Babb Bits - Reworking The Polls

Should preseason polls get the boot? And who should be number one? Charles Babb answers those questions and reworks the polls in the way he'd like to see them. Check out today's Babb Bits.

Preseason Polls

When will they end?

I have long been a proponent of delaying the first polls until at least the first week of October, and this season illustrates why better than any I can remember. Every season aspiring teams surprise the college football world, but they are punished for sportswriters' low expectations in June and July. Meanwhile, underwhelming squads at nationally known schools are rewarded not based on performance but rather based upon the accomplishments of recent and perhaps even a distant past.

Failures of preseason polls are well documented, but take another look at 2005 for your own viewing enjoyment:

- Of the top 12 preseason teams, three are not even ranked. Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Iowa have a combined 13-10 record. Toss in Michigan and as a group they have an 18-13 mark.

- Purdue, the sexy pick to win the Big Ten title, is now 2-6 and the only bowl they will be participating in will be the punch bowl at their local New Year's Eve bash.

- Louisville (who I admittedly thought would skate through an easy Big East slate) has somehow managed two losses. This is a positive simply because we won't have to watch a USC, Texas, or Virginia Tech squad post 345 points on them…by halftime.

- Penn State, Oregon, and Wisconsin weren't even in the original polls, thus their relatively low positions in comparison to others with similar records/accomplishments.

- Texas A&M, Arizona State, and Virginia have been decidedly unimpressive despite the Cavaliers managing a win over previously undefeated Florida State.

Of even greater concern are the early polls' faulty projections impacting placement of current teams.

Take Notre Dame for instance. The Irish technically boast wins over both top 5 and top 25 opponents. Yet those victories came against Michigan and Pittsburgh who are now a combined 9-8. These two victories and a close loss to USC in a rivalry game led to the ‘Irish are back' ideal and premature crowning of Charlie Weis as king with a new 10 year contract. What if Notre Dame had narrowly lost to the No. 2 team USC, been defeated by a 23rd ranked Michigan State, and had a win over No. 19 Michigan? I highly doubt they would be at 8th in the nation.

What about Wisconsin and Oregon? How is it that Wisconsin and (especially) Oregon are ranked below Florida, Notre Dame, and Ohio State? Could it be because less was expected of their squad than that of the other three? One might argue the Gators and Buckeyes are better, but if the rule of thumb is "he who has the least losses should receive the best ranking" then there is a clear double standard.

So, I have compiled my own rankings based on where I feel each team has performed. The rankings are not based on preseason polls or even the current polls per se. They are based on how they have performed given their schedule and league's toughness.

Preseason Ranking

Current Ranking

Earned Ranking


(1) USC

(1) USC

(1) Texas

(2) Texas

(2) Texas

(2) USC

(3) Tennessee

(3) Virginia Tech

(3) Virginia Tech

(4) Michigan

(4) Alabama

(4) Alabama

(5) LSU

(5) Miami

(5) LSU

(6) Ohio State

(6) LSU

(6) UCLA

(7) Oklahoma

(7) UCLA

(7) Penn State

(8) Virginia Tech

(8) Notre Dame

(8) Florida State

(9) Miami

(9) Florida State

(9) Miami

(10) Florida

(10) Penn State

(10) Wisconsin

(11) Iowa

(11) Georgia

(11) Georgia

(12) Louisville

(12) Ohio State

(12) Ohio State

(13) Georgia

(13) Florida

(13) Oregon

(14) Florida State

(14) Wisconsin

(14) Florida

(15) Purdue

(15) Oregon

(15) Auburn

(16) Auburn

(16) Texas Tech

(16) Notre Dame

(17) Texas A&M

(17) Auburn

(17) Boston College

(18) Boise State

(18) West Virginia

(18) West Virginia

(19) California

(19) Boston College

(19) Michigan

(20) Arizona State

(20) TCU

(20) TCU

(21) Texas Tech

(21) Fresno State

(21) Texas Tech

(22) Boston College

(22) Michigan

(22) California

(23) Pittsburgh

(23) California

(23) Michigan State

(24) Fresno State

(24) Louisville

(24) Colorado

(25) Virginia

(25) Colorado

(25) Fresno State


An Explanation of Rankings:

1. Texas. They have earned this ranking with excellence in multiple team categories. Yes, USC appears able to score at will, but so did the 2002 Miami Hurricanes squad. Texas is a complete team with both an offense and a defense. They score 46.6 points per game and allow only 16.1; they are defeating opponents by a wider margin of victory than the Trojans. A victory at night against Ohio State – the first ever allowed by the Buckeyes in Columbus – is decidedly more impressive than a controversial win (with an uncalled penalty) over a still unproven Notre Dame.

2. USC. The Trojans are a fine team with all the markers of another title squad. However, they have been inconsistent at times. In multiple games they have trailed at halftime, being forced to mount a comeback. This is the mark of a team getting by on talent; teams who get by on talent eventually meet someone of equal or near equal talent and lose.

3. Virginia Tech. With a win over Miami this weekend, it is very possible they could be deserving of second place. They allow only 9.1 points per game having faced several better than average opponents (West Virginia, Maryland, Boston College, and Georgia Tech) and score 36.8. Special teams are their specialty, and if they win out they will arguably have faced the toughest schedule of the top three.

4. Alabama. While I am of the opinion the Tide will lose at least one and possibly two games before the end of the season as of today they sit undefeated after victories over Florida, South Carolina, and rival Tennessee. Mike Shula has this program back where it belongs and like the Hokies – if they emerge unscathed they can make an argument for inclusion in the national title scene.

5. LSU. For all that these players and coaches have endured the last six months, their success is unprecedented. If you haven't personally witnessed the poverty in Louisiana prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, then the depth of destruction they face in its aftermath is probably beyond your understanding. A normal team would have folded; the Tigers have turned the opposite direction with only a meltdown against Tennessee keeping them from an undefeated season.

6. UCLA is clearly a fine team, but their penchant to play from behind and lack of a top 50 scoring defense screams one thing: get ready for a loss. The last time a UCLA squad had this profile they won every game – until their last. An upset by Miami in 1998 ruined their season in a shootout.

7. Penn State. Joe Paterno finally decided to get out of the way of his program. He stopped taking a back seat in recruiting and opted to let others to drive the car on offense and defense. Those moves combined with a senior laden roster and a couple of speedy freshmen have catapulted the Nittany Lions back among the elite in the nation. Whoever they face in their bowl will wish for an opponent with less lethal claws, and they will thank heavens not to be playing in Happy Valley where their eardrums would bleed thanks to the juvenile lion roar.

8. Florida State. No team has improved as much from their first game as the Seminoles. In perhaps the ugliest game of the season to date, they squared off with Miami in a turnover and missed opportunity festival. Escaping with a victory they have since found their stride. Upcoming games against Clemson, Florida, and presumably the ACC Coastal Division champions will determine if they have upgraded as a team or simply are the beneficiaries of a less than rigorous early schedule.

9. Miami. The loss against Florida State is all that is keeping their battle with Virginia Tech from being a titanic clash with national championship implications. A win this weekend should earn them a spot in the top eight and arguably the top six while a loss should drop them to perhaps 12 or 13. Here's Coker's chance to prove he truly is a good coach and not just a mediocre X and O man sitting on a hotbed of talent.

10. Wisconsin. Defensively this is not a great team, and I expect Penn State to defeat them for a more realistic ranking of 15th in the nation. Even so, Brian Calhoun is having a dream season, and Barry Alvarez is receiving a wonderful swan song worthy of his accomplishments. Remember, this is a program which was a perennial cellar dweller before his arrival.

11. Georgia. Mark Richt must feel snake bitten; he is one knee injury to D.J. Shockley from an unblemished record. The Bulldogs have a fine defense and will at some point break through their current glass ceiling to challenge for a national title. They can climb the polls back into the top 10 if they finish strong against Auburn, Georgia Tech, and win the SEC title game.

12. Ohio State. Two opponents with a combined mark of 16-1 have left the Buckeyes at 6-2. Those two losses by a combined 10 points have left the Buckeyes just a shade off of being a national title caliber team. No other program has faced the quality of opponents as this one week in and week out; of all their foes, only San Diego State appears to be out of bowl contention. If Ohio State continues to win, I expect them to climb to the top six by the bowls and a win there could see them finish as high as fourth in the nation.

13. Oregon. An early loss to USC is all that stands between them and perfection. The question is how much that really means in a league that may or may not be worth its salt.

14. Florida. Urban Meyer is learning the hard way that winning in the SEC isn't exactly a cakewalk. I doubt Ron Zook has much sympathy.

15. Auburn. Tommy Tubberville's Tigers haven't lost their bite, and he has been passing out sound bytes for the media detailing just what he thinks of ESPN.

16. Notre Dame. How this team is considered a top 10 squad by AP voters and coaches is beyond me. Weis is a fine coach, and they would clearly be a tough out for most teams. However, they are 1-2 against teams with a winning record. The Irish should hope for a loss to Tennessee or Stanford and a non BCS bowl; a date with someone like Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, LSU, etc. could end ugly – just like the last time they squeaked into a BCS game.

17. Boston College. Arguably the Eagles should be ranked ahead of their Catholic school rivals, but a blowout by Virginia Tech probably indicates they are just under the level of the guys in South Bend. Why no major program has tried to throw money at Tom O'Brien remains a mystery.

18. West Virginia. One loss isn't so impressive when you play in the Big East. Virtually every team in the top 25 could waltz through that poor excuse for a BCS conference – except of course those who are in it and play one another. I wonder how long until the BCS uses the "Big East Rule" where they can remove an automatic berth from any conference if their champion falls below an average ranking over an extended period of time.

19. Michigan. Despite starting out on the wrong foot (or with no feet at all), the Wolverines have rallied and now look to be a serious opponent for Ohio State on November 19. They are finding ways to win while the Buckeyes are finding ways to keep opponents in the game.

20. TCU. A physical beating of Oklahoma straight out of the gate looked more impressive at the time than it does now. Still, a one loss season thus far indicates this is a better than average team. Put another way – they would battle West Virginia for the championship of the Big East.

21. Texas Tech. Basketball on grass works well until you run into a solid defense. The Red Raiders will continue to pour on the points against hapless foes but don't be fooled – this isn't a top 20 squad.

22. California. Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears have an opportunity to prove they belong or disabuse the voters of the inkling that they do with a match up against Oregon in Eugene this weekend.

23. Michigan State. That's right – I'm leaving out Louisville – a team that is below Rutgers in the Big East standings. Rutgers. While the Spartans are inconsistent they have had Ohio State and Michigan on the ropes before losing and defeated a supposed top 10 Notre Dame in South Bend.

24. Colorado. First place in the Big 12 North Division is about as noteworthy as winning a free shake at McDonalds. They've been soundly thrashed by the two quality opponents they have faced 65-20. Nice. Texas will drink them down and belch them loudly back out come December.

25. Fresno State. A close loss to Oregon (37-34) and a likely loss to USC keeps the Bulldogs from being placed higher. Still, give them credit for playing a tough non conference slate.

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