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Preseason rankings are always a reaction . . . to what?

By now you've learned the unexciting news: the Spartans aren't quite ranked in the preseason Associated Press poll. Steve Grinczel is mystified, citing the common wisdom that these rankings are based largely on the teams' performance in the prior season. He points out that MSU beat several teams last year that are ranked ahead of State now—Notre Dame and Iowa among them—and wonders why.

Well, that's easy. Javon Ringer.

From a national perspective, last season the Spartans were all about Javon Ringer. When the perception of your team is closely tied to one player, and then that guy is gone . . . well, I doubt Davidson will be getting preseason Top 25 votes in basketball, either. Not that comparing Steph Curry's impact to Ringer's is fair, nor is comparing Davidson's stature as a hoops program to MSU football. But you take the Ringer hype, combine it with the loss of a senior QB, Brian Hoyer, and you see why people nationally figure State will be down a bit.

Of course, by paying closer attention we have our reasons to be wildly optimistic as well. And it's encouraging that the Big Ten media coaches picked us third, because I assume they're paying closer attention than the national experts who are trying to keep tabs on 120 teams. But it does get me to wondering: how important was Ringer to MSU? It's easy to remember him limping through the latter part of last season, heroic but not lightning-quick. But now that he's playing well for the Titans, I can also recall the guy who was pretty much good for at least one home-run burst per game before he got hurt. 

Is there any validity to the idea that #23 was a singular force behind MSU's successful 2008, and that maybe we'll regress without him?