The first preseason poll was published on Thursday, and little has changed since January. LSU is ranked No. 1 by the college football coaches, and Alabama, which beat the Tigers in the BCS championship game, is No. 2.
      Why does any of this matter for the Gophers? It doesn't, except in gauging their strength of schedule. Four Big Ten teams were ranked among the top 16 -- Michigan the highest at eighth, followed by Wisconsin at No. 12, Michigan State at 13, and Nebraska 16th -- and Minnesota will face all four in the season's final six weeks. (Ohio State, on probation this year, is not eligible to be ranked in the coaches' poll, but almost certainly will be among the top 25 when the AP poll is released in another 10 days. The Gophers don't play the Buckeyes this year.)
      That just emphasizes how important a good start will be to Minnesota. The non-conference schedule is a soft one, and the first two Big Ten games, at Iowa and home against Northwestern, are against teams projected by the league's media to finish fourth and fifth in the Legends Division. But the second half of the season is considerably tougher.
      The coaches poll can be found here.