Polls Should Be Watched By CFP Selectors

Barry Alvarez, the former head football coach and now director of athletics at Wisconsisn, is one of the 13 selectors for the inaugural College Football Playoff. As we approach the determinations for the national championship contenders, this group of 13 could prove to be more and more alarming.

Alvarez has joined the chorus of those who say the existing polls, notably the Associated Press and Coaches rankings, are meaningless. At least he acknowledged that he is aware of them. But Alvarez is making his own poll, using statistics he has determined are important and having them provided by an assistant in his sports information office.

It is easy to applaud the resourcefullness of Alvarez, who certainly is qualified t serve as a selector. He gave a reasonable example in watching points. If a team scores 50 points, but it scores them against a team that ordinarily gives us 45, that’s not as good as a team that scores 20, but against a team that ordinarily gives up 10.

Say what you will, but this is dangerously close to the seriously flawed comparative scores criterium. A team that score 50 on that team that usually gives up 45 could be motivated (and able) to score 67 on that team, particlarly if that team had reason to believe it would move up the Alvarez Poll with a few more scores.

Should Alabama be worried about this?

For now, there probably are a lot more worries than the Alvarez System, or the system of any other of the selectors. Jeff Long, the chairman of the board and the AD at Arkansas, said he has watched a lot of football, but he doesn’t pay attention to the polls and he isn’t even making his own poll yet. The selectors are to begin voting on a poll in late October.

Alabama would be a team that liks the poll system. Right now Bama is second in the Coaches Poll and third in the AP rankings. The problem for the Crimson Tide is that it is in the Southeastern Conference West Division, which is home to dangerous opponents.

Bama has all six of those bad boys left to play (plus Tennessee in Knoxville). Win them all (plus the SEC Championship Game) and there is no problem. That resume would mean a waltz into the four-team playoff.

Alabama has an open date this weekend, but has a serious test on Oct. 4 when Bama goes to Oxford to take on undefeated and 10th ranked (that’s in the AP – Associated Press -- poll, not necessarily the other AP, the Alvarez Poll. Kickoff next Saturday will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS.

The strength of the current polls is that they have proved remarkably reliable over the years. It has been a long time since anyone had a serious argument that the polls didn’t get the top team at the end of the year. And the polls have almost always had a solid top two and top four. Part of the reason for that is that both polls have quite a few more than 13 selectors, so a small number – say, seven – couldn’t skew the rankings.

Those rankings may not mean anything since they are not officially being used to determine the teams in the College Football Playoff, but hopefully those charged with this demanding task will consider the polls as one of the tools as they make their own rankings.


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