College Football Computer Polls: Who Is the Real Boss?

BabyTateSenior Writer ISeptember 30, 2008

It is said that anyone can make a list—the trouble is remembering what is on it. This seems to be true for everyone, case in point the recently released computer polls of Sept. 30.

There are six computer "polls" which are used in the creation of the one "Computer Poll" that is generally regarded as "the argument settler" in determining the best teams.

Here is the question: Should these computer polls be used for determining the ranking of the school that has the best football program? Think so? You may wish to think again.

Of the six computer polls, four released data on Tuesday. The four are Sagarin, Massey, Colley, and Billingsley. Hester and Wolfe have yet to release their data. If they turn out anything like their associates, let's hope they keep the information to themselves. 

Let's reveal the top five of each computer service poll. 


1. Alabama

2. Northwestern

3. Vanderbilt

4. Utah

5. Boise State



1. Alabama

2. Vanderbilt

3. Utah

4. Texas

5. Northwestern



1. Alabama

2. Utah

3. Boise State

4. Texas

5. Oklahoma



1. LSU

2. Oklahoma

3. Alabama

4. Sou Cal

5. Missouri


We can all agree that Alabama has made a great case for becoming No. 1 on the field, but are they concerned to be in this company of teams? It warrants a closer look.

Northwestern, ranked No. 2 and No. 5, has wins over Duke, Southern Illinois, Syracuse, Ohio, and Iowa. These teams have a combined record of 10-12, and Duke is the best at 3-1.

Vanderbilt, ranked No. 2 and No. 3, has built its season around a win over South Carolina. Far be it from me to criticize the Commodores' success. However, do you believe they are the second-best team in the country based upon performance or talent? 

If they are, then why are they not in the Top Five of Sagarin and Billingsley? There seems to be a wide general disagreement among these four polls concerning who is the second-best team in the country.

From an initial glance, it seems Utah could be considered the second most respected program with a ranking of No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4, but Billingsley leaves them completely out of the Top Five.

Personally, I'm more comfortable with Billingsley. While I may argue over his ranking order, I have four of his five teams in my own "11 Best 11s" this week.

Who is missing from this alternate football universe ruled by the likes of Northwestern and Utah? Penn State, for one. What have they done to not be ranked ahead of Northwestern? What has undefeated Brigham Young done to not be considered?

A case could be made that some of the one-loss teams like Georgia, Florida, Auburn, and Ohio State deserve a second look.  

Computers are a tool. Do we know what information is loaded into the programs comparing the teams? What is left out? We don't really know the parameters. If they have any, it wasn't revealed with the release of this week's rankings.

It's a complicated world, folks—no one person can have all the answers. I'm just not ready to turn over the judgment of who is the best football team to a machine. For my money, let's go by performance on the field, and the winner takes all.