Preseason college football polls are baseless and asinine. We discuss nothing for eight months, which congeals into conventional wisdom. That conventional wisdom creates an unfair perceptual framework, distorting both the season and the coverage of it.
A team that starts No. 1 stays No. 1, until proven otherwise. A team that starts off the grid must claw its way up the rankings and hope for others to lose. Until 2013, this system directly affected the title itself or who played for it.
It also has a tangible effect on coverage. Two teams may finish 9-3 against similar schedules. One, projected in the top five, was an epic failure. The other, struggling to make preseason bowl projections, had a great year. That unfairly influences how teams are viewed heading into next season. The cycle repeats.
Who do we go to for insight? Let’s ask the coaches (or their SIDs) and the beat writers, the two groups who were working and could not possibly have watched a broad survey of national games. Or, we could opt for the Harris poll route, and choose a bunch of randoms with little connection who may have been watching the games.
Even worse is the media coverage. We have writers ripping the coaches for illogical decisions, as though rampant numskullery is not present in their own poll. Every media outlet also feels compelled to publish a protracted AP-style text breakdown of what happened in the poll, which aids no one’s comprehension and makes googling for the poll results an absolute nightmare.
To top it off, this season, the Selection Committee will publish its own poll in the five weeks leading up to the playoff seeding. Because nothing promotes sound, rational decision-making like subjecting your thoughts to the scrutiny of a raving mob. That should be just enough time to sync up the eventual committee decision with conventional wisdom, which is baseless.
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