Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dropping Georgia

The question has arisen as to why Georgia was dropped from the #1 spot in the polls despite not losing. Tony Barnhart takes a crack at the question and has some interesting thoughts on the question. He does make a couple statements, though, that deserve some scrutiny:

I was a voter in the Associated Press poll for 15 years and I had a standing rule: If I put a team No. 1 at any point during the season, they would stay there as long as they won. There may have been once or twice in 15 years that I went against that rule. I think I moved Auburn to No.1 ahead of Southern Cal in 2004 after the Tigers really got it going.

To play law professor for a moment with a hypo to test the rule, is Barnhart saying that if Georgia were #1 in two weeks and beat South Carolina 14-13 with the benefit of a bad call, while USC beat Ohio State 63-0, he would keep Georgia at #1? The rule doesn't make any sense at all. There is a very easy rule to pick the #1 team in the country: who is the best team? Looking at talent, coaching, and resume, which team is superior to all the others? If you have a team at #1 and then the evidence changes, a rational voter's choice will change based on that evidence. Also, Barnhart admits to breaking the rule to put Auburn in the #1 spot, which opens him to a charge of being provincial by only breaking the rule to benefit a team that plays 90 miles down I-85.

This statement is a little weak as an empirical matter:

And you can mark this down. If Southern Cal beats Ohio State next week at the Coliseum, the Trojans will be in the BCS championship game on Jan. 8. The only question will be the opponent.

I'm not in much position to disagree with this statement in light of the fact that I've been on the USC bandwagon this season as opposed to the other four major contenders for the title, but USC's problem under Pete Carroll has not been its performance in big games. The issue has been losing to teams like Stanford or Oregon State when the players aren't focused. USC could very well clobber Ohio State and still trip up against a Pac Ten opponent.

Personally speaking, I dropped Georgia a couple spots because I view polls as fluid. Georgia can play perfectly well, as they did on Saturday, but if another team plays better, then Georgia can drop despite not having done anything wrong. In other words, Georgia didn't drop so much as other teams answered questions. Oklahoma was up 50-0 at halftime. That's the sort of number that grabs my attention. Florida's defense looked much improved against Hawaii, although the jury is out on whether Hawaii is a shadow of its former self. It stands to reason that there will be a lot of movement early in the season as we figure out how good various teams are and how good their vanquished opponents are. Georgia fans should not get their noses out of joint that there's a lot of movement early. If the Dawgs look good against South Carolina, Arizona State, and Alabama, then that will mean a lot more than the fact that they were only up 24-0 at the half as opposed to 50-0. The brutal schedule is an opportunity as well as a challenge.

Also, it bears noting that Georgia's margin at the top was razor-thin to begin with. They only needed to lose a couple votes to lose the #1 ranking. It's not as if there was a massive consensus that Georgia was the best team in the country and then that consensus suddenly shifted.


peacedog said...

It's true that there are Georgia fans displaying some staggering ignorance when it comes to how polls work - it's not exactly rare to see one team leap-frog another even when they both win and at least convincingly if not in a totally dominant fashion.

It is true that some of the logic behind people doing this is at best misguided and at worst specious, but this isn't something that only affects UGA. A Savannah AP voted claimed GSU moved the ball at will against UGA (demonstrably false), and also apparently claimed GSU could have scored 30+ (I haven't verified this, also pretty weak).

Michael said...

I forgot to mention that I didn't watch the game, but I was talking to you while you were watching it and you sounded unimpressed. So my ballot blames you.

Kenny said...

I tend to agree that the polls should be fluid, but someone else made the point and I think it is an interesting one. Last year LSU was #2 and they annihilated Va Tech and MSU, and yet so many voters said that USC should still be #1 because we had been unable to see them play.

Again, I agree that voters should look as polls as fluid, but they show a lot of hypocrisy. Still, I think it will be fine for UGA and as many have mentioned they have plent of time to make up ground. I just wonder if UGA goes out and destroys UF, will they get the same benefit of the doubt?

peacedog said...

Your ranking is fine. Also, you didn't make false claims about the game.

Anonymous said...

Still think it was a possible blessing in disguise for OSU for Beanie Wells to go down? It seems to me that without him, their relative lack of talent at the other skill positions becomes magnified. I don't see them having any chance against USC without him.

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