Smart Football’s blogpoll entry

For the first time, I’m participating the BlogPoll. Below is my preseason Top 25. During the season, I should post this weekly. (Technically you’re supposed to post it by Monday for commentary and then revise it on Wednesday, but we’ll see. I am happy to hear all commentary about my selections thought.) Below is my preseason ballot:

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Oklahoma
4 Southern Cal
5 Penn State
6 Ohio State
7 Alabama
8 Virginia Tech
9 LSU
10 Oregon
11 Mississippi
12 Oklahoma State
13 Georgia Tech
14 California
15 TCU
16 Boise State
17 Georgia
18 Utah
19 Nebraska
20 South Florida
21 Pittsburgh
22 Notre Dame
23 West Virginia
24 Texas Tech
25 Nevada

Now, some words on methodology:

This will be my thought process through most of the season.The BlogPoll makers (i.e. Brian Cook of mgoblog), tells us:

The poll’s goals are clearly stated. The AP poll is full of voters who vote team X super high in the preseason because of its schedule; this is strongly discouraged by the BlogPoll. Preseason polls are supposed to be exclusively about how good a team is thought to be, and postseason polls are supposed to be exclusively about how much a team has accomplished on the field.Â

Now… it is impossible to separate the former from the latter in late-season polls because college football provides such a sparse data set, but at the very least BlogPoll voters know they shouldn’t vote a 9-2 USC team #1 even if they think they’re the best team unless that 9-2 includes three killer nonconference matchups.

I agree for the most part, but I don’t know if it is that cut and dried. College football polls suffers from the intractable problem of ranking over a hundred teams that do not all play each other. Everyone has done the elementary problem where, for example, you ask how we might rank the 2008 football teams. Florida was the number one team, but wait: they lost to Ol’ Miss. Ol’ Miss in turn lost to South Carolina, which itself lost to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt lost to Duke, and, well, let’s just stop. It gets even crazier when you start adding up scores: Florida beat Kentucky by X, which beat so-and-so by ten so Florida would beat them by 70 or whatever.

Compounding this problem is the fact that college football ends its season in a rather ambiguous manner, with a series of bowl games and then re-rankings. In the NFL, you can pretty easily do “power rankings,” because you know there will be a playoff at the end. This is not to say that the playoff will ultimately crown the “best” team, but if a team has three losses and another two, but you think the first is better, it’s fair to rank the first higher because you are sure they are more likely to win the rematch.

In college, however, it is, as I said, ambiguous. Texas beats Oklahoma; you happen to think Oklahoma is the better team; you rank Oklahoma higher. Or, alternatively, you say it was decided on the field and rank Texas higher. The Oklahoma guy says that Texas Tech beat Texas and OU beat TTech by about a thousand, and so on, and around we go.

Compounding this is the fact that the BCS, although I don’t think it is as bad as some of its detractors say, is not entirely fair. Or at least it doesn’t provide the same opportunity for a championship to all teams, based on money but also the not completely farcical fact that the non-BCS schools can pad their records against inferior teams, and a matchup between SEC #2 or #3 is still one they would be overmatched for (i.e. Georgia vs. Hawai’i, but then again there’s Utah vs. Alabama and Boise St. vs. OU). (Incidentally, didn’t LSU win a title with two losses recently? Including one to Kentucky?)

So what to do? This is the long way of saying that my poll will be a kind of “gestalt” approach, and therefore I will try to reflect the following “mix” of considerations:

  • What teams do I think are the best? Who is playing the best? Generally, do I think team A would beat team B if they played.
  • Who has the best chance of converting their season into a championship? The point of a poll is, in some respects, meant to reflect my perceived odds of a team winning it all. This will hurt non-BCS schools and will benefit teams with favorable schedules (contra possibly to Brian’s diktat above), but that is counterbalanced by …
  • What teams have had the best “season,” and should be rewarded for winning the games they need to win and playing well? I may think a one or two loss USC is “better” than, say, an undefeated Utah, in the sense that if they played I’d be pretty sure USC would win, but maybe Utah deserves to be “rewarded” for its better season.

I take it that the BlogPoll seems aimed primarily at the last factor, but I can’t get around the fact that I think it is relevant that I think a team is flat better than another, or for that reason or another that team A is more likely to take home the BCS title than team B.

Thus, for this preseason poll I focused primarily on the first two factors, since the third is not yet relevant. (I was not interested in “rewarding” anyone for how they finished last year except insofar as it portends positive things for 2009.) It might be considered cheating, but I consulted Vegas’s odds of winning the BCS, because I do believe in the wisdom of crowds, though with limits. From there I applied my own gut feelings on teams. Some very basic specifics:

  • Florida ought to win the title again unless something happens. That said, if you offered me Florida vs. The Field at even money, I’d obviously take it.
  • The next two most likely contenders are Texas and OU, who of course will play each other and (theoretically, didn’t happen last year) settle who is the Big 12 delegate. I think OU loses more than people think, though McCoy still needs some runningbacks, secondary receivers to help Jordan Shipley and replace Quan Cosby, and for the D-Line to step up.
  • Southern Cal I’m sure will be great, but they did lose a lot, and they are replacing their quarterback without any of the three offensive guys present throughout their big run (Chow, Sarkisian, Kiffin). Corp is hurt, so there’s Barkley? And yet, I still couldn’t rank USC behind a Big 10 team, hence their lead over Penn State (who I like more than the Pryor show from OSU).
  • 11-13, Ol’ Miss, Oklahoma State, and Georgia Tech wound up being my “upstart” part of the poll. I actually think Georgia Tech is the most likely to fall back down. I’m a huge Paul Johnson fan, obviously, but in 2008 the Jackets were hit or miss and it would still be a solid move for Coach Johnson to finish in only the Top 25, and not this high. Ol’ Miss is harder to read. I like them and all, but the SEC is a buzzsaw from which I’m unsure they will escape.
  • I could have had some of the non-BCS schools like TCU, Utah, and Boise ranked higher, but their stock was hurt by the fact that it is unrealistic for them to get to the BCS game. This is also why BYU didn’t get ranked: if they win their games, including one against Oklahoma, they could go to the highest heights, but I anticipate them taking some big losses. (Incidentally the same goes for Miami, who I think could be both improved this year and start 0-4 with a really tough schedule.)
  • No Big East school was ranked in the USA Today Coaches poll, but that conference does get a spot in the BCS and I think they should be alright. People have Pittsburgh highly ranked, but that team has never put up much offense and they lost LeSean McCoy. As a result I think South Florida could finally burst through. Tough to call though. (Rutgers is the dark horse in that conference.) As a side note, Notre Dame benefited from the easy schedule/road-to-BCS position they are in. But seriously: who knows about that team? They could finish top 10 or out of the top 25; I wouldn’t be shocked either way.

  • Wide Tackle Six

    Chris,

    No FSU or UM but USF in the Top 25. What has the world come to in the last 10 years??

    Are you considering doing a Big Play of the Week Analysis? Maybe the Big Play from the Big Game or the Big Upset?

    This would attract alot of new interest fans. Certainly from those teams or those teams who benefited in the polls from the loser.

  • Homyrrh

    I’m under the recurring impression that we’re mutually Buckeye fans.

  • http://www.redcuprebellion.com Juco All-American

    Just so you know, there’s no apostrophe in the name “Ole Miss.”

  • BigWorm

    Yeah, you’ve got some explaining to do for not having FSU in the top 25. Love your stuff bro, but not having them on here is a little ridiculous.

  • Frank

    I hope you’re ready to put Michigan in the top 25 when they beat Notre Dame.

  • http://smartfootball.com Chris

    I like FSU but I kind of just crowded them out. It’s a preseason poll — not the most sensible of things. I wanted to include some darkhorse teams that I thought could make a run. FSU could very well surge ahead and wind up in a BCS bowl (I agree about their line and run game), but we’ll see. It really wasn’t meant as a disrespect to FSU, just kind of a crowding out and maybe a bit of equal opportunity (I said it was a “gestalt” approach; it’s not science.) They were basically 26th for me.

  • Joe

    New to the site… Why is Oregon getting so much love? They were gutted by huge losses all over the defense and OL. I’ve had limited views of the replacements, but they don’t look like ‘reloads’… Oregon ’09 is getting the ASU ’08 treatment, it seems.

  • Two Man Rush

    Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss all in the Top 11 and in the SEC West.

    Somethins gotta give.

  • Tractor

    Agree with Joe about Oregon, way too high. Looks like you felt a need to balance your picks geographically. Think you have to weight the SEC quite a bit heavier than you already are, the football they play down there really is that much better than everywhere else (spoken from the heartland of Big 10).
    Pittsburgh?? Come on. South Carolina or Kentucky would crush that squad.

  • big ten speed

    Cool stuff going on: Oregon #10, Nebraska appearance, Pitt appearance, Nevada appearance. Nice call on not ranking Iowa.

  • Nick

    I have to agree about Oregon, they lost a lot on both lines. And maybe because I’m a Cal homer, it seems like they should be higher and at least ahead of Oregon.

  • John N

    Thank you thank you thank you for ranking TCU above Boise St. Every damn outlet in the country has Boise at least 2 spots above TCU, even though TCU beat them in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. True TCU is losing defensive starters, but their offense should be as stout (or more likely better) than last year’s. It just irks me that they are being overlooked in such a fundamental way (head-to-head) just because Boise is a media darling.

  • Manny

    Oregon may have lost much on their O-line but 1 guy is a returning starter another a starter a year ago but out because of injury and another had significant experience due to injuries last year including a couple of starts. Now that being said those 3 make up the interior 3 which puts new people at the ends. In a spread the point of attack in the run game is generally between the guard and tackle or off tackle. Cal on the other hand is looking for better QB play to pull off their upset of USC and is solid on D and very powerful when running the ball. So who should be higher I generally agree Cal should be but Oregon has an edge historically in depth. But Oregon along with Cal are supposed to be just this side of knocking USC off the hill and OSU being a nice little dark horse in the conference. Nevada and ND being so high is quite surprising especially considering the poor coaching and performances of the Irish against UNC, Syracuse and Navy last year bad to ok teams last year. Nevada is a nice pick to put in but I would generally associate them with a 25-30 ranking from their comparative lack of talent allowing for a FSU or Oregon State to slip in.

  • Anissa Garside

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