The Most Important College Football Poll of the Year

The most important college football poll of the year is out, and the top five are as follows  (rank, team, #1 votes record so far, total points):

1. USC (45)  0-0 1,481
2. LSU (4)  0-0 1,372
3. Florida (9)  0-0 1,278
4. Texas 0-0 1,231
5. Michigan (2)  0-0 1,218

The rest of the list is here.

Many of you might notice that all of these teams have a record of 0-0.  So you might ask, "Coyote, are you crazy, why did you call this the most important poll of the year?"  Well, since I answered that last year, I will go back a year ago and quote myself:

In theory, voters in the college football polls each week come up
with their current ranking of teams, which in theory could be very
different from how they ranked things the previous week.  In practice,
however, voters start with their rankings of the previous week and then
make adjustments up and down for individual teams based on that week's
game results....

In effect, the college football rankings are a bit like a tennis ladder. Each
week, losers drop down 3-8 spots and all the winners and no-plays move up to
fill in the vacated spots. Sometimes a team will leapfrog another, but that is
rare and it is extremely rare to leapfrog more than 1 or 2 spots. In this sense, the
initial football poll is the most critical, since only those in the top 10-15
have any chance of moving up the ladder to #1.

In
effect, the pre-season poll is the baseline off which all future polls
start.  I haven't done the research, but you could probably refine my
statement in the previous paragraph to a set of rules such as:

  • A three-loss team can never win the championship
  • A two-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 5 of the pre-season poll
  • A one-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 15
  • An undefeated team can win even if they were left out of the
    initial top 25, but only if they play in a major conference.  A minor
    conference team, even undefeated, will not ever end up #1 unless they
    started the season in the top 25.

Again, the numbers in these rules may not be exactly right, but I
think they are directionally correct.  This is what I call my theory of
College Football Calvinism (the religion, not the cartoon character)
since one's ultimate fate is in large part pre-ordained by the polls
even before the season is born.  So, if your alma mater has any shot at
the title, you should hope your AD is out there in the summer lobbying
the writers like hell to up their pre-season poll standings. Every spot
you gain in the pre-season poll is one you don't have to win on the
playing field.

  • Roy Lofquist

    The cartoon characters were named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Roy Lofquist

    The cartoon characters were named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Roy Lofquist

    The cartoon characters were named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Roy Lofquist

    The cartoon characters were named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Roy Lofquist

    The cartoon characters were named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • John Dewey

    Too bad we cannot do away with the concept of the BCS and simultaneously de-emphasize the subjective results of national polls. A college football team that goes undefeated in its regular season and then wins a bowl game is a champion. Period. Same for a team that wins its conference and its bowl game. Beyond that we could just argue over our beer about which team was best. Why should a sportswriters opinion, or a coaches opinion, or a computer's opinion, matter more to me than my opinion?

    Would bowl sponsors rake in as much television money if the BCS did not exist? I think so.

    Who is really helped by the BCS? the big conferences and Notre Dame?

  • http://www.movementarian.com Tim Swanson

    Yea, the initial vote for the bowl chaos system is stacked against everyone outside the top 25. Look no further than the mid-majors that always have an uphill fight moving up onto the list and then are completely dropped after a single loss (TCU in 2003 comes to mind).

    See also: The Bowl Championship Series: A Case Against Subjectively Aggregated Statistics

  • Dan

    Another unwritten rule in the polls: A "good" team is allowed to have a bad day. Thus getting blown out by another "good" team, or losing a close game to a "bad" team is not punished as heavily as losing a close game to another "good" team.