Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Little Game of Comparison, Part II

Yesterday, I asked you to decide between two different players for a prestigious pre-season honor. Today, let's look at some teams and decide which team you would rank higher right now.

So, who would you rank higher(2008 records)?

Team 1
12-2 record, losses in their last two games of the season. New QB and offensive line, but stellar receiving corp and good senior leader at PK. Lost their (arguably) biggest play maker on defense to transfer. Harder schedule playing tough out of conference team but biggest conference rival looks to have a down year.

Team 2
10-3, winning last four games of the season. Has to replace all-conference RB, but will have QB and receiving corp returning to team that scored nearly 42 ppg (7th in the nation). Schedule is favorable, with in-state rival and conference supper team coming to their place this season.

Granting picking teams is tougher than picking players, since there are many more variables. So, who would you pick? It is a tough choice? Not so much, according to the coaches. Team 1, Alabama is ranked 5th. Team 2, Oregon is ranked 14th, receiving nearly half as many votes.

Let's try one more time. Again, which would you rank higher?

Team 1
10-3, including two losses to end the season. Returning a star QB and RB, several solid starters on D. Tough OOC schedule gets a boost with one of those games being played at home.


Team 2
9-4, returning starters at RB from a team that prospered running the ball last year, no WRs with experience. The D is suspect, but is expected to improve. Tough OOC schedule includes two big road games.
Ok, which do you pick? One is coached by a legend (although he looks to be less legendary if the NCAA has its way).

Does it help that these two teams will play each other? Team 1, BYU, is ranked astonishingly low at 23rd, while Florida State is ranked 19th.

These illustrate the pitfall of preseason rankings. Again, I am granting it is nearly impossible to make fine distinctions between 119 or so teams, but that is the point, right? When BYU and FSU meet in Provo on September 15th, I have a feeling it could go the other way fast. What is worse, any team that 'upsets' a preseason ranked team is the beneficiary of that, to the detriment of other teams, regardless of how the actual season turns out for the highly ranked team.

Taking the FSU vs. BYU game into account. Let's say BYU shocks some and beats Oklahoma, they will jump (and probably deservedly so) several places to 13 or better. Let's say FSU then beats BYU on the road. Regardless of how Oklahoma's season turns out, FSU is the beneficiary of BYU's win in Norman on the first weekend of the season for the rest of the season. The same could be say for the next team that beats the winner of Georgia/Oklahoma State and the winner of Alabama/Virginia Tech, regardless of how UGA/Okie State/Bama/Va Techs' seasons turn out.

You think I am wrong? Just this morning, in an article about T. Boone Pickens Stadium, the AP writter mentioned the Cowboys'
"landmark win against No. 3 Missouri."
He never mentions that the Tigers ended up ranked 19th (AP) and 16th (USA Today) with a 10-4 record, including a scrambling come from behind overtime win over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl to get to 10 wins. His takeaway from last season was that Oklahoma State beat the number 3 team in the nation and it was a landmark. Think he could have called it that if Mizzu hadn't been ranked, or had been ranked in the mid teens after the only 'signature' win Mizzu had to that point was a trashing of Nebraska, which was Mizzu's only 'signature' win?

Last year, I participated in the Mumme Poll on a lark, thinking it would be cool to help the Senator with his concept of approval polling. Over that time, I have come to the decision that all polls before the fourth or fifth week of the season are utter nonsense. I know it is tough to be both an anti-playoff advocate and to bash preseaon polls, but if you think about it, they are based on the same rationale.

Preseason rankings have no merit because your are trying to compare fried chicken, a free Ipod loaded with porn and music, and Natalie Gublis. You might just absolutely love each one for different reasons, but you cannot say which one you love more. Figuring out what teams to put in the playoffs will be no different, but polling later in the season only has finality for one or two teams and is at least based on game results. You think that will happen with anything less than (at least) a 32 team playoff?

Yeah, they are great to talk about, but giving Notre Dame a leg up by putting them ranked 23rd is just asinine.

How a leg up? Well, if the Irish win 9 or more games this season, the odds of them playing in the Fiesta Bowl go way up with them ranked in the preseason, because they have less ground to cover later this year. But, I am getting in front of myself. For this post, just focus on this: Who would you chose to be the better team? California or Georgia? The coaches say California.

I'm just sayin'.


  1. In this case, the sequel was better than the original. First Monday in October seems like a great time for a poll to emerge.

  2. Well, it the first one wasn't Smokey and the Bandit.....

    I never felt that way until last year. I was one of the masses that figured if someone is ranked, it means something. I have discovered it means pollsters are lazy and decide to just go with defaults and hope.