Ohio State Poll Talk: It's Really Not So Bad

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Ohio State Poll Talk: It's Really Not So Bad
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

For the past 36 hours, many Ohio State fans have become overly concerned about the polls, specifically the Associated Press Top 25.  Hell, even super even-keeled Adam Rittenberg felt compelled to write an opinionated piece.  

But, as it is every year, the reaction is more overreaction than justified righteousness.

The fans’ consternation is the product of the Buckeyes’ demotion from No. 11 to No. 13 in the most recent writer’s edition.  (Ohio State remained No. 11 in the (assistant) Coaches Poll.) 

So, every voter thinks the Buckeyes suck and actually believe they are worse after the throttling of Toledo, right?  Nope.

Here’s the deal: Despite all outward appearances, Ohio State actually improved in the eyes of a majority of AP voters. (Check out this spreadsheet for the complete AP College Football Poll voting breakdown for weeks three and four.) In fact, the overall “stats” from this week’s AP Poll are better than you may suspect.

• Total votes lost by Ohio State from week three to four: 30

• 34 out of the 60 AP ballots actually ranked the Buckeyes higher after their victory over over Toledo.

• Ohio State’s highest ranking: No. 6, by Joe Rexrode, Lansing State Journal, East Lansing, MI

• Ohio State’s lowest ranking: No. 22, by Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer

• Biggest upswing: four spots (18 to 14), by Kirk Bohls, Austin American Statesman, Austin, TX

• Biggest downswing: 10 spots (6 to 16), by Glenn Guilbeau, Gannet Louisiana News Service, Baton Rouge

• Median Ohio State position: 12

• Mean Ohio State position: 12.5

• Total votes gained: 50

• Total votes lost: 80

• Average rise on improving ballot: 1.5

• Average drop on disimproving ballot: 3.0

• Top 10 percent negative ballots: -37 points

About 57 percent (34 of 60) of the voters improved Ohio State’s position this week. That is not a super-majority, but it is hardly the condemnation that OSU fans perceive to be the case. 

Moreover, if you average out the number of votes lost by voters, Tressel and Co. only dropped an average of 0.5 spots in the poll.

Also, OSU’s drop can be attributed to jumps by other teams and not necessarily a dim view of the program. Miami, Oklahoma, and VT—jumps of 10, two, and two spots, respectively—all made jumps over Ohio State. This is not a huge deal.

What may be a bigger deal, is that the voters who did drop Ohio State did so more vehemently than those that raised OSU. 

If a voter placed Ohio State higher in Week Four, they did so by an average of 1.5 positions.  If the voter placed Ohio State lower in Week Four, they did so by an average of 3.0 positions. 

That may speak to the perceived universal dislike of the Buckeyes, by fans and media alike.

It is, perhaps, the first and last bullet points that create the most interesting story when considering Ohio State’s poll position.  The Buckeyes lost a total of 30 points despite their blowout win, but their six largest ballot drops (10 percent of the poll) account for a 37 point drop. 

In the top 90 percent of the ballots, the Buckeyes actually gained votes.  (The top five percent of negative votes—the aforementioned Guilbeau, Jake Schaller, and Tom Hart—equal 23 of the Buckeyes’ 30 lost points.)

No fan base likes to see their team slip in the eyes of the tastemakers. And although the AP Poll does not directly influence the BCS race, it would be foolhardy to think that the Harris Poll and Coaches Poll voters do not have one eye on the writers' opinions. 

Still, this is not something that should take up too much energy. For all teams in the poll, it’s easy come, easy go.

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