Inside The Poll

Sunday morning, the 114 selectors for the Harris Poll were to cast their first ballots of the year. All but one did. "I cast my ballot," said former Alabama Sports Information Director Steve Townsend, who is one of those voting this year. Townsend will share his thoughts regarding his vote with readers of on a regular basis.

It is fashionable in journalism these days to disparage the college football polls. But until there is a playoff of some sort, there is no better way to choose a national champion. And some of these polls are used to determine who will play for the national championship in the Bowl Championship Series version of that title.

Because the Associated Press poll is not being used by the BCS this year, the Harris Poll was created to fill that void. It is possible that the AP will have a different national champion than the BCS, but currently the AP and Harris polls (and every other poll outside of maybe East Alabama) has Southern Cal a clear number one.

Among the voters is Steve Townsend. Although Harris Poll voters have been instructed to discuss their votes only in general terms, Townsend will share his thoughts about his vote on a regular basis on

First and foremost, he said, he was not the one voter who failed to cast a ballot Sunday morning.

And, Townsend said, USC got his vote. "It's pretty clear that Southern Cal is ahead of everyone else right now," Townsend said. "I think that's the opinion of just about everyone."

Voters list a top 25 each Sunday morning. "This week was kind of difficult because of the LSU-Tennessee game being played Monday night," Townsend said. "This early in the season, a game like that has an effect. I voted LSU ahead of Tennessee on the basis of Tennessee having lost to Florida."

Towsend said he voted for Alabama "in that 11 to 15 range. I think if Alabama can beat Florida this Saturday that Alabama will probably move into the top ten."

Townsend is a conscientious voter. "I've watched every top team play already," he said. "One of the toughest decisions I had was between Texas and Virginia Tech for number two. I have been impressed with Virginia Tech and with their schedule. I think that Texas may be playing in a league that is down this year. The Big 12 doesn't look very strong except for Texas."

Townsend said a team that has impressed him has been Michigan State. "I have watched them twice and they have been very good on offense," he said. "I think they'll be hard to beat. They play Michigan this week and if they beat Michigan, I think Michigan will be in a big hole."

He said the two conferences that looked strongest to him are the Pac-10 and the Big 10.

Townsend said he had been making preliminary notes prior to his vote and that one game had a big effect on his first ballot. "I had Louisville pegged as a potential top ten team," he said. "I'm not too surprised by anything that happens in college football, but the way they lost to South Florida surprised me."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve Townsend, an independent consultant for college football, is one of 114 voters in the new Harris Interactive College Football Poll, which is part of the equation for choosing teams for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games at the end of the season.

The Associated Press requested the BCS not use the long-established AP poll in its calculations. The BCS formula for the 2005 season will consist of the new Harris Poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll, and an average of six computer rankings (Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe). The first BCS standings will be released on October 17

Harris Poll voter Steve Townsend is an independent consultant for college football. He previously served as media relations director at Alabama (1988-98) and for the Southeastern Conference, co-publisher of Tiger Rag (the LSU equivalent of ‘BAMA Magazine), and as a graduate assistant under famed LSU Sports Information Director Paul Manasseh.

He will share his thoughts on his vote with on a regular basis.

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