Slow down, you move too fast.

The season is less than two weeks away, preseason practice is a happening thing, injuries are commonplace and predictions and hopes are on the rise, so you know what that means for the Mumme Poll, right?

Absolutely nothing.

That’s because we won’t be getting formally underway until after the games of Week Six are under our belts.  To remind you readers what that’s all about, take a look at this post over at Burnt Orange Nation.

Why Preseason Rankings are Bad for College Football

… I firmly believe that the two teams chosen for such a playoff (or occasioanlly (sic) more than two, if my Flex Playoff proposal ever takes hold…which of course it won’t) should be chosen based on who has had the best season on the whole.  Not “who would beat whom according to the imaginary game pollsters just played in their heads.”  The more legitimacy Power Polling has early in the season, the more likely that legitimacy is going to seep into late-season polls and the more likely pollsters’ imaginations are going to play a part in determining who plays in the national championship game.

Second, pollsters are subject to a severe case of inertia.  Wherever a team is ranked in the beginning of the year, it’s going to stay pretty much right there until it loses.  So when OU and USC started the season 1-2 and Auburn started at 19 or something and all 3 went undefeated, Auburn had no chance of overtaking USC and OU because the latter two had been entrenched as 1-2 since before the season even started.  This happens even with people who claim to be resume ranking (and for the record, if someone is prone to inertia, they are not purely resume ranking, despite claims to the contrary; liars!).

This is a problem that isn’t going to be completely fixed by eliminating pre-season rankings, but if you wait until mid-season or, say, after the end of non-conference play to begin ranking teams, then at least the spots in the poll in which certain teams will be entrenched are based on something only than complete conjecture and imagination. [Emphasis added.] And beyond that, it will encourage teams to schedule better non-conference games.  As it is, certain teams are almost always ranked highly in the pre-season because they have lots of talent.  There is no incentive for those teams to schedule tough non-conference games because as long as they win all of their non-conference games, they will remain in the same spot in the polls.  But if those rankings don’t begin until after the non-conference games are played, the rankings will be based on the results thus far.  And an undefeated team with a win over a good team should be (and will be, under a resume-ranking method) ranked higher than an undefeated team with wins over nothing but patsies.  Essentially, the leaping off point is based at least somewhat in reality.  And that has to be an improvement.

I think so, too.

Consider also this thought from MGoBlog’s Brian Cook, who is the driving force behind the BlogPoll.

… The lone spiked ballot in poll history came from Notre Dame uber-blog Blue Gray Sky after the first week of the season. Because I am stupid I deleted it, but by BGS’s own admission it was designed to highlight how silly releasing a college football poll after one week of play is. This is a perfectly fine argument to make, and one I might even agree with, but your ballot is not the place to make it.

Now granted, no school is getting into the BCS title game based on the BlogPoll, which makes it an exercise of fun rather than hard business (although Brian deserves serious commendation for taking steps to reduce the element of bias in the results), but when the guy running the show acknowledges that there may not be much of a point to the exercise early on, it certainly highlights the argument billyzane made in his post.

Of course, as Joel at Rocky Top Talk points out,

Burnt Orange Nation is going negative and slinging the mud, telling voters that pre-season polls hate America. He’s right, of course, and yet we all do them, don’t we?

So look at the Mumme Poll as my attempt to lead you not into temptation.  We’ll see how well that works out.

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6 Comments

Filed under Mumme Poll, The Blogosphere

6 responses to “Slow down, you move too fast.

  1. I can understand why they start the polls in August, but for accuracy and fairness, it really would be best to wait until October. But I’d actually be satisfied if they waited until after the first weekend of games to release the first rankings. That way there would at least be relevant data and scores to analyze.

    At the same time, it could very well have the effect of reducing the “let’s schedule a few cupcakes to start the season” syndrome. If the first rankings are based solely on how you performed in the first week, then the teams that accept a bigger challenge by playing above average opponents and win should (theoretically) be ranked higher than the teams that simply beat up on I-AA teams. You want to start the season at the top of the rankings? Fine, prove you belong there by playing tough teams.

  2. Ed, thanks for stopping by here. In case you can’t tell, I really like your blog.

    Waiting to start the polls until after the season has started is better than nothing, but I don’t think one week gives us enough data. And I’m not sure the voters would give as much weight to the quality of the opponent as you hope.

  3. kckd

    Senator, I think the poll is interesting because you’re only using the ranking of teams as a way to break a tie.

    While doing a poll six weeks in may change a team here or there, in the long run I don’t think it would really have had much impact looking back.

    2004 seems to be the year that is brought up most often because Auburn started out so low. But OU and USC were for the most part shredding their opponents. I doubt very seriously that poll would’ve looked any different.

    I think this is an interesting experiment, but I don’t think anyone has shown in anyway that the preseason polls are the biggest problem with the current system.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but Tim Brando makes a big deal of the preseason polls on Paul Finebaum a few days ago. He didn’t make a very good argument, though most of his diatribe was that voters should’ve been voting for the team most likely to finish no. 1 and not the best team on paper. They archive everything on there, so it’s there if you want to give it a listen.

  4. Thanks, man, I’ll check it out.

  5. Yeah, waiting until after week 1 is still not the ideal solution, I agree. I think the underlying issue here is that voters don’t ever let go of their preconceived notions from the pre-season. The whole idea of not dropping the #1 team down until they lose is just ridiculous.

    But the rankings don’t change as much as they probably should because voters are afraid that too much change in their votes will be seen as admitting that their initial projections were incorrect (and that they aren’t any more qualified than then average Joe to rank teams). Let go of the egos and we’ll have rankings that are more accurate.

    (Thanks for the kind words, Senator. You do good work here too – keep it up.)

  6. I’m already not thinking about my vote yet.