Monday, September 28, 2009

Coaches' Poll

It's fashionable to bitch about the BCS, and for good reason too. But I think the most egregious part of the BCS is the use of the Coaches' Poll as part of its calculations.

Who thinks college football coaches even watch other teams' football games? These guys have never seen the teams play unless their own team has faced them. They usually pawn the task off to some underling, who probably hasn't watched the teams play either. This system leads to all sorts of nonsensical rankings. Meanwhile, the AP Poll consists of writers who increasingly take the job seriously, watch the games, and base the rankings on what they see. Which would you prefer?

This problem is exacerbated by polls even existing before the 3rd or 4th week of the season. The first poll of the season goes a long way to deciding who will be ahead at the end of the season. That's because teams who start off high can afford to have a loss and still work their way back to the top. Meanwhile, a team farther down the poll might lose one and win eleven in a row and they might not make it high enough because they lost their ranking until the 5th week of season.

This week we see all sorts of absurdities in the coaches poll, some of which reflect these preseason rankings. Oregon completely clubbed California on Saturday, 42-3. Oregon lost its first game in a bad fashion, deservedly dropping them out of the top 25. They hadn't made it back in until this week. The writers placed Oregon at #16 and California at #24. Pretty sensible. Both teams have one loss and one beat the other. The coaches however didn't even try. Cal is still #19 while Oregon is at #25. Six spots lower. Really? Did they even watch the games? Oh yeah, of course not.

Similarly an undefeated Iowa team that just beat Penn St. is at #17 in the Coaches poll while the Nittany Lions are at #13. Why? Because Penn St. started the season higher.

Even the non-power conference teams benefit and suffer from this. It seems likely to me that Houston and quite possibly TCU are better than Boise St. Yet because people thought Boise would be good at the beginning of the season, they are at #5 while TCU and Houston are much lower. The coaches actually have Houston at #15, despite victories over Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Oklahoma St. is #12 in the Coaches poll.

Infuriating for any marginally sensible college football fan.