The USA Today Coaches' Poll is set to be released at noon on Thursday, and that gets many people excited. While SEC Media Days might symbolize the start of the season to the college football diehard, polls debuting invites the rest of the masses to the party.
There will be power rankings, individual site polls and the AP poll to follow, but the coaches' poll will set the tone, as USA Today's Greg Schroeder tweets.
While the excitement is justified, the poll itself is not what the sport needs.
In this final year of the BCS, the coaches' poll still constitutes one-third of the criteria to get into a BCS bowl game. One-third of the equation is delivered by people who cannot watch enough games to arrive at a usable conclusion. One-third of the equation is delivered by people who have direct links to conferences and the money that comes from getting more participants into the big-time bowls. One-third of the equation is delivered by people who often have salary incentives tied to finishes in the same poll.
Oh, and that's just if you assume the people actually doing the voting are the coaches. Generally, it is not the coach, but a sports information director-type fulfilling an obligation that tends to be more trouble than it is worth.
The preseason polls start yet another season of the same dance that has been performed for the last 60-plus years.
The preseason poll is a unique beast in that it certainly drives conversation. Teams ranked too high. Teams snubbed by the pollsters. Conferences that are overrated. Conferences that get no respect. Media and fans all love to discuss the intricacies of the poll, and that is a good thing for the game.
However, the coaches' poll clearly demonstrates all of the worst qualities of polls, and it starts with the preseason edition.
Coaches know their own roster front to back. They know about the freshman who enrolled early and is climbing up the two-deep at a rapid rate. They know about the redshirt junior who was lost behind an NFL talent but is poised to break out now that he has a chance. They know about the lack of offensive line depth and the surplus of defensive backs.
They do not know most of these things about the other teams. Sure, they know about the recruit they lost to a rival coach, and the star player about whom they have been asked 100 times in the offseason. But they do not know about roster-position battles, the progress of the quarterbacks or the injuries depleting the linebacking corps.
One could argue that the media has a better handle on these issues for multiple teams than coaches, awash in season prep, ever could.
For all of the positive the poll does in promoting the game, that it is impossible to view as valid under the actual circumstances renders it useless as anything but a point of discussion.
Except it is one-third of the equation to getting into the best games!
On a positive note, 2014 is quickly approaching, a time when the coaches' poll will, hopefully, be put in its proper place as a conversation piece. With a selection committee, the need for the poll goes away, and while the American Football Coaches Association wants to continue producing the poll, the College Football Playoff folks would be wise to not tie their work directly to the poll.
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