Down With Preseason College Football Polls!
We are a little over 50 days till the first college football Saturday, and that can only mean that the pointless preseason polls are only a few weeks away from coming out. Yes I did say pointless. Don’t get me wrong when I hear that the AP or Coaches have announced their preseason picks, I run to check them out to see if my favorite team is listed, but I also buy almost every preseason magazine imaginable to see their picks. Now the difference is the magazine does it as a business and it has no implication on the BCS Standings, but the Coaches Poll does.
The AP poll is no longer used in the BCS formula but just for statistics’ sake since its inception in 1950, the AP preseason #1 has finished the season at that spot 11 times. What was the last time an unranked team finished the season as National Champions? The answer is the 1984 BYU Cougars. The Utah Utes finished undefeated in 2004 but they were not #1, and I think it is pretty safe to say that it would most likely take a lot of 1-loss BCS schools before an undefeated, Non-BCS school could finish #1 again.
So what’s the point I am trying to get at? Why do we have these polls before any team has played a single game? Most of the time it is one big popularity contest. Look at last year for example, Tennessee was ranked as high as #3 in the preseason and finished with a losing record. Penn State was not in any Top 25 preseason rankings, but finished the season 11-1 and third in both polls.
So why are we penalizing teams for having a poor season the previous year? Auburn missed out on a chance at playing for the National Title in 2004 because they began the year in the 20’s of the rankings. So while they were slowly working their way up the rankings, Oklahoma and USC were just strengthening their position at the top.
With the uncertainty that this college football season presents us with, we could have a possible problem where an undefeated BCS team gets shutout by a team with one loss. As it looks right now Ohio State and Notre Dame will both most likely start the season in the top 5. Both teams have some tough match ups early on. Ohio State plays Texas and Penn State while Notre Dame starts the season with Georgia Tech, Penn State, and Michigan. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine either of those teams losing a game and not dropping much in the polls because of the quality of their opponent. The poll drop would only be a few spots; not enough to drop them below a team that won their first few games but is still in the 15 to 20 range. We always have surprises in college football so who is to say a team like Louisville, Tennessee, or Oregon run the table and finish behind a one-loss team to get shutout of the BCS title game.
I really believe that the AP and Coaches preseason polls need to be abolished. Let everyone play 4 or 5 games then release a poll. We can watch ESPN and speculate who should be ranked where, but let the teams perform on the field first. Because we will have a much better idea of how the teams are after 5 games then we would before they even suit up for fall practice. It is hard enough to get the two best teams to play at the end of the year because there is no playoff system so let’s not have meaningless preseason polls factor into an already clouded and difficult process.