Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday Poll Bashin’/Craziest Year Ever

Once again, the polls were filled with all sorts of insanity this week. However, the AP Poll was once again superior resulting in immunity in three of my five major criticisms. In fact, the USA Today has been so bad that renaming this column “Monday USA Today Poll Bashin’” is a distinct possibility in the future. Despite the better showing, the AP is most definitely not off the hook.

In the last two weeks, nine top-ten teams have lost. The polls are ill-equipped to logically handle such a slew of major losses. Thankfully, that gives me quite a bit of material to use...

Georgia over Tennessee

The AP and USA Today Polls are both culprits here. The AP Poll has the slight edge in “least idiotic” but it’s by percentage points. Both polls have Georgia rated ahead of Tennessee. Just to recap: Tennessee destroyed Georgia on Saturday. Both teams have two losses. Tennessee lost on the road to #2 California and Florida. Georgia lost at home to S. Carolina and at Tennessee. At least the AP Poll has Tennessee ranked which is not much of a consolation prize.

USC over Oregon

The USA Today owns this category. USC and Oregon are each 4-1. Oregon lost by inches to California. California is currently ranked #2. USC lost at home to a team they were favored to beat by 40 points. Uhhh?

Wisconsin over Illinois

Despite whiffing big-time on the Georgia/Tennessee placements, the AP managed to slip Illinois one spot ahead of Wisconsin. I wish I could say the same for the USA Today Poll. Let’s briefly recap the resumes. Both teams are 4-1. Illinois has beaten two ranked teams. Wisconsin has beaten zero ranked teams. Illinois beat Wisconsin. Bueller?

Va. Tech over S. Carolina

Kudos to the AP for getting this one right. The USA Today? Not so much. Both teams are 5-1. S. Carolina has two wins over ranked teams. Virginia Tech has one. Based on that information, it’s a toss-up. But, that’s not all the information we have. Both teams have played at #1 LSU. S. Carolina lost by 12. Virginia Tech lost by 41. I do think their might be a little anti-Spurrier bias in the coaching fraternity because having Virginia Tech over S. Carolina at this point is just absurd.

Florida drops

Both polls are negligent in the highest degree here. This is, by far, my biggest pet peeve regarding the polls and their outdated philosophies. Last week, Florida lost to Auburn. It was an upset and the Gators paid the price by dropping six and three spots respectively. This week, Florida outplayed unanimous #1 LSU—on the road—for three and a half quarters before barely falling short. Florida fell more spots after the LSU loss than it did after the Auburn loss. I don’t believe there are five other teams in the country that could play LSU that closely in any environment let alone in Baton Rouge. Anyone who watched that game and dropped Florida in their rankings is borderline crazy. No team should ever drop in the rankings for losing at #1 by four points. A home-field advantage is generally worth three points according to Vegas. If you buy into that theory, then Florida did exactly what a team as good as LSU would have been expected to do. Sheep! You’re all sheep!

Three reasons why this is the craziest college football season ever:

1). The Big East received a lot of buzz entering the season on the strength of having three teams ranked in the top 16. West Virginia and Louisville were considered National Championship candidates and Rutgers was thought to be somewhat underrated entering the season at #16. Just five weeks into the season, the Big East has only two undefeated ranked teams and none of them are the three teams above. That’s right, S. Florida and Cincinnati are the cream in the Big East. Even Connecticut—perennial Big East doormat—is 6-0. Perhaps no conference in recent memory has been flipped upside down so quickly into the season. Despite the disappointment of the pre-season favorites in the Big East, the conference might actually be even better than anyone could have predicted on the strength of S. Florida and Cincinnati. Now that’s just ridiculous.

2). The three biggest upsets in college football history have occurred this season in ascending order. Michigan shocked the college football world by becoming the first top- five team in college football history to lose to a I-AA opponent. Even though there have been bigger talent discrepancies in past upsets, that game became the flag-bearer for all-time upsets. Then, Louisville bailed out Michign by suffering the biggest upset in college football history--based on point spreads--in losing at home to Syracuse which was a 39.5 point underdog. Two weeks later, USC bailed everyone out by unofficially taking part in the new "biggest upset in the history of college football." USC had its 35-game home unbeaten streak snapped to a 40-point (!!!) underdog. Had any one of these three games happened in a year without the other two, it would easily be shocking enough to carry the mantle for “biggest upset ever.” Since they all happened in the same season, I have no idea what they mean. We can believe that parity has been the culprit, or that the three biggest upsets in college football history just happened to occur in the same season. Or, I guess we can think somewhere in between.

3). The most telling barometer of this year’s craziness is just how many teams have been ranked. In only six weeks, the AP Poll has had 18 different teams in the top 10. Even more amazing, it has had 28 teams in the top 15. Pollsters have been downright schizophrenic. In all, the AP Poll has had 40 different teams ranked in the top 25. Yes, that’s right, the AP Poll has been convinced—at one time or another—that 1/3 of the 120 teams in I-A were one of the top 25 teams in the country. Again, most teams have only played six games.

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