Pete Holiday over at AOL FanHouse is an unabashed Alabama fan. Part of the genetic makeup of the unabashed Alabama fan is filtering the perception of day to day life through an anti-Auburn mindset. It’s somewhat akin to the attitude of Jews of my grandmother’s vintage who would judge any current event by one overriding standard: “is it good for the Jews”?
And so it is with Pete, who takes a look at criticism of preseason polling in these two posts. Pete doesn’t waste any time letting us know where he’s coming from on this, either.
It’s fashionable these days to decry the terribleness of the pre-season poll. After all, it is a travesty that young men like those on Auburn’s 2004 team can best every challenge laid before them, and then be denied the right to play for the national championship because, before they had even stepped on the field, some voters didn’t think they were going to be very good.
I mention this only because I think that, despite his mindset, he goes on to make some interesting points. Some I agree with, others I don’t.
If I had to summarize his criticisms, they would be as follows:
- There’s too much data for the voters to absorb credibly.
- There’s no fixed standard for the voters to rely on in casting their votes.
- Voters do a poor job of calibrating their decisions after games are played.
- Putting off the first poll until mid-season would simply exacerbate problems 1-3, above.
- Putting off the first poll until mid-season would result in voters resorting to artificial polling methods to create their first set of votes.
- Putting off the first poll until mid-season would result in teams gaming the system eventually to take advantage of voters’ short-term memories by loading up with cupcakes over the early part of the season to create lopsided won-loss records.
From this, Pete draws two conclusions. First, Auburn fans need to get over 2004. Second, there has to be a better way to conduct polling. Now, I don’t disagree with either of his conclusions, but I can’t say that I’d dismiss the elimination of preseason polls as a factor in that.
Look, Pete’s first three charges have nothing to do with when the voting gets underway. They’re, instead, a factor of asking the voters to evaluate and rank the twenty five best teams in the country. And his last point, given Hawaii’s ability to crash the top 10 and the BCS last season, is simply irrelevant.
His solution to the problem is to change the psychology of the voting. And he’s right about that, although he offers no specifics on how it might be accomplished.
In short: more agility in the polls. Getting rid of the notion that it’s taboo for a team to win and drop or lose and move up. Eliminate the infrequency with which teams jump other teams when both have won. Make the polls measure something specific. Set a goal and specific question, since “who are the 25 best teams” is truly unanswerable.
I don’t think we can do much with that last point about goal setting, but I hope the Mumme Poll can address his first suggestion there.