Why Preseason Polls Suck

Sportsbutcher.comI’m off to Athens for the game tonight, so this will be short (and perhaps flushed out later tomorrow). But two games into the fourth week of college football, I think the absurdity of preseason polls is worth highlighting further.

The talking heads have discussed the subject relentlessly since South Carolina “upset” Ole Miss on Thursday. They’ve talked about how polls are based on previous season performances and expectations and player potential. They’ve talked about how coaches don’t actually watch the teams they vote on in the USA Today Poll. They’ve pointed out what a “crazy” start this season has gotten off to because three of the top five teams have been beaten already. They’ve even mentioned how the preseason poll can and does affect the final BCS rankings and bowl selections and thus, national championships.

What they’ve conveniently failed to mention is how inaccurate preseason polls are because of bias. The whole point of the BCS – the entire reason for starting this joke of a system – was to provide an objective national champion. (A discussion of how miserably it has failed to come later…) Yet the BCS is using polls that are undeniably skewed based on these preseason polls.

Some examples:

Notre Dame. Ranked before the season. And not because Clausen is any better. Or the defense can stop anyone. Or Weis has proven he can succeed as a college football head coach. No, Notre Dame was ranked because they have a separate TV contract. And history. Congrats to the Irish for being successful decades ago, but that doesn’t make them a Top 25 team today. They proved that by losing to Michigan.

Ole Miss. Ranked in the top 10 for the first time since Archie Manning was behind center. I’m an SEC girl all the way, but come on. Did anyone really believe they were that good? And even if you did, did you really think they would beat Alabama, LSU and Auburn (who is better than polls have acknowledged) to win the West? Yeah, the beat Florida last year. At the Swamp, even. And I hate Florida (HATE Florida.), and I was super excited to hear Ole Miss had won. But they won by one point. And yeah, they beat Texas Tech in the bowl. But Texas Tech got lucky against Texas last year (and had Michael Crabtree), and then got rocked by OU. So, yeah, Ole Miss had a good year in 2008. They should be good this year. But good does not mean Top 10.

USC. “A monumental upset” is how that loss to Washington has been described. I prefer, “expected, embarrassing and telling.” First, my dad went to Washington State. Thus, I hate Washington. And given that WSU is a joke right now but still managed to beat UW last year. Hence, that is one ugly loss for USC. But this is what USC does. They lose to nobodies. Consistently. And yet, they’re still in the national championship picture every year because the loss always comes early. And because they have “history.” My guess is USC loses two more times. And if the Trojans do, maybe they’ll finally have their accurate preseason ranking.

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