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How do teams ranked sixth in the Coaches Poll finish historically?

Ohio State is the preseason No. 6 team in this year's Coaches Poll. What does that mean?

Streeter Lecka

In case you somehow missed this a few days ago, the preseason Coaches Poll came out and listed Ohio State No. 6, behind Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn. Unlike in previous years, the Coaches Poll doesn't technically "matter", since neither awards a trophy or has anything to do with deciding who makes the playoffs this season. But it's out anyway, and since there isn't anything else going on, we might as well talk about it.

Is going into the preseason No. 6 a good thing? You don't have quite the same level of preseason hype that you might a little farther up the list, but being in the top 10 is still a pretty clear recognition that you should have a very solid team. To get some better insight, I took a look at every poll since 2002, and compared how the preseason No. 6 team ended up at the end of the year. I also added the actual champion for that year, in case you forgot.


Preseason No. 6 team: Colorado

Final Result: No. 21 in Coaches Poll, 9-5 record, lost 31-28 to Wisconsin in the Alamo Bowl

Actual Champ: You don't actually need me to remind you of this one, do you?


Preseason No. 6 team: Auburn (got a first place vote too!))

Final Result: unranked, finished 8-5, beat Wisconsin 28-14 in the Music City Bowl

Actual Champ: LSU


Preseason No. 6 team: Florida State

Final Result: No. 14 in Coaches Poll, 9-3 record, beat West Virginia 30-18 in the Gator Bowl

Actual Champ: USC


Preseason No. 6 team: LSU

Final Result: No. 5 in the Coaches Poll, 11-2 ranking, beat Miami (FL) 40-3 in the Peach Bowl.

Actual Champ: Texas


Preseason No. 6 team: Auburn (also with a first place vote!)

Final Result: No. 8 ranking in the Coaches Poll, 11-2 record, beat Nebraska 17-14 in the Cotton Bowl

Actual Champ: Florida (damn it)


Preseason No. 6 team: West Virginia

Final Result: No. 6 in the Coaches Poll (hey, how about that), 11-2 record, beat Oklahoma 48-24 in the Fiesta Bowl

Actual Champ: LSU (double damn it)


Preseason No. 6 team: LSU (three first place votes!)

Final Result: unranked, 8-5 record, beat Georgia Tech 38-3 in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl

Actual Champ: Florida


Preseason No. 6 team: Your Ohio State Buckeyes

Final Result: No. 5 in the Coaches Poll, 11-2 record, beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl

Actual Champ: Alabama


Preseason No. 6 team: Virginia Tech

Final Result: No. 15 in the Coaches Poll, 11-3 record, lost to Michigan in the Orange Bowl

Actual Champ: Auburn


Preseason No. 6 team: Stanford

Final Result: No. 7 in the Coaches Poll, 11-2 record, lost 41-38 to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl

Actual Champ: Alabama


Preseason No. 6 team: Georgia

Final Result: No. 4 in the Coaches Poll, 12-2 record, beat Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl

Actual Champ: Alabama


Preseason No. 6 team: Texas A&M (got a first place vote!)

Final Result: No. 18 in the Coaches Poll, 9-4, beat Duke in the Peach Bowl

Actual Champ: Florida State

So over the last 12 years, every team that started the season No. 6 in the Coaches Poll made a bowl game, and 10 of the 12 finished in the Top 25. Preseason No. 6 teams are also a healthy 9-3 in those bowl games, so historically, as you'd expect, these teams are pretty good. Tiny sample size, but even the teams that were relative disappointments (squads that finished the season unranked) still won their bowl games. So that's ... something.

Historically though, the No. 6 spot hasn't been one for a ton of upward mobility. Only three of these teams finished better than their preseason No. 6 ranking, and nobody finished higher than fourth (although one of those three teams was the 2009 Ohio State squad). In fact, nobody ranked No. 6 even played for the National Title, let alone won it. PAWWWL, THE SEASON IS OVER. WHY EVEN BOTHER?!

Of course, this season is totally different from any of the others on the list, since now we have a playoff, and you only need to crack the top four to have a shot at winning it all. Sure, only the 2012 Georgia team finished in the top four, but NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS.

It's August, and data is data, small sample sizes be damned, so here we are. Based on historical precedent, Ohio State is likely to have a very good, but not elite, season. Here is hoping Ohio State can buck the trend and make some noise in the playoffs.