If you're a fan of Michigan State, South Carolina or Nevada, you felt good waking up this past Sunday, finding your team making moves in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25. After all, it's reassuring to have a team that's recognized on a national level as one to be reckoned with—respected.
However, if you’re a fan of one of the above-mentioned, then you also recall that they were not given such respect a mere five weeks ago—when none were ranked.
That's right: South Carolina (a team that just beat the brakes off the No. 1 team in the land), Michigan State (the only team that has been able to slow Denard Robinson down) nor Nevada (who managed to beat BYU in Provo) were listed in the AP Preseason Top 25.
By stark contrast, you know what teams were listed in said poll: Pittsburgh (a team that has two wins on the year), Virginia Tech (a team that lost to a I-AA opponent in Week 2) and Penn State (a team that just lost by 20 points to Illinois...in HAPPY VALLEY).
Did any of those teams really deserve to be considered Top 25 worthy? Think about it—did any of them warrant as much respect as they received earlier in the year?
Of course, it's easy to say "no" now because we’ve seen them play. We know who has playmakers (Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and Kirk Cousins of Michigan State) and who’s got holes to fill.
However, why did it have to take so many of these teams losing before anyone started taking a closer look at the teams that were actually playing good football? After all, if you follow a particular conference, most of these things weren’t hard to miss.
For example, people are looking at South Carolina as being "for real" now that they’ve beaten Alabama, but the average SEC fan knew this was a possibility eight months ago.
Outsiders looked at the Oregon Ducks as being done after the Jeremiah Masoli suspension, but the average Pac-10 fan knew better—Chip Kelly is no slouch where quarterback development is concerned—and most felt Oregon would be fine so long as the defense didn’t regress too much.
As for Nevada, well, the college football world is so focused on that "other team from the WAC" that they can't see the forest for the large tree growing in Boise, ID.
The more games that are played, the easier it gets to separate the good from the bad, the contenders from the pretenders and the winners from the losers. The picture gets clearer because you have better criteria to assess a team’s overall value.
That said, why on earth does college football still allow preseason rankings? Why not wait until teams have played a couple months of football before you assign a number to the left of their name?
It's not fair that South Carolina has to start at the bottom, while Alabama gets a pass to the top—just because they played great football...in 2009.
This is a new year, with new players, new teams and new schedules. No team should start off with the advantage of being "number" anything because they haven't done anything to prove they deserve that distinction—yet.
If you look back at the preseason poll, released just before the start of the 2010 season, you will find that 10 of the 25 teams that were listed, have either dropped significantly or have exited altogether —two of those teams were once listed in the top 5 (Texas and Florida).
The polls are useless. The only thing they serve to do is create an unfair advantage for teams who may or may not live up to the expectations that the "experts" have placed on them.
Of course, some might argue that there is just as much of a chance that more teams will tumble. It’s still early enough and some of these teams still haven’t “played anybody” yet. It’s possible that this week’s poll isn’t any more right than it was six weeks ago.
All of that is true, but at least we know more about the teams we’re choosing to rank. At least our assessments can be based more on fact than fiction; at least we know who truly has a team worth writing and talking about.
It's time to stop releasing the AP Poll and the useless Coaches Poll that comes before it because, in truth, both are worthless.
What say you?
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter)