Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pre-pre-pre season polls

Various publications have been releasing pre-season, or preliminary pre-season, or post-post season, or post-season preliminary pre-season rankings for some time now. College football fan - the type that is likely to be on the internet often in any case - is probably either howling with delight or gnashing is teeth because of where his team was. Once again, there's a model here:

1. Legal corporate entity is a rational acting, utility maximizing entity.
2. Legal corporate entity publishes something for a living.
3. Legal corporate entity decides to act on #1. Or, decides to follow along after someone who already did that.
4. Wait for it. . . legal corporate entity publishes rankings to generate buzz.

Why do college football fans fixate on this stuff? Take your typical pre-season rankings. They'll start appearing from the smaller publications as soon as they rush those football previews out the door. Bigger publications like SI, and actual polls like the USA today Coaches Assistant Votes poll, wait until right before the season.

Maybe you were unaware, but there isn't some set guideline for how to do preseason rankings. Everyone doing them is not following some form, e.g. "I'm going to rank the teams on how good I think they are. . .right now". Sometimes people are projecting the order of finish (and that's ultimately what the polls become as the season goes on). Isn't it a bit silly to care about these things? Pre-season polls from the most knowledgeable sources are at best educated guesses, with heavy emphasis on the latter. Does Georgia's ranking (#14 in a recent poll) amount to squat? Not really.

It's true that in the polls factoring into the BCS, preseason ranking can matter. However, there are a number of recent examples of teams finishing in the top 5 that didn't start in the top 10, and a couple of teens winning national titles. The rest are just there to draw attention to the publication in question. They are often written by people who are passionate about college football, yes. And sometimes written by people who have interesting things to say about college football. They amount to squat, in the grand scheme of things. Getting upset about your team's ranking is absurd.

Unfortunately, people just talking about them is what continues to get them published. Or to get those even more absurd polls like "post-string practice rankings" published (find me one team in the United States that didn't have solid if not glowing spring practice press. Just one - I'll qualify it by saying it has to be a D1 team). I like college football discussion as much as the next guy, but there are limits. Unfortunately, I do not appear to be in the majority here.


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