Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Poll Sitting: My annual rip at the AP

The first sports article I ever wrote came after the Michigan meltdown to Appalachian State. I ripped the AP for insinuating the general public was stupid. I ripped them for telling us that Michigan was such a bad team that they fell from the top 5 in the country and completely off the chart, while also telling us Appy State was good enough to receive votes. It was contradiction. Either one was really good or the other really bad. The Wolverines plummet did not justify both. And of course, 21 days later, the Mountaineers lost to Wofford, and made complete asses of those giving them votes.

Now here I am again, ready to start a new season. And following up last year, why not start off with taking another stab at the Associated Press? How can I not, when they continue (along with others) to release power polls before a single game is played? In the 58 years of the AP’s presentation of preseason polls, only twice has their top choice gone wire to wire and claimed a national championship (FSU ’99, Southern Cal ’04). If you aren’t doing the math, that’s 56 years of being wrong. Now they deliver another one hot off the presses, and again I shake my head.

Unless the votes were in months ago and ready for publication, I don’t see how anyone today, at this time, and at this second, could rank Georgia (1), USC (3), and Florida (6) so high. These three programs have been hit hard in the Fall, but somehow despite the injuries and suspensions they’ve managed to maintain full power. The more likely scenario is those teams dropping and creeping back up as players either return or youth is proven in gameday performances. Would it not? Does the poll predict a beginning or ending position? The beginning shows weakened programs, and how can you guess an ending, with so much uncertainty of the opening rosters?

I’m a fan of the Pac 10, but come on! As a whole, 80% of the conference received votes. How the hell did the Washington Huskies receive any votes? Can someone point out an offseason acquisition that suddenly boosted Washington among the nation’s elite? Washington State and Stanford are the only two Pac programs that didn’t receive votes. Is Jake Locker such a difference maker that the gap between his program and the others is that great? Wazzu and Stanford won 3 games each in the Pac 10 last season. Washington won 2.

With the Omission of Washington State and Stanford, coupled with the Pac 10 round robin format, 10 of Southern Cal’s 12 upcoming opponents received votes from the AP. Virginia and Notre Dame also received votes. I’m sure if you compared that to another hated item (preseason strength of schedule rankings) there would be no match. It wouldn’t be a matter of guessing which is right or wrong, because neither has a true formula to determine anything, because no games have been played. As far as I’m concerned, both are incorrect, unless they’re falling under the category of “discussion generating material”.

I’m obviously not a fan of fortune tellers and psychics, but I’d like to see a time where others would follow along with the Harris voters and submit their “guesses” later in the season rather than before it begins. But if they did that, how the hell would they sell magazines, fill holes in broadcasts, and lay text in empty white areas of college football sectionals? After all, I just used the poll as a filler, didn’t I?

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