Home > College Football, Div-I FBS > College Football Morning: Early Season Polls are Dumb

College Football Morning: Early Season Polls are Dumb

Took a look at the AP and USA Today polls this morning, and well, we’re two weeks into the college football season and I’m going to argue that the pollsters know LESS about how things will play out than they did two weeks ago.

This isn’t exclusive to this year either.  In the preseason polls, everyone is on a level playing field, and given that, the court of public opinion has some value.  Do preseason polls end up having too much of an impact on the final polls?  Perhaps, but without a clear objective formula to rank the teams, I think preseason polls do more to keep things from getting completely out of whack than they do to hand an unfair advantage to teams who rank well in them.

But today, look at the top ten.  USC, Alabama, and BYU all have quality victories in their first two games.  Oklahoma State has a quality victory, but also an upset loss.  Cincinnati hasn’t played a great team, but they’ve just embarassed Rutgers and Southeast Missoui State into submission.  Meanwhile, can anyone tell me what the heck the difference between No. 13 Virginia Tech and unranked Notre Dame is?  One of these teams got beaten by two scores on neutral turf by a great team, the other got beaten in the final :15 seconds by a very good team on the road.  Is this a bias?  Nope, it’s just the way that you’d expect the No. 23 team in the preseason polls to be after they start 1-1, and where you would expect the No. 9 team in the preseason polls to be after they start 1-1.

It’s also very counterintuitive.  No one wants to see Penn State in the top five because they shut out Syracuse.  If the preseason polls are even worth updating before Week 5 (and that’s debateable), you’d like to see those teams who beat their early tests ranked ahead of the teams who haven’t played anybody.  Put USC and Alabama at No. 1 and No. 2.  Why not?  What rule is there that says that Florida has to be No. 1 until proven otherwise?  They can schedule as lightly as they want to, and the pollsters can say, “fine, we’ll put you in the top 15 when you earn it.”

Otherwise, just wait five weeks and come out with a comprehensive poll, sort of like the BCS does.  I know that logic tells us we shouldn’t be looking at the BCS as a model for what is right, but on this one, they have it right.  Rankings at this time serve no purposes except to stroke the ego of big-name programs who haven’t done anything yet, and to de-incentivize the playing of big games in the first three weeks in the season.  And neither of those things makes the college football season any more compelling.

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  1. afrankangle
    September 21, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Good points here. Not only are preseason rankings are based on conjecture and predictions, these notions continue throughout the season. I simply ask what has Florida and Texas done TO DATE to deserve top spots?

    You may appreciate my past post on preseason rankings. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/2009-preseason-top-10-college-football/

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