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Nuggets of Gold
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" mornings from 6-10 a.m.


Exercise in futility

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

For three years I was one of the lucky voters in the Associated Press college football poll.

It’s a tough job, what with all that football to watch. Games from Boston to Honolulu, Baton Rouge to Ann Arbor.

Really, it was hard to get through a Saturday without couch sores.

I know, I know, you’ve got the abrasions as well. You’ve been there with me, watching all the way, wishing you, too, had the power of the vote so you could set the world straight on the real top Top 25.

It’s a tough job that someone has to do it, but it’s even tougher when you know going in what an incredible farce it really is.

The truth of the matter is that the poll is almost as political as anything you see coming out of Washington, DC, these days. How else can you explain that a team like Southern Cal, which lost every skill position player that played meaningful snaps a year ago — apart from a pretty good, but not great, quarterback — could still be the overwhelming choice for the top spot in the rankings?

That just doesn’t make sense.

Come to think of it, there isn’t a whole lot about the preseason poll that does seem logical. We’re asked to vote on teams before they ever kick the ball off. Really, how are we supposed to know how strong these teams are knowing that, on average, 25-40 percent of the starting positions turn over from year to year?

And, don’t get me started on schedules. They vary so drastically from team to team that it’s nearly impossible to use that as a discerning factor, even after three or four games.

At least the AP isn’t part of the BCS formula any longer. It's been replaced by the Harris poll, which has the decency to wait a few weeks before trying to rank the teams.

However, you don’t see people debating the latest Harris poll, even though our own Denny O’Brien casts a ballot in that one.

Voting is a very subjective exercise, and a difficult one at that. Everyone will evaluate things differently, take different elements into account.

Some will consider margin of victory, like when Oklahoma treated the Miami Hurricanes like they were holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room with a crate full of O.J. Simpson career mementos. Seriously, how much is a picture of The Juice with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover really worth — unless Hoover’s wearing a dress?

Others will look at how teams performed on the road since the theory is that it’s tougher to win away from home against anyone than it is at home against the Washington Generals.

Yet, the voters will still elevate a "big" conference team that throttles Northeastern Idaho, while dropping a team that was dumb enough to play someone good enough to beat them — especially away from home.

There are so many factors that go into deciding which of the 119 I-A teams belong in the first 25 that it’s almost a crime to give the voters too many things to consider.

It would clearly be a much better and vastly more evenhanded system if the first poll of the season didn’t come out until every team had played at least four games. Why not shoot for the 1st of October, after the first month of the season has passed, so we can see every team play three or four times before our preconceived notions rule the day.

Now, as if it wasn’t already a difficult process, the Associated Press poll has further clouded the picture by bowing to the public pressure to allow Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) teams like Appalachian State to be eligible to receive votes.

This isn’t some anti-little guy rant, either. I’m so in favor of the underdog I can’t even explain it to you. The best days of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are when the No. 16, 15 and 14 seeds get a chance to take their swings at the season’s elite teams. If a 16 ever beats a No. 1 in the opening round, it will be one of the great days in all of sports — unless of course the felled Goliath is your alma mater or you have them in the office pool.

But to give the 70-plus voters the power to screw up the system by wasting votes on the Mountaineers is a joke. Granted, it’s a temporary joke, but the vote is something that should be taken seriously in the first place.

The fact remains that if someone was insane enough to vote for Appalachian at No. 13 after their week two win over Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, then the Mountaineers should’ve still been in the same position after their 13-point beating of Northern Arizona the following Saturday.

For those keeping score at home, they weren’t. After Appy State's week two debut with 19 total votes — including that Woodstock reject who had them at No. 13, ahead of Auburn — the Mountaineers slumped to just 5 total points the following week.

Did something change? Did Appalachian get worse?

Or did those particular voters just sober up?

Note: The point is now moot since the Mountaineers went and LOST to Wofford in their Southern Conference opener. Way to screw up a good story, guys.

There are other inherent problems within the polls. Beat reporters who cover a specific school and who (I’m assuming here) are paying rapt attention to its games, have very little time to do their jobs AND watch enough football to make educated decisions.

And don’t get me started on the coaches’ poll. Head coaches, who are becoming increasingly anal about working 16-hour days, will go an entire season and only see 13 teams play football. They’ll watch their own team, plus film of the 12 teams on their schedule.

And, don’t you think it benefits coaches to vote for teams within their own conference? Coaches voting is the living definition of a conflict of interest.

Still, at least the coaches poll doesn’t pander to dopes like those who thought that because Appalachian State caught the Michigan Wolverines with their maize and blue around their ankles, the Mountaineers deserved a spot in the poll. The coaches are still not able to cast a vote for anyone outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).

Before we wrap this up, let me say for the record that what the Mountaineers did was remarkable, even if the Wolverines turn out to be worse than the latest Billy Bob Thornton movie.

They proved that they could play with and — with the planets aligned properly — beat one of the storied programs in the game’s history. But, the truth is that ASU isn’t one of the top 25 teams in the country. The Mountaineers would be fortunate to be in the top 50 if we were being completely honest.

Sadly, the polls aren't quite the honest assessment of the best teams in the nation they should be. They're way too political, overrun with preconceived notions and prejudice, and conducted on too small a scale by too many people that really can’t satisfy the criteria.

Just let me do it. I’ll deal with the couch sores. Call this my way of sacrificing for my country.


09/26/2007 05:11:45 AM

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