Preseason “coaches” poll is actually a misnomer. As Wall Street Journal college sports writer Rachel Bachman pointed out earlier, the poll released to widespread overanalysis and anticipation today merits a new title: “the graduate assistants' poll.” Because that’s who really votes on these things (or sports information directors) most of the time, anyway. Be that as it may, whoever submitted votes for the "coaches" poll believed Northwestern deserved a spot in the nation’s preseason top 25.
Indeed, the Wildcats will begin the season ranked 22 in the coaches poll, down (or up, whichever you prefer) six spots from the No. 16 ranking they were given following a convincing victory over Mississippi State in the New Year's Day Gator Bowl. Four other Big Ten teams made the top-25: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan, No. 18 Nebraska and No. 23 Wisconsin. The poll can be found in all its subjective, fuzzy, mostly worthless beauty here.
This is right about where I expected Northwestern to be ranked heading into the year. The Wildcats return most of last season’s 10-win team, and no Big Ten opponent will be sleeping on a group as talented and as deep as most of the league’s top contenders. If I had to guess, the drop is likely rooted in the sense the Wildcats might struggle to replicate last year’s success given their more challenging schedule, which includes road games at Nebraska and Wisconsin, and home tests against Michigan and Ohio State, among other semi-rigorous fixtures.
Like all subjective polls, this ranking should be taken with a fat grain of salt. The Associated press poll comes out next week. Expect the Wildcats to fall somewhere within a three-or-four pick margin, up or down, from the No. 22 ranking dealt out today.