The latest college football polls — they are not rankings, they are polls — again make me realize that many of the people who vote in these are as, uh, questionable as those who vote in regular elections.
The thing that really jumped out at me is South Carolina being ranked below Alabama, the former No. 1 team. Last weekend many watched on national TV as the Gamecocks decisively beat the Crimson Tide, 35-21. Now, they each have 2-1 SEC records, but Carolina still was voted below the team it decisively whipped.
The apparent reasons? Well, I can only speculate, but here goes: 1) Alabama has a mystique, both current and dating to the Bear Bryant days. This will always get the attention of some voters who pay more attention to ghosts than reality. 2) South Carolina drew a low preseason ranking, and Alabama was ranked No. 1. Again, pure supposition. Preseason rankings are all based on the previous season, which does not account for talent that has graduated.
Another example of poll abuse came in 2004. Auburn finished the season undefeated, beating several ranked teams in the process. However, it was nosed out of the BCS title game because it was ranked so low in the preseason.
Current polls have Boise State in the top five. Understandable, considering the Broncos are undefeated. But does anyone think they would still be undefeated if they played in the SEC on a weekly basis? The conference boasts the past four BCS champions and four coaches (Steve Spurrier among them) who have won national titles. The competition is intense. The Big 12 is rough, too, with Texas and Oklahoma having played for several recent BCS titles, Texas winning in 2005.
This is like watching “Dancing With The Stars” or the Academy Awards. Politics, popularity and a pack mentality rule. The BCS rankings are often chided for flaws blamed on computers, etc. But I agree with a recent Los Angeles Times article that cites “human taint.”
The ultimate problem, though, is that college football is the only organized sport at any level that does not have a formal playoff system. It never will, either, because the bowl games and the television money they command wag the dog. But no one is skeptical about the Super Bowl winner or the World Series champion, because they settle things on the field. The BCS title game entrants are settled by polls. And you know who votes in those.
We have met the enemy …