Human Error: Why I Hate the College Football Polls
As I look over the newly-released AP Top 25, I can't help but wonder which college football season a majority of the pollsters have been following.
I understand the impossibility of watching every contest, especially for full-time journalists facing constant deadlines.
But given the importance of the polls, I would expect those with voting privileges to at least try a little harder.
My question: Why is Kansas not the No. 1 team in the country right now?
They're the only undefeated BCS team. With the exception of two tough road games, they've rolled everybody.
Believe me, as a college sports fan, I loathe the abstract concept of Kansas in the top spot—but my conscience makes me admit they've earned it.
Are the Jayhawks slighted because their schedule is weak?
Last year, asinine critics threw that cliche at Boise State so often that it wound up changing the Fiesta Bowl summary from Boise State playing better football than Oklahoma for 57 minutes to a legendary upset by so-called "underdogs."
The fan in me thinks—and hopes—that Kansas will lose legitimacy in the next three games.
But that doesn't change the fact that they've earned it to date.
LSU didn't get the job done in Baton Rouge against a team that lost to Mississippi State. Oregon failed against a four-loss team in Eugene.
Kansas has executed every single week.
I might be able to live with Kansas being second or third, but the fact that they're fourth—and behind Oklahoma—drives me nuts.
Oklahoma, in case you've forgotten, lost at Colorado. Kansas won at Colorado.
If you cover the names of the schools, who on Earth would put Oklahoma ahead of KU?
And therein lies the crux of the problem.
Reputations often trump empirical reality in college football polls. It should take no more than a third grade education to see how this taints the entire system.
Sadly, many voters, especially those of the Southern good ol' boy persuasion, flunked out well before then.
Texas, for example, is ranked 12th in the country right now, just ahead of the undefeated Hawaii Rainbows. The Longhorns were dominated—at home, mind you—by a Kansas State squad that got the absolute bejeezus kicked out of them by the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who—to put it bluntly—suck.
The Longhorns deserve a high ranking by default, but they haven't earned being ranked above Hawaii—not this year, at least.
It's also astonishing how often bad losses are forgiven when the team in question plays its home games south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Georgia lost to a mediocre South Carolina team at home and a decent Tennessee squad on the road...yet find themselves higher than Arizona State, whose only loss is at Oregon.
Simple logic should preclude these sorts of absurdities, but a majority of the pollsters would rather live in their hypothetical worlds than the one that exists right in front of their eyes.
I could go into a manic and pseudo-intellectual rant about how I think this correlates to the American sociopolitical climate—but instead I'll pose a simple query:
Why is it that when Big Ten or Pac-10 schools beat each other up, it's a sign the conference is weak...but when ACC or SEC teams beat each other up, it's an indicator of pervasive talent in the league?
It's a simple question to which I've never received a valid response.
Virginia has two fairly bad road losses to Wyoming and NC State. The highlight of their schedule is a one-point victory over 25th-ranked Connecticut.
Illinois has one bad road loss to an Iowa team that could still massacre Wyoming, a loss at home to 23rd-ranked Michigan, and a road loss to the sixth-ranked Missouri Tigers. They also have wins over the seventh-, 24th-, and 26th-ranked teams.
And yet Ron Zook and Co., who just beat the No. 1 team in the country on the road, are still ranked lower than the mighty Cavaliers.
The lesson of this week's poll is clear and depressing for those of us with any sense:
Forgiveness rules the Big XII South, the SEC, and the ACC.
Guilt is the standard for everyone else.
No wonder the college football oligarchs stand resolutely against a playoff—it would be too democratic for that part of the nation which seems to fantasize about living under other forms of government.
A scrutinizing look at the polls tells us that competing for a national title is like trying a case before a judge who throws out the law in favor of half-baked axioms and his own nepotistic predilections.
With that kind of system, I wonder why we even play the games.
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