1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).
I’ve said this before, but I think the most overrated team in the Blogpoll is Auburn. I was on the Auburn bandwagon for much of the offseason, but they now seem to me to be a team that is overrated by virtue of the fact that they played their best football at the end of last season. Auburn historically does not do well when subject to high expectations, nor do teams picked to win the SEC typically live up to expectations. Everyone seems enamored with Brandon Cox and he did play better and better as last season wore on, but am I the only one who thinks that losing both of his tackles, as well as all of his receivers other than Courtney Taylor, will cause a regression? Maybe not an Eric Ainge regression, but at least a Drew Tate or Chad Henne regression? And no one wants to pay attention to the fact that Auburn lost the majority of their front seven from last year and they can’t quite reload like Georgia or LSU because they don’t have the same depth of talent. Auburn should be good this year, but don’t be shocked at all if they end up 9-3.
And while I’m at this, a rebuttal is in order for Peter at Burnt Orange Nation. I am one of the voters who put Virginia Tech in my top ten and I’ll defend that decision any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Tech is the reverse of Auburn, in that they lose their quarterback and running back from last year, but return a significant amount of talent on both lines. Then, let’s add in the fact that Tech was better than Auburn last year and has a better coach. Tech has all the talent to have a great defense, including the best linebacker corps in the country. (If they were Penn State or Ohio State, the media would be unable to shut up about their linebackers, especially if Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall were white.) The offense will be functional, if not great. Marcus Vick became the face of that program because of his name and tendency to wave guns at fast food patrons, but he certainly isn’t irreplaceable. This Tech team seems a lot like the ’04 version that was not touted heading into the season and then won the ACC in their first year in the conference. And Peter needs to look at VT’s schedule if he thinks they’re going to lose 4-5 games. The non-conference schedule is a joke and they don’t play Florida State. Barring an upset, the roadies at Miami and BC and the home games against Clemson and Georgia Tech are the only challenges. This team doesn’t have to be very good to go 10-2.
Please forgive me for saying nice things about the Hokies.
Riddle me this: Virginia Tech killed West Virginia in Morgantown last year; Virginia Tech returns ten starters while WVU returns 13; and so WVU is in everyone’s top ten, while VT is outside of a lot of top 25s. In what world does that make sense? And how can this be anything other than backlash against the Hokies because their quarterback last year was a schmuck?
2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?
I am strongly, strongly against ranking teams on the basis of schedule because it rewards teams for playing weak opponents and it creates self-fulfilling prophecies. West Virginia is a classic example. Numerous writers are picking them #1, even though no rational observer could think that WVU would beat Ohio State or USC on a neutral field. Thus, WVU gets an initial advantage on the basis of playing in the crappy Big East and because pollsters are loathe to drop highly-ranked teams unless they lose, WVU will stay high in the rankings as teams with better schedules beat up on one another. Purdue last year was another classic example; most writers who had them ranked highly inevitably started their discussions of Purdue by mentioning the fact that they didn’t play Michigan or Ohio State. How’d that work out for them?
3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?
Georgia. I’m taking a significant risk, especially since I think they have a big risk of losing in Columbia early, which will leave them little wiggle room when the schedule gets harder later in the year. If injuries hit on the offensive line, then this team is screwed. There’s going to be at least one instance this season when Tra Battle will fall for a fake and leave a receiver open deep and I’ll smack myself in the forehead, saying “you ranked THIS team #4?” And that’s before we get to the fact that they might end up starting a true freshman.
More of this, please.
4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.
What I hate about polls is that they’re subject to all sorts of human perception problems, especially recency (overrating the most recent pieces of evidence). I think that there are also built-in biases for popular teams, Notre Dame, most prominently, but there are others, including my alma mater. There is also the annoying tendency of voters to place teams on a conveyor belt and blindly move them up when they don’t lose, without taking into account the fact that a loss to a higher ranked team doesn’t necessarily mean that a team should move down. Personally, I liked the old BCS system of giving the human polls 50% weight and an average of several computer polls 50% weight. I would also let the computers take margin of victory into account again, capping the bonus at 28 points. My system, to paraphrase Churchill, is the worst…except for all the other ones. Ideally, we would have a four-team playoff and the polls would be slightly less important.
...and one optional bonus question, not related to blogpolls at all...
5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?
At the end of the 2002 Michigan-Ohio State game, John Navarre looks off of Braylon Edwards and finds Ron Bellamy on the right side of the end zone. Michigan beats Ohio State 15-14 and ends their quest for a perfect season. This would entail the following joys:
a. A major case of schadenfreude by ending the arch-rival’s perfect season on the final play of the final game.
b. Columbus is burned to the ground.
Not quite the loss that the firebombing of Tokyo was.
c. Jim Tressel’s hostile takeover of the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry at the expense of Lloyd Carr would be blunted, if not destroyed, and Michigan wouldn’t be losing in-state recruits to Ohio State (a truly dangerous omen for the future, unless it’s a short-lived result of Lloyd’s impending retirement and will be erased when Jeff Tedford starts recruiting for Michigan).
d. Ohio State still hasn’t won a national title since 1968 or played for one in a bowl game since 1979.
e. Meet the new 2002 national champions: the Georgia Bulldogs.