This week I continue my 10 part piece on things I would like to see changed in college football. For reference, here are the previous articles:
For this installment, I am going to tackle preseason polls.
Several polls have existed over the years, with three retaining some degree of importance today. The AP Poll probably still has the most prestige, while the Coaches' Poll and the Harris Interactive Poll both factor into the BCS calculations.
Both the Coaches' Poll started in 1950, when it was then known as the United Press and then the United Press International Poll. The AP Poll was first published in 1934 and has been continuously published since 1936. The first preseason AP Poll appeared in 1950 (and just for the record, the team named #1 in this inaugural edition was none other than Notre Dame). During this season, the second poll was not published until October.
First, preseason polls do nothing but stoke the fires of debate for football fans. They give us something to talk about along with a small amount of bragging rights-at least until the season begins.
If it were up to me, I would eliminate them altogether for the simple reason that they are nothing more than a projection of how writers or coaches believe teams will perform over the course of the season. They are largely based on a team's performance the previous season (with heavy weighing applied to bowl games) and have no bearing on their actual performance during the season in question.
However, the real reason why I dislike the preseason polls is because of the impact they have on the final polls. Over the course of a season, writers and coaches typically drop teams that lost in the week prior a certain number of spots (5 or more, depending on the perceived quality of the opponent) which becomes a vicious cycle as the season wears on and makes it difficult for teams with low rankings (or no ranking at all) to climb up the polls.
With so many outlets for information available to the fans today, the preseason polls have outlived their utility. It has gotten so far out of hand that some media outlets publish a preseason poll for the fall the day after the national championship game is played (I'm looking at you, tWWL).
Bottom line, the "official" polls shouldn't come out until at least three games have been played. Even though most programs front-load their schedule with weaker (or lower division) opponents, it still allows a large enough sample size for "experts" to make an "objective" ranking of which teams are the best in the country.
It's just too bad that they will never go away. Maybe we will just have to work on the voters to spend a bit more time (and research) on filling out their ballots.
Michael Collins' Predictability of Preseason Polls (2011)