Tony Barnhart has a post up today entitled “Why the voters dropped Georgia to No. 2″. Skipping past his angst-inducing purpose (it’s in the AJ-C, after all), Barnhart’s points in the end reinforce my belief that there’s got to be a better way to skin this particular cat.
Here’s his list of reasons, which come off as a pastiche of lazy thinking and bias:
**—Performance on the road counts big. Southern Cal was scary good in winning 52-7 on the road against Virginia, which won nine games a year ago…
That clearly ain’t the Virginia team of last year’s nine wins, and anyone who claims to follow college football carefully enough to justify casting a vote in a national poll should know that.
**—It is a weekly poll. Some voters believe that every Sunday, particularly early in the season, you should sit down with the results from the day before in front of a blank sheet of paper and rank the teams based on their performance to date. They believe the previous week’s rankings should not be a major factor. That’s what happened here…
Then why even have a preseason poll in the first place?
**—Georgia’s injuries: Voters watch injuries. They know that LT Trinton Sturdivant) was lost in preseason. They know what DT Jeff Owens was a big-time leader on that Georgia defense. Some teams start to unravel when big injuries start to hit. Some voters will drop teams a notch because of injuries.
This reasoning brings to mind Jody’s point about begging the question when it comes to factoring scheduling into team rankings: are you going to punish the school again when it loses a game because of injuries?
**—Next week’s game: With No. 3 Ohio State coming to Southern Cal next week, some voters no doubt feel like the winner of that early mega-game deserves to be No. 1. So they were simply positioning Southern Cal for that game. If Ohio State beats Southern Cal, you can expect the Buckeyes to jump over Georgia into the top spot.
While this point offends me the most, it surprises me the least. Voters are result oriented? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you. ESPN doesn’t need to push these folks nearly as much as we’d like to blame it.
Barnhart has some final words of consulation excuses for us:
… The bottom line is that the human polls are like a beauty contest. It’s in the eye of the beholder and each voter sets his or her standards. Is that fair? Probably not but it’s the system we have, at least for the next six years.
I don’t know about you, but I feel better. And I don’t understand why we have to wait six years to fix the poll mess. Or that a playoff (which I presume is what he’s hinting at in that quote) is going to cure the problem by itself. It won’t; in fact, it’s easy to see how it could make matters worse.
Now, again, before I get the inevitable pushback, I’m not arguing that a poll fix is a substitute for a change in the postseason. Quite the contrary, one has nothing to do with the other in my mind. But I do believe that the people running the show owe us their best efforts to make the process as fair as possible, if for no other reason than to avoid muddying the waters of the playoff/BCS debate. Or, even worse, enabling those with an extended playoff agenda with an excuse.