As part of my navel-gazing this preseason, I decided I was going to compile every conference preseason coaches' poll I could find so I could show how good my model was at predicting conference races. The only conferences I couldn't find a coaches' poll for were the Empire 8, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, Southern Athletic Association, and Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (if you know where I can find these, email me).
As it turns out, football coaches are also pretty good at predicting their own conferences. With 23 conferences, and over 200 teams to analyze, my model missed teams' final conference standing by about 1.42 positions. Coaches polls missed by an average of 1.46 positions.
So next season, when you're looking at preseason polls, don't just assume they're meaningless. Odds are, they're going to be just as accurate as your favorite computer model (which I hope is this one).