Once again, the two national college football polls (the AP and USA Today) proved that a group of “experts” can come to idiotic conclusions. This week featured the same, tired pre-determined drops for any loss and awarding of teams for beating bottom-dwellers. This isn’t an aberration or an overreaction to one or two bad placements. This crap goes on every week. I loved the polls when I was growing up. I used to make my own top-25 rankings in class. I remember anxiously waiting for the newest polls to be released. Now—having been introduced to logic and reasoning for some time—I’m beginning to think the polls are simply a marketing tool. As much as I hate to admit it, the polls—however idiotic they are—make college football better. As disappointing as it is to realize that misleading the public with crappy polls is better for the sport than not having polls at all, I have to think that there’s a better way to do it.
I have never been a fan of the BCS system but the absurdity of the polls has me thinking that a structured system that rewards teams based on quality wins and losses and computer rankings would mean more than putting the rankings in the hands of people who—for the most part—do not have the ability to think logically. At the very least, polls should be absent for the first ¾ of the season. Pre-seasons poll—although they help hype the up-coming season—do nothing other than engrain preconceived notions into the minds of fans and voters across the country. No teams benefit from pre-season rankings and many teams are punished. Teams should be ranked by their accomplishments. A large enough sample size of “accomplishments” doesn’t exist after one or two weeks let alone before the season starts. If we’re stuck with human voters in the polls, the least they can do is wait until mid-October before shoving their hastily put together rankings down our throats. I understand there are “good” voters who put time and effort into their rankings. But, their clearly aren’t enough considering what the polls at large reflect.
On to this week’s absurdities…
The biggest travesty in the polls this week has to do with the ranking—or lack thereof—of Michigan St. Sparty was ranked #23 in the USA Today last week and received 60 votes or the equivalent of the 28th ranking in the AP Poll. Michigan St. went to Wisconsin this week—out-gained and outplayed the Badgers—and narrowly lost a three-point heartbreaker. Wisconsin, after beating MSU, climbed up to #5 in both polls. So, Michigan St.—which was previously undefeated—loses by three points on the road against the #5 team in the country, and falls out of the top 25 all-together? Words cannot express my shame as a college football fan. Clearly Michigan St. should not have dropped at all. In fact, Michigan St. should have climbed into the AP Poll and at the very least stayed the same in the USA Today. Making this even more ridiculous is how both polls treated a nearly identical situation. Oregon played at home against California who was ranked #6 entering the game. Oregon lost by seven. The polls punished Oregon by dropping it a whopping three spots in the AP and one spot in the USA Today. So, Oregon loses at home by seven to the current #3 team in the polls and stays in the top 15. Michigan St. loses by three on the road against the current #5 team in the polls and falls out of the rankings completely. Can we demand a re-vote?
Last week, I expressed my horror at the fact that Georgia was ranked ahead of South Carolina in both polls even though they had the same record and S. Carolina beat Georgia. Even more ridiculous, S. Carolina’s loss was by 12 points to LSU on the road. LSU is ranked #1 in the AP. Just when I thought the polls couldn’t screw up that ranking even worse, the USA Today poll went and increased the gap between the two teams. Last week, the USA Today had Georgia five spots ahead of S. Carolina. This week, there is a seven-spot gap. Both teams won convincingly against bad Mississippi-based teams so we learned nothing new about either team that we didn’t already know. The AP—in a shocking display of competence—actually reversed their previous ranking putting S. Carolina ahead of Georgia. Kudos to the AP for getting its act together on this issue.
Hawaii is now ranked #15 in both polls. How can anyone reasonably rank Hawaii ahead of say, Auburn? Auburn won at Florida and beat Kansas St. both of which are ranked by the AP. Auburn lost to #6 S. Florida and lost by five to Mississippi St. Hawaii has beaten two I-AA teams and three of the worst teams in college football. I would even say that Hawaii has won of the worst schedules in the history of college football. Teams should be ranked on accomplishments. Hawaii would get destroyed in Gainesville.
Penn St. /Michigan
Penn St. was ranked while Michigan was not last week which was ridiculous considering their respective resumes. Penn St. beat a bunch of nobodies and lost to Michigan. Michigan beat Penn St. with its back-up true-freshman quarterback. Say what you want about Michigan losing to Appalachian St., Penn St. had done nothing to give anyone the impression that it should be ranked ahead of Michigan last week. That was before Penn St. lost to Illinois this week. Yet, the USA Today still gave more votes to Penn St. this week. The AP—which is obviously the superior poll—fixed the glitch by handing out more votes to Michigan. Once again, voters got caught up in wins against garbage teams. Every win is not the same. All 3-1 records are not the same. The sooner the pollsters realize this, the sooner their product will become less stale.
Last week, I discussed my displeasure at the lack of publicity for Tennessee. At the time, Tennessee was 2-2 and had lost at California and at Florida both of which were ranked in the top six. Tennessee played both teams tough for three quarters before being out-matched. If California and Florida were universally considered to be top six teams, then it would not be reasonable to conclude that Tennessee is not a top 25 team for losing on the road to both. Tennessee only received one vote in the AP Poll and four votes in the USA Today last week. This week, nobody voted for the Tennessee in the AP Poll and a whopping 17 votes came pouring in for the Vols in the USA Today Poll. Did I mention that Tennessee didn’t play this week? I don’t even know where to begin so I’m just going to say nothing.
If Tennessee can’t be ranked with two losses, then you can bet your last doughnut that Washington can’t be ranked with three losses. I’m not convinced that Washington should be ranked in the same way I'm not convinced that Tennessee should be ranked. There are probably 25 teams that are better than Washington at this point but I could be persuaded otherwise. However, it disturbs me that even if Washington was a top-25 team, it would never show up that way in the polls because the polls are too near-sided to rank a team with three-losses this early. Washington’s three losses? At #1 USC, vs. #4 Ohio St., and at #25 UCLA. As I mentioned, I don’t necessarily mind Washington not being ranked. However, I do mind Washington receiving fewer votes than Boise St. Washington has, by far, the better losses of the two teams, and beat Boise St. Boise St. has more votes than Washington in both polls.
Kansas St. and Texas
The polls are incapable of dropping a highly-ranked team below a previously unranked team. That phenomenon exists almost entirely because of pre-season polls. Kansas St. was unranked heading into this week. Texas was ranked in the top ten. Kansas St. won by twenty at Texas. They both share the same number of losses: one. Kansas St. lost at Auburn. Texas lost at home to Kansas St. by twenty. How can Texas—at this point in the season—be ranked ahead of Kansas St.? If the polls are not physically capable of making a correction that big, then they are susceptible to a number of inaccuracies and prove to be worthless beyond hyping college football or sparking controversies. Texas might be better than Kansas St., but anyone who ranks them ahead of Kansas St. at this point fancies themselves privy to information the rest of us don’t have.
Once again, feel free to let me know any thing that I may have missed.