For years my favorite sport has been college football. In California, college football isn’t as popular as it is in the many other parts of the country.
For me, I have been going to UCLA football games since I was 3 years old and I have called college football games for Sacramento State for over 20 years. So I absolutely love almost everything about college football. However, there are a few things that still drive me crazy. One of those just showed up again this week. That annoyance is the pre-season football rankings.
I understand that these rankings are good for talk shows and for debate but in my opinion they dictate far too much of the college season. How on earth are we truly supposed to know who is going to be good this upcoming season without seeing the teams play?
In the first poll of the season Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State make up the first top 10 of the season. Here is why I don’t like the pre-season polls. There is an inherent advantage to any team that starts the season in the top 10. An early loss, a mid-season loss, even a late loss usually doesn’t kill those teams because they already started in the top 10.
Conversely, if you are outside the top 10 to start you have to do so much work to get there and if you lose then good luck getting back.
Lets take four teams to use for my comparison. #3 Florida State, #6 Penn State, #23 Texas and #25 Tennessee will be the teams for my example. In this example we are going to say that all four teams are undefeated heading into the mid-point of the season on October 21st. For #3 Florida State that would mean they would be 6-0 and would have defeated #1 Alabama and #18 Miami in the process. If they do that they would likely be the nation’s top team.
#6 Penn State would also be 6-0 but their resume wouldn’t be as strong with wins over Akron, Pitt, Georgia State, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern. That perfect mark would likely have them at 2 or 3. The Longhorns of Texas start the year at 23 and if they were perfect on October 21st they would be 6-0 with wins over ranked teams USC, Kansas State and Oklahoma (two of those in the top 10). I bet that Texas would be in the latter part of the top 10. Tennessee would try and climb from 25 with a (6-0) record with wins over #17 Florida and #13 Georgia. That perfect start would maybe get the Vols in the top 10, just maybe.
So now let’s take you to that weekend of October 21st. Florida State who I said would be number 1 takes on ranked Louisville. I had Penn State at 2 or 3 and they play ranked Michigan. Texas 6-0 start puts them about 10th and they play ranked Oklahoma State and undefeated Tennessee on the top 10 bubble has to play pre-season number 1 Alabama. Florida State and Penn State could survive losses. They would drop a few spots but not out of the top 10. Tennessee and Texas would go back out of the top 1o and couldn’t afford another blemish. Why? All because of the pre-season rankings that put expectations on these teams without seeing them play yet.
Most other sports have a clearly defined way of making the post-season. There isn’t a judgment to be made on who is good and how good are they? You win a division you make the post-season.
You have the next best record you get in as a wild card for example.
College football is done based on judgments and when the first one is done without a true assessment I think that is unfair. All this to say, it frustrates me but you can best believe I will be watching all of the games that I can.