How the coaches voted in USA Today poll

December, 8, 2013
Last week, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio rhetorically asked "Why not us?" about the Spartans' chances of playing for the BCS title should they beat Ohio State. Dantonio clearly was serious.

The final regular season USA Today coaches' poll is out, and with it comes the public revelation of how the coaches voted for the first time all season. It's always an intriguing and often comical exercise to review the ballots of a system fraught with inherent conflicts of interest.

Dantonio voted Michigan State No. 2 behind Florida State on his ballot following the Spartans' 34-24 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. And while I don't quite agree, his case does have some merit. Michigan State went 12-1, had one loss on the road to Notre Dame by four points and just beat the team that was ranked No. 2.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen apparently agrees. He also voted Michigan State No. 2, the only other coach to do so. Most coaches ranked the Spartans somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5, while Baylor's Art Briles had them No. 8, the lowest ranking for MSU among the coaches in the poll. Briles also ranked Ohio State No. 10.

Here's a quick look at where every Big Ten coach with a vote ranked his league counterparts:

Tim Beckman, Illinois

5. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
19. Wisconsin


2. Michigan State
4. Ohio State
19. Wisconsin
24. Iowa
25. Minnesota

Brady Hoke, Michigan

4. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
18. Wisconsin
21. Iowa

Jerry Kill, Minnesota

3. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
14. Wisconsin
21. Iowa
25. Minnesota

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

4. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
19. Wisconsin
24. Iowa

Bo Pelini, Nebraska

4. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
18. Wisconsin
21. Iowa
25. Nebraska

Big Ten coaches were clearly higher on their own league than most voters and in many cases, had a much stronger opinion of their own teams. That Pelini's ballot has his own Huskers No. 25 tells you most of what you need to know about the silliness of the system. It would have been fascinating to see how the coaches would have voted if Ohio State had won Saturday and forced a debate with the SEC.

Some other notable votes:

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had Ohio State ranked the lowest of any voters, at No. 12. Is he a strength of schedule proponent? Apparently not, since he had Louisville, which beat no one with a detectable pulse, at No. 6 (nine spots ahead of UCF, who beat the Cardinals on the road and won the American Athletic Conference with a better schedule. So, um, yeah). Bielema had Michigan State No. 4, his former team Wisconsin No. 21 and his alma mater Iowa No. 25.

Alabama's Nick Saban voted his own Crimson Tide No. 3 and his former team, Michigan State, No. 4. Steve Spurrier had the Spartans No. 3, a spot ahead of Alabama. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, whose team was the only one to beat the Spartans, had Michigan State at No. 4.

Enjoy the goofiness and controversy of the coaches' ballots, and be thankful that this incredibly dumb system for picking a national championship game will be gone shortly.



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