The College Football Report

ChalkItUpContributor ISeptember 29, 2009

I'm not clear on why the AP College Football Poll exists. My guess is that the Poll sprung out of our national obsession with ranking things. And to give guys in bars something to talk about.

The first poll appeared on November 15, 1934. Football as we know it had not been around for too long at that point. The game originated in 1869, but innovations such as numbered jerseys and the forward pass didn't appear for decades. Players crashed into the goalposts on the goal line until someone thought to push them back 10 yards in 1927. This was not an elegant game. But records were kept and no one had a good answer to the sport's most vexing questions. Who was the best team? Princeton or Pittsburgh? Syracuse or Santa Clara? Columbia or Colgate?

By 1934, I imagine drunken arguments amongst sportswriters were at an all-time high. A system was needed. A poll sounded lovely, I'm sure, until someone realized the horribly manual process involved. I'm guessing cocktail napkins came into play.

The Poll got underway in earnest by 1936, and has run continuously since with a number of changes over time. Today, the Associated Press polls 65 sportswriters and commentators across the country. Each voter ranks 25 teams, with the first-place team receiving 25 votes, the second receiving 24, and so on. The AP Poll participants (and their votes) are publicly available, and the results are tallied and published every week during the season.

When the Week 5 Poll appeared on Sunday, three teams had been dropped, three more added, and the remaining teams moved more than 3.5 spots (up or down) on average. By comparison, at this point last week only four teams had moved in or out of the Top 25 and movement in the remainder averaged less than three positions. This is a complicated way of saying that all hell broke loose last weekend.

As we move through the recap, let's keep an eye on some polling history for several teams. Once again, the following is for entertainment purposes only.


Game: #4 Mississippi 10 (-4.5) @ South Carolina 16

What was supposed to happen? Entering the weekend in the fourth spot, the Rebels looked to cement a position near the top. With a win, Mississippi could hope for a free pass if they were to lose later in the season against the likes of 'Bama or LSU. South Carolina stood on the outside looking in, with a decent record (2-1) but little love from the voters. Last Thursday, we speculated that Ole Miss was ripe for an upset. And remember that little issue of the pre-season Sports Illustrated jinx?

What actually happened? Ole Miss looked terrible. The Gamecocks tried to give the game away, but Mississippi couldn't take it. The Rebels plummeted to #21 this week, as the SC defense snuffed out opposing QB Jevan Snead. For the fourth week in a row, a top five team crashed and burned. (Up next: LSU.) This season, it is Florida, Alabama, Texas, and then everybody else.


Game: #1 Florida 41 (-20.5) @ Kentucky 7

What was supposed to happen? Florida enjoys crushing Kentucky. No one seems to know why. The Wildcats haven't won a game in this series since 1986.

What actually happened? For a fleeting moment, the world of college football held its breath. (No, not when UK's Taylor Wyndham dropped the hammer on Florida QB Tim Tebow.) Late in the second quarter, Kentucky scored to pull within 24 points. A back-door cover was well within reach. Sadly, the Wildcats seemed content to play out the string and call it a day.


Game: UTEP 7 @ #2 Texas 64 (-36)

What was supposed to happen? Texas needed to win big to prove it belongs with the big boys.

What actually happened? Nothing much. Tune back in on October 17 for the AT&T Red River Rivalry with Oklahoma. (Formerly the SBC Red River Rivalry, formerly the Red River Shootout.) Brought to you by AT&T on ABC. With generous support from AT&T.


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