I hate college football polls. More than I hate Notre Dame (which is a lot), more than I wish Colt hadn’t been injured on our first drive in the ’09 Season “Championship” game. But, most of all, the thing I hate most is the BCS.
Some housekeeping. I am a Die-hard Texas Longhorn fan (alumni, technically—B.S. ’02 & B.A. ’05), and in all sports. I love college football more than the NFL, in every possible way. I have three teams that I actively hate—over and above Notre Dame—and I respect two of them, more on that some other time.
The final bit of housekeeping, Texas A&M is good this year. There, I said it. It hurts, stings and makes the BurntOrange blood in me run cold. However, since they bolted for the SEC, I’ve realized that mostly I hated listening to A&M fans, especially the T-Shirt fans, talk about how good they were before we beat the piss out of them year after year
Texas A&M’s switch to the SEC was fraught with danger for the team. They had not been terribly successful in the recent past in the supposedly weaker Big-12 . They had, in the previous ten years, managed no better than 3rd place in the conference and had played in the conference championship game twice in 16 years, losing once. Their best national rankings in the last THIRTY years at the end of a season were a #6 and #8 finish back in the eighties. They were, without any legitimate argument, a middling Big 12 team.
So, going the the SEC, which has been described as alternatively the NFL-lite, the best conference in college football, or just the toughest conference. Whatever. They are a conference with a collection of good teams, no denying that. They are a conference that legitimately produces a best-team-in-the-nation caliber team, year in and year out. But, they are not that super-great. According to a SEC fansite, in 2010, they went 5-4 in bowl games, and in 2011 they went 6-3. In neither year were they the conference with the best bowl record. They have the second most BCS appearances, and they do have the best overall conference winning percentage—among the major conferences, the Mountain West Conference is actually better.
The SEC has great games, between great teams. But, they play very limited out-of-conference schedules and rarely, if ever, have major out of conference match-ups outside of the bowl season. They only look good because they are playing each other.
But, in a world of ranking by polls, that’s enough.
The college football world, and really here, only the Orwellian-named Bowl Championship Division, polls are everything. They are also a complete load of bullshit. The fact that there is a pre-season poll, and that poll is ridiculously inaccurate and yet still sets up how every poll after it looks, should be your first clue that there is a problem here. The polls are reputation based, completely. This benefits some teams more than others, and the Texas Longhorns are clearly one of the big winners here. Any team, including the Longhorns, that regularly finish as a two or three loss team after being pre-season ranked in the Top-10 are getting their rankings based on their reputation. The Pac-12 gets screwed here too, because pollsters (many of whom live on the East Coast) never see their games. But, if you were ranked in the 10-20 range or heaven-forbid, unranked, you will not win a championship in this system because you will always be below one of the teams who pollsters are “comfortable” with being number 1.
So, SEC teams, who are well-thought of, will do well in a polling system. Their games are nationally televised by a major network, they are the “traditional” powerhouses and they will get to play lots of ranked opponents. But, those opponents are in their own damn conference. This isn’t how to determine how good they are on a national scale.
But, all of this will shortly come to an end.
The coming college football playoff system will
end lessen the importance of polls. Starting in the 2014 season, a selection committee will pick the top four teams and have a three game play-off. You can quibble about the two best teams, but the arguments usually are going to be harder to make about the top four teams. It’s at the very least a start. If we end up with another f-ing SEC vs. SEC championship, at least they will have earned that nonsense.
Combined with this playoff system, which will make champions a bit more legitimate—an eight team playoff, a certain eventuality, will finally make them truly legitimate—and the entry of a middling team from another conference, should finally crumble the myth of the SEC into history.
They will be forced to prove that they are as good as everyone says that they are. My take is that A&M’s success in the SEC shows that some of the SEC’s “dominance” is based on the echo chamber effect. They play each other, everyone assumes that all the teams are good, so the winner must be really good, they are playing “ranked” opponents aren’t they? But, when they have to play someone else, ehh, not-so-much. So, let’s see what happens when you have to earn it.
Unless of course they win every championship from here out. In which case, I will start watching more basketball.
UPDATE: I found this article after I wrote my post. It pretty much says what I said. Except he gets paid to write his, so there’s more detail 😉