Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to vote in a College Football Poll

There will always be preseason college football polls.  As ridiculous as they are, they produce things that media outlets such as ESPN love:  web clicks, debate topics, and reveal shows.  The new committee that will decide the sports first "Final 4" later this year won't announce their 1st poll until late October, and that's really the only poll that matters.  Nevertheless, if we are forced to see numbers next to a schools name in September, let's at least vote the correct way.

Here is the list of rules all voters should follow:

1)  Watch multiple games each Saturday from multiple conferences
2)  Don't give unwarranted credit to a team you picked high in the preseason
3)  Don't ever rank a team behind a team it has beaten, especially if they have a better record (see rule 2)
4)  Don't give unwarranted credit to a team because of how they performed last season
5)  a.  Give credit to those who beat quality opponents
     b.  Don't take credit away when losing while playing well to higher ranked (or unranked) team

So that brings us to Week 1, where the AP Poll heading into Wednesday's opener was:

1)  FSU
2)  Bama
3)  Oregon
4)  Oklahoma
5)  Ohio St
6)  Auburn
7)  UCLA
8)  Michigan St
9)  South Carolina
10) Baylor
11) Stanford
12) Georgia
13) LSU
14) Wisconsin
15) USC
16) Clemson
17) Notre Dame
18) Ole Miss
19) Arizona St
20) Kansas St
21) Texas A&M
22) Nebraska
23) North Carolina
24) Missouri
25) Washington

Heading into Sunday, the only teams to lose in the top 25 were South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Clemson.  South Carolina showed little in their game to deserve a spot for week 2, they will have to play their way back in after losing at home.  Wisconsin (14th) had a 17 point 2nd half lead against the #13 and lost by 4 at a neutral site.  No need to drop Wisconsin because of that performance (see rule 5b).  Clemson lost on the road to a higher ranked team and the game was tied in the 2nd half.  The Tigers are likely to be the toughest to rank this week, as they failed to compete in the 2nd half, giving up 31 straight points.

The others all won, some more impressively than others.  Washington definitely will not return to the poll as they squeaked past Hawaii by a point.  Missouri and North Carolina were very unimpressive in wins over FCS schools, and others dominated weak competition and we still don't know much about them.

As for unranked teams, Oklahoma State absolutely looked the part of a top 25 team in their loss to FSU, which was a one score game.  West Virginia made a strong case too, playing Alabama tough and showing promise on both sides of the ball.  Penn State looked to boast a top 5 QB in the country in their win overseas.  Cal beat up on a good Northwestern team, and Texas/Michigan overwhelmed a couple of over-matched opponents.  All of these unranked teams will receive consideration for the poll this week.   

So, considering there are still 6 teams left to play this week, if I had to release a poll this morning, it would look like this:

1.  Florida State
2.  Texas A&M
3.  Auburn
4.  Oregon
5.  Georgia
6.  Oklahoma
7.  Alabama
8.  Michigan St
9.   LSU
10. Baylor
11. Stanford
12. UCLA
13. Wisconsin
14. Oklahoma St
15. USC
16. Arizona St
17. Notre Dame
18. Ohio State
19. Penn State
20. Clemson
21. California
22. Nebraska
23. West Virginia
24. Texas
25. Arizona

It's not that complicated - play well and move up, play poorly and drop.

What needs to stop is teams keeping their ranking just because they won, even if they looked bad in doing so, like UCLA and Ohio State.  No need to place those teams anywhere near the top 5 after what we saw from them.  No need to drop teams just because they lost if they did so to a higher ranked team.  That's the idea of the poll, to rank the teams from best to 25th best, so if #14 loses to #1 by 6 points on a neutral site, why drop them from #14?  Seems like that ranking was appropriate based on the results. 

So rank them yourselves if you wish, and feel free to use the rules I posted above.  If we are always going to have these August and September polls, we might as well do it right.