The National Championship game is set, with little actual controversy in the participants. After Ohio State lost, Auburn moved up as the 1-loss SEC Champion to play Florida State. The Harris Poll voters had Florida State and Auburn as the top two teams on 104 of the 105 ballots (Jack Ebling, a radio host in Michigan, voted Alabama at #2 and Auburn at #3).
That doesn’t mean we cannot admire the work of individual pollsters. No voter was more extreme in his ballot than former long time Washington State and Iowa State head coach Jim Walden. From what we can gather, Walden is a big fan of MAC-tion and a champion for the smaller programs. Seven of his Top 25 play outside the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC.
Walden has Central Florida ranked at #6 in the country; Louisville is #8. If we had an eight team playoff, Walden sees the American Athletic Conference as worthy of two spots, with its two best teams ranked higher than anyone from the Pac-12.
He also has three programs from the MAC in his top 25 (Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, and Ball State). That gives the MAC as many top teams as the Big Ten, Big XII, and ACC.
Perhaps Walden is a discerning voter who sees things we don’t. After all, variety is the spice of life and different perspectives keep us from falling into groupthink. More likely, though, Walden just votes by won-loss records, making only slight adjustments. Every team with one loss is in the top eight, except for Northern Illinois, which falls all the way to #13. Every team with 10 wins makes the Top 25. Yeah, LSU gets in at 9-3, as one of the few that rounds the poll out. They aren’t getting higher than #20, though, with those three losses.
That leads to three MAC teams. It also leads to Rice, at 10-3, being ranked for winning the dreadful Conference USA, where its best win is over Marshall. Never mind that means you have to put Rice above Texas A&M, who beat them by 21 in a game that Johnny Manziel played one half. Texas A&M lost four games, though. Never mind that means you have to put Rice above in-town rival Houston, who beat Rice on a neutral field. Houston lost four games, including two to the teams Walden thinks are in the top eight.
Walden is not even checking in as the worst voter according to voting at pollspeak.com. That belongs to Derrick Mayes, the former Notre Dame wide receiver, who thinks very little of the Big Ten and its large and passionate alumni base and online voters. He has Michigan State and Ohio State both outside his top ten, a far worse crime in some parts than having a ballot that believes in MACtion.
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