By Noah Darling
When we created the College Baseball Central Top 25 Poll, our goal was to combat some of the ridiculousness and inconsistency in our sport. College Baseball gives credence to six polls, which I think is about four too many. When these six outlets create polls, they are nationally shared, whether by teams or the NCAA themselves, and they are celebrated as top-of-the-line polls.
In some instances, this is accurate, and no one questions which outlets care for the game which they cover. I will not name names, but there are other polls that, seemingly, on a weekly basis, release polls that push the limits of the credibility the country has given them. Each Monday during the season, we laugh at their rankings (and it isn’t just one outlet, but you know who I’m talking about), and we collectively disregard them. Yet, ncaa.com still publishes each edition of these polls, no matter how absurd they are.
Point being, we wanted to create a poll with 20+ weekly voters who actually watch the teams to whom we are going to assign a ranking. We don’t want to be the laughing stock of the landscape, that position is filled. You may disagree with our rankings, but over time, I think everyone will see our logic; and if any questions arise along the way, each voter is usually quick and thorough in their explanation.
For even more clarity, I have decided to explain my personal poll in detail each week. Here is my thinking for my Week 2 poll.
1. Wake Forest
It's certainly controversial to drop LSU after losing one game, to a team I now have ranked in my Top 25. With that said, this is more of a credit to Wake Forest for looking like a complete team thus far. Of course, the Deacs have played a weaker schedule, but I wouldn’t have made this move until LSU lost a game.
Again, not popular. LSU came in as the #1 team, with the hype, the recruiting class, the transfer class, and what looked like a complete team. They have been nearly as good as advertised, but my slight skepticism with this team going in has given me a sort of confirmation bias with their loss to Iowa. I may very well be wrong about this LSU team, but it feels like they just don’t have the secret sauce that Wake Forest might. Long season ahead of us.
The Gators looked impressive against Cincinnati this week, and the emergence of Jac Caglianone has Florida looking like a national championship level team in February. With that said, blowing the lead to USF scares me. The Gators would have needed a lot of help to move up this week, but their disposal of Cincy keeps them where they are despite the collapse on Wednesday.
The Cardinal lost a weird midweek game against Cal this week, but they recovered nicely with a sweep over Rice. Nationally, Stanford was as high as #2 last week, and I just didn’t think that was appropriate for a team that has had a few hiccups already. The Cardinal are very very good, but slotted in well at 4 in my opinion.
Why is it that any time the Razorbacks lose, it feels like they lost twice? I have really struggled to get a grasp on Arkansas, in terms of how to rank them, ever since the start of last season. I think this is a product of following too many Arkansas fans on Twitter. I buy in to the hype, and when Arkansas loses, the sky is falling on the bird app. I think 5 is high, yet 5 is where I have them. I really have no idea when it comes to these guys until around April.
6. Ole Miss
Ole Miss has gotten such a raw deal in the polls across the country, and it is all because of Mississippi State. The parallels between this team and last year’s Mississippi State team are undeniable. National Champions, emotional, lose leaders, return some younger leadership, including a really exciting arm. Even worse, that comparison grew more accurate this week, when it appeared the Rebels will lose Hunter Elliott for at minimum an extended period of time. Still no clarity, but college baseball fans do not have to be reminded of a similar fate happening to the arm of MSU’s Landon Sims a year ago. It really is unfortunate, because unlike the 2022 Bulldogs, the Rebels are winning baseball games. This is a team that has earned a Top 10 ranking, and probably should have had one from jump street, but there is such a variance on the rankings of this team, even inside the walls of College Baseball Central.
7. East Carolina
February might be too early to start calling any team a team of destiny, but if the Pirates continue to play like they did against North Carolina this weekend, the only way to defeat ECU will be a Sunday evening travel curfew. Fighting until the end in front of an electric crowd on Friday night is what ECU needs to finally get to Omaha. We have just under four months until the College Baseball Gods bestow their fate upon the rowdy fans in Greenville, but for now, I really like ECU at 7, and they have a path to move up relatively quickly.
I was a little too hard on the Vols. After starting the season at #2 in my, as well as nearly everyone in the country’s, ballot, I fell in to the pomp and circumstance of Opening Weekend. Nationally, other voters were not as hard on Tennessee as I was, and they received some criticism. This week it may be my turn. After entering the week at #13 in my ballot, the Vols are in at #8 on Sunday night. I have a lot of trouble keeping that rotation out of the Top 10, and the offense seems to have gotten their swagger back just enough to merit a #8 ranking.
9. Virginia Tech
This team is so tricky to read. I came in to the year as a big believer in the Hokies, and this is not a team in which I would normally be invested. I have trouble jumping on the bandwagon of teams in their “prove it” year. I worry about the challenges of sustaining success for programs that haven’t had to do it before. Playing when every team has made YOU their “Super Bowl”. Despite that usual fear, I like the Hokies more than most right now. I don’t truly believe they are a Top 10 team right now, and we can’t really say for certain with their subpar strength of schedule, but I am not going to punish a 3-1 week as much as others might. I do wish the Hokies could figure out how to win Friday, though. That is supposed to be the easy one against low tier competition.
The Horned Frogs won Arlington, no doubt about it. WIth that said, we are seeing the effect of the really difficult schedule that Kirk Saarloos has cooked up. Florida State should be a consensus Top 25 team after going in to Fort Worth and taking 2 of 3 this weekend. Therefore, I won’t punish the Frogs too much. However, I do expect them to move up and down the rankings more than any team in the country this season, since their schedule is not the row of cupcakes that some other teams have thrown together.
It feels like every time I turn on a Louisville game, they’re up 15-12, which is really great and fun to watch, until you run in to a team that can pitch. Wake Forest is on your schedule, Louisville. The ACC is a gauntlet that will feature a lot of 15-12 games, but the Cardinals might have to work on the pitching department if they want to stick around the Top 10 when their schedule ramps up.
I really want to have this team ranked higher, but losing to Central Arkansas has to have an effect on the number next to this team. Taking 2 of 3 from UCLA is very impressive, and it will look really great at the end of the year when UCLA has it all truly put it together. Vanderbilt looks better than I thought they would be, and they have looked solid against good competition. You can’t over analyze mid-weeks too much in this sport, but I think UCA kept the Commodores out of my Top 10 this week.
13. South Carolina
This ranking is too high. I know that. Do I regret it? No. I am having so much fun watching this Gamecock team this season. As people have been quick to remind me, no, they haven’t played anyone especially threatening, but Penn is no slouch. Does a sweep of the Quakers merit a Top 13 ranking? No, but we are seeing the impact of the correct teams losing and me being especially high on this Gamecock team. Party like it’s 2010, 2011, and all of 2012 until the Championship Series?
14. Texas Tech
Simone Biles wishes she could jump as high as Texas Tech did this week. Did they play anyone? Nope, but again, it's a product of the weirdness of this week’s slate. The Red Raiders have done everything that we have asked of them, and while that isn’t much, there hasn’t really been any doubt in watching these guys play that Tim Tadlock has a solid ballclub after last year’s bump in the road. I think Tech is a little bit overrated here, but a long season gives them opportunity to stay right around here.
I really thought the Bruins were going to take 2 of 3 in Nashville, and not just going in to the series, I thought they would win today. Vanderbilt just has that edge that this young Bruins team doesn’t yet. I still really love this team, and playing competitive baseball against Vanderbilt is never worth too large a punishment. The Bruins might be a tad higher here than in most rankings, but a drop from 12 to 15 is sufficient for me.
16. Oklahoma State
After getting run-ruled by Arkansas to end their weekend in Arlington, the Cowboys decided to throw not one, but two combined no-hitters this week. It's truly an unbelievable accomplishment that highlights the difference between playing Arkansas and Cal Baptist/Loyola Marymount. Oklahoma State is probably rewarded a bit too much in my rankings, but the combined no-no’s carry a ton of weight, for really no reason.
17. Florida State
Link Jarrett is an artist. No other way to put it, the guy just knows how to win, and win quickly. Fresh off getting Notre Dame to Omaha, he has the Seminoles rolling, and while they did suffer a loss to TCU on Sunday, the series was won, and they still nearly swept. FSU does not miss Parker Messick and Bryce Hubbart nearly as much as I thought they would, and the viewer can tell that there’s something different about this Florida State team. I feel good about them at #17.
18. Texas A&M
What in the world, Aggies! A&M is not playing any differently than they did last season; it just seems that they have forgotten how to win. It might be the missing secret sauce that was Jacob Palisch, but not even a bullpen piece could have won these games against Lamar and Portland. The Pilots strolled in to College Station and nearly left with a sweep, if it weren’t for a walkoff aided by an unfortunate mistake from the Portland catcher. I originally had the Aggies lower, but I am giving Jim Schlossnagle some patience. This weekend’s Shriners College Classic will answer a lot of questions for those of us on the fence when it comes to this Texas A&M club.
Let’s all give the Terps a break. Maryland heard your gripe with a Big Ten team trying to be a Top 8 seed. The Terrapins booked a trip to Oxford and played some competitive baseball against the defending champions, even winning on Friday night. I can’t punish that too much, although the loss to West Virginia earlier this week scares me just a little bit. Maryland is a team that I could see ranking as high as 12th and as low as 22nd. I’m okay with 19th, for now.
The Hoos (no idea what that really means) gave me a scare today as they headed to the 8th inning in a 0-0 duel with Columbia. All was good when Virginia left that same 8th inning with a 9-0 lead, and soon to be victory. Virginia is constantly disrespected in rankings, and I am certainly guilty of that this week. With that said, if UVA wants to be ranked where they probably belong, I encourage them to play a team with a pulse.
I was really really high on the Hurricanes this season. It was only a few months ago, when I was calling them the most fraudulent team in the country, that I was later running around with excitement when it was announced that Ole Miss--a team I had irrationally said was going to win a Regional--got placed in Miami’s Regional. For a moment there, I thought I had to go back to that, but the Canes flexed all over Dartmouth this weekend and landed at #21.
22. Oregon State
Speaking of teams for which I have no feel, the Beavers puzzle me. They haven’t played anyone especially good and looked especially bad on Opening Day. Outside of that performance, they’ve been borderline electric, with promising bats and solid pitching. So, why did I consider dropping them out of the Top 25 this week? I have no idea. But, I am cautiously optimistic about this Oregon State team.
23. NC State
I’ll be honest, I have watched NC State for about 10 minutes total this season, but they look pretty good. I worried how a team that missed the NCAA Tournament AND lost their best player would look, but the Wolfpack have it figured out so far. Offense is not a problem for this team, and uniform selection isn’t either.
Campbell is the reason that you can’t overlook a midweek game. The Camels beat ECU earlier this week and didn’t even play their best game in doing so. I had Campbell ranked a week ago, so they aren’t new to this list, but they definitely benefited from ECU taking both games from North Carolina later in the week. RPI victories are almost as tasty as real victories. Almost.
25. Iowa and UCF
The beauty of being the main guy around College Baseball Central? I can rank 26 teams in back-to-back weeks, and no one seems to care. Last week, it was Oregon and NC State. This week, it's Iowa and UCF. The Hawkeyes took care of LSU on Saturday, which I predicted on The Weekend Rotation and several times throughout the week, humble brag. The Knights, or whatever they’re calling themselves in blue uniforms, swept Clemson, at Clemson. UCF looked mighty impressive, but Iowa knocking off number 1, while also getting shutout by Sam Houston State, made this a really tough call. Both get in, but if history repeats itself, one of these teams will get absolutely shredded this week.