44 and yet it was Miami who won the MAC despite being No. 112. That positioning can show you the futility of ordering teams before a game is played. That is not what we're focusing on, though.

Just for fun, I'm going to spill out another table here. It's all the MAC teams and now Pre-Snap Read designed them in the preseason respective to everyone else.

2012 preseason 2011 preseason 2010 preseason
26. OHIO 52. OHIO 44. Temple
54. Northern Illinois 56. Toledo 55. Northern Illinois
57. Toledo 59. Northern Illinois 60. OHIO
62. Western Michigan 71. Western Michigan 72. Toledo
70. Bowling Green 75. Temple 82. Central Michigan
87. Miami 83. Miami 89. Bowling Green
92. Eastern Michigan 98. Ball State 92. Western Michigan
98. Kent State 101. Bowling Green 99. Kent State
99. Central Michigan 108. Eastern Michigan 101. Ball State
104. Ball State 111. Buffalo 105. Akron
110. Buffalo 113. Kent State 108. Buffalo
118. Akron 115. Central Michigan 112. Miami
120. UMass 119. Akron 119. Eastern Michigan

You can search for your favorite team and see how they've progressed, but I'm more interested in the macro perspective.

What Ball State was ranked in 2010 is about as useful in 2012 as the temperature in Muncie that same day. But if you lump all the rankings together, you'll see something neat: from last year to this one, there's a slight increase in the mean and median teams. Even from two years ago, the top half of the conference is stronger, and those are really the teams the MAC wants to showcase against the Big Ten in September and bowls in December.

It's still nowhere near the power conferences, but it's an upward shift and can't be overlooked. It means something. Either they're slightly on the rise, which is great, or it's just another iteration of the cyclical process that is winning and losing. By 2013 they might be lucky to see a team crack the 40s.

But while we're on the subject of what rankings mean to specific teams ... yes, OHIO is looking like smarter and smarter money to win the MAC. But they are one team, and there are some impressive rising programs behind them. Unless it's the year 2000 and you're Tiger Woods, bet on the field. What are the Bobcats chances, do you think, of winning the MAC? One-third?

But preseason rankings do mean much, especially with the national championship perspective. The Coaches Poll came out last week, and while OHIO is nowhere to be found, Northern Illinois has a couple votes and that's it. This essentially takes every MAC team out of contention for the BCS championship. Let's just hope a MAC team doesn't fall into a bowl game against the SEC.

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