Analyze the Analysts: USA Today Preseason Polls
Reviewing the USA Today Preseason Polls for 2006
Comparing to the Year End Polls of 2006
A College Football Discussion
USA Today Preaseaon Polls 2007 - What this all Means
Let me be the first to say that September 1st represents all that is good with the world of sports. For on this day, the 2007 college football season kicks off, and is underway. Along with that is the pagentry, the excitement, the 4th quarter finishes, and the hopes of championship glory being played out every Saturday afternoon before our eyes. In order to look out into next season, this edition of Analyze the Analyst first looks back to this date in history, the preseason of 2006.
We will examine the USA Today 2006 preseason rankings, who was in, who was out, and who had to loose 5 and 6 times in a row before they were forced to leave the top 25. We will also take a look at what teams had to be near perfect to enter the top twenty five. We will also ask a couple of questions...are preseason college football rankings fair, why do certain teams seem to get every opportunity possible to succeed under this formula, and who are teams likely to fall out, and fall into this years rankings when the year comes to a close.
Last years 2006 preseason rankings - USA Today
1. Ohio State
3. (tie) Notre Dame
3. (tie) Southern California
7. West Virginia
10. Florida State **
11. Miami (Fla.) **
14. Georgia **
16. Virginia Tech
17. Iowa **
18. Clemson **
19. Penn State
20. Oregon **
22. Nebraska **
24. Alabama **
25. Texas Tech **
In the Final top Twenty Five Poll, 9 Were Not Ranked Anymore...who was out?
Without geting into the specifics of who finished where in the top twenty five, and things like the actual national champ, Florida, was ranked 8th with 7 teams ahead of them in the preseason, and the fact that Notre Dame, preseason 3rd actually finished 19th, or the fact that the teams such as Wisconsin and Boise State, who actually finished the season ranked 5th and 6th respectively, were actually not preseason ranked at all, we want to first look at the who is 'in', and who is 'out', as far as preseason rankings go. There were nine teams that were ranked in the USA Today Top Twenty Five in the preseason, that did not finish in the top twenty five at the years end (after the bowl games/BCS).
The teams that did not finish in the final USA Today Top Twenty Five are indicated with (**) next to their name in the rankings above.
Those Teams, Their Record, Year in Review are as Follows:
Iowa - (6-7) After Iowa beat Purdue on Oct. 7th, they were 5-1 and their preseason ranking did not look all that bad. Their only loss at that point was to OSU. However, they went on to loose 6 of their next 7,losing too Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota. The Hawkeyes only win in that span was against Northern Illinois. However, they had a legitimate bowl match up, unlike Miami and FSU, loosing to Texas by 2, 26-24.
Alabama - (6-7) Their losses were to good teams at least, but three of their six wins included Louisiana Monroe, Duke, and Florida International. They lost their bowl game to Oregon State by 3, and lost their coach, Mike Shula, in the process.
FSU - (7-6) Finished the regular season with a 6-6 overall record. Finished 3-5 in the ACC, saving a winning season with an Emerald Bowl win over UCLA. After loosing to Maryland on Oct-28, they were 4-4 overall, 2-4 in the league, and officially out of contention. They beat Miami in week 1, in one of the worst displays of offense by both teams. They also beat Rice, Troy, and Duke, Virginia, and Western Michigan, to get to 6-6, before winning the Emerald Bowl. Coach Bobby Bowden had to fire his own kid as offensive coordinator at years end.
Miami - (7-6) 6-6 in the regular season. Earned 7th win, and winning season by beating Nevada 21-20 in the Boise Idaho Bowl Game, on December 31st. Larry Coker was fired. They beat Duke, Florida International, Florida A&M, North Carolina, and Houston for five of their 7 wins. Boston College was their 6th and best win, 17-14. They also had the brawl of the season verse FIU, no points for that however.
Oregon - (7-6) They lost to BYU by 30 in their bowl game. They were 7-2 on Nov., 4, then finished the season loosing 4 straight, including a loss to Arizona.
Clemson - (8-5) They had an up and down year, but ended the season down losing to Kentucky in bowl game 28-20. Looked good early, then fell apart, tough losing to Kentucky.
Nebraska, Georgia, Texas Tech - these three teams did experience some disappointments in 2006. Finished the season unranked, but were noted in the ‘Others Receiving Votes’ section of the Top Twenty Five, so...not too bad.
The USA Today, Year End 2006 Top Twenty Five
1. FLORIDA (13-1)
2. OHIO ST (12-1)
3. LSU (11-2)
4. USC (11-2)
5. WISCONSIN (12-1) *
6. BOISE ST (13-0) *
7. LOUISVILLE (12-1)
8. AUBURN (11-2)
9. MICHIGAN (11-2)
10. WEST VIRGINIA (11-2)
11. OKLAHOMA (11-3)
12. RUTGERS (11-2) *
13. TEXAS (10-3)
14. CALIFORNIA (10-3)
15. BYU (11-2) *
16. ARKANSAS (10-4) *
17. WAKE FOREST (11-3) *
18. VIRGINIA TECH (10-3)
19. NOTRE DAME (10-3)
20. BOSTON COLLEGE (10-3) *
21. TCU (11-2)
22. OREGON ST (10-4) *
23. TENNESSEE (9-4)
24. HAWAII (11-3) *
25. PENN ST (9-4)
9 teams that finished in the USA Today Final Top Twenty Five, were not ranked at all in the preseason.
Of the nine teams that finished the season ranked, only to be unranked in August, three of those teams were not from a power conference. Boise State, Hawaii, and BYU.
Boise had to go a perfect 13-0, and beat Oklahoma to get in. Other surprise teams included Wisconsin, Arkansas, Boston college, Wake Forest, Rutgers, and Oregon State
The nine teams that were not ranked in the preseason USA Today Poll, but finished that were are indicated with a single (*) next to their name.
The highest ranked of those teams, Boise State, had to go 13-0 to get there, including a Bowl Game win over Oklahoma, preseason ranked 5th, and ended the season after that loss ranked 11th. Hawaii had to go 11-3 to sneak in, and BYU had to go 11-2 to sneak into the top 15. Wisconsin came out of nowhere to finish fifth, Rutgers shocked the country, BC, Arkansas, Oregon State, and Wake also played their way into the top twenty five.
Preseason Rankings are unfair
We, here at News From the Nosebleeds, believe that the preseason rankings are unfair. We believe this for two reasons.
The first is because is because unlike any other sport’s preseason rankings, MLB, NFL, NCAABB, these rankings impacts tremendously where a team can and will finish at the end of the year without even snapping the first football, in the first game of the year. These preseason rankings automatically give the teams that earn these rankings in the offseason a head start over teams that did not get the votes necessary to put them in the preseason polls. In pro sports, the preseason rankings are more for fun discussion, verbal sparring, and give sports fans something to talk about while play is postponed for the offseason. You have Playoffs in the NFL, and MLB, and entrance to these playoffs are based solely on a teams record. That is fair, and gives every team, even the Browns, Raiders, Devil Rays, and Royals, as fair a chance of theoretically winning the Super Bowl or World Series as the Patriots, Colts, Yankees and Red Sox. In NCAA BB, preseason rankings do somewhat impact a teams chances to make the NCAA tournament, but they also play 30 games in a given season. That is enough time, and games to allow the rankings to adjust, and develop during the course of the year, and obviously they do have a 65 team tournament at the end of the year that does decide the champion, and even the top twenty five in a more legitimate fashion. But in football, they only play about twelve games, and a team with a preseason ranking of say -10 - for example can loose their first two games and still hang around in the top twenty five for a while. And without a playoff in NCAA FB, a team like Boise State can beat everyone that will agree to play them, sneak into the BCS with an ‘At Large’ berth, beat a team ranked as a preseason top five team, ranked in the top ten at the time in Oklahoma, and still not sniff an opportunity to play for the title, that is unfair.
The second reason that preseason rankings are unfair is because they are done too early. While they do give teams with a ranking an unfair advantage, they do not give a fair enough indication of how the team will perform ‘this year.’ Just because the University of Miami has won National titles in the past, and just because they had running backs named Edgerrin James, wideouts named Irvin, QB’s named Dorsey, and tight ends named Winslow, doesnt mean they have those players this year, or will win this year with the players they have. Giving Miami a preseason ranking of 11 in August, looks ridiculous at the years end. And I know, it is tough to pick everything exactly correct in the beginning of the year, I understand that. But if College Football waited until say - October - after a month of the season has transpired to come out with their first polls, or first rankings, I think that they would be a little closer to the truth. The advantage given to teams arbitrarily at the begginning of the year would resemble the actual season a little more acurately.
The example of Miami - Preseason Ranked #11 - Unfair Advantage
For example, in Miami’s case, after watching the nationally televised first game of the year, we all would have realized that their offense couldnt score on anyone not named Florida A&M. They beat A&M 51-10 in week 2, but only scored 14 against Houston on September 30th, beating them 14-13 for their two wins in September. They lost to FSU (preseason ranked 10th, but finished 7-6) in the opener 13-10, and got buried by Louisville 31-7 in week 3. On October 1st Miami was 2-2, with 0 quality wins.
But sadly, the reason that College FB will not do this - wait until October 1st to come out with their first rankings of the year - is because of television and the ratings that a #10-#11 match-up results in. We all thought, according to the polls, that in week one we were watching a match-up of two of the top eleven teams in the country when Miami played Florida State, but looking back, we were actually watching two regular season 6-6 teams go head to head.
What is even worse about that, is at the time FSU earned what appears to be a Quality Win by edging out Miami.
Flip Side - Wisconsin, A Disadvantage
Wisconsin did not do anything in August to lose a football game. Yeah they had a knew coach, but they should be penalized for this by not being ranked? They played the same schedule as OSU - the two did not meet in the Big Ten - if not better. What if Wisconsin was starting the season ranked say...12th, or 8th, or 20th. They would not have had as much ground to cover, coming from the land of the unranks to 5th, and maybe they sneak into the national championship game...who knows. Instead they get as high as 5th.
A Playoff Would Cure All Ills
What would rectify this situation is a playoff. Now people will counter my arguement about the Coaches Poll and the AP poll coming out too early by saying that it is the BCS that indicates the real champion, and the BCS doesnt come out until mid season. However, the Coaches Poll and the AP Poll are major, major, indicators of how a team earns points under the BCS system. They fairest way to do this is to use these polls to dictate a playoff. Take the top 32, 24, or 16 teams as it stands in the BCS at years end and let those teams play it out.
Give Wisconsin, a team that had to come from being unranked to 5th a chance to play for the National Title. Give Bosie State, a team that just beat Oklahoma, a chance to play for it all. Give BYU, a team that had to go 11-2 to get into the top 15 a chance to see how they match-up against LSU, or USC. They would get killed you say, right. Because they cant compete against those teams. You probably also would have told me at the beginnig of last year that Iowa, and Alabama, who both finished 6-7 would have been at least .500. And you also would have told me that that same team, BYU, who wasn’t ranked at the beginning of the year would lose in a bowl match-up with preseason ranked #20 Oregon - but you would have been wrong on both accounts.
In fact, BYU beat Oregon on Thursday December 21st, in the Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8. Oregon tacked on 8 in the 4th quarter, while trailing 38-0. Did anyone think Rutgers was going to be good? Well they were, lets see if they can take the #12 ranking they earned and run the table in the post season - who knows what would happen.
A Look Ahead - 2007 USA Today Preseason Rankings
6. West Virginia
9. Virginia Tech
10. Ohio State
18. Penn State
21. Florida State
23. Boise State
25. Texas A&M
A Note for the Non-BCS Support
The first of the three non-BCS schools appears on this preseason rankings list at #22. The TCU Horned Frogs earn the most respect of the non BCS schools, followed by Boise State at 23, and Hawaii at 24.
In 2006's preseason top twenty five the non Power Conference schools to earn a ranking were TCU, this time ranked 21st, as the highest ranked of the Non-BCS schools, followed by and joined with, no other Non BCS school in the preseason top twenty five. They were the only one.
At 2006's years end, Boise State went undefeated to finish 6th, BYU 11-2 to finish #15, and Hawaii, who went 11-3 to finish #24. TCU ironically enough, finished in the exact spot they were projected to be, finishing the 2006 season ranked #21.
Even with its faults, college football is still the best. Every Saturday during the season is like a repetition of holidays as far as we here at News From the Nosebleeds are concerned and we are looking forward to it. We are looking to seen how Darren McFadden fairs at Arkansas, Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame, how Tebow looks as the main QB with Chris Leak gone, and rooting for as many non BCS schools as possible to blow up the top twenty five.
Stay tuned to News From the Nosebleeds for an October 1st 2007 review of how the preseason rankings look with a month of season under our respective football belts.