Preseason Polls are Worthless and Mess Up the College Football Playoff

Preseason Polls are Worthless and Mess Up the College Football Playoff

Everything in college football is judged by polls. Teams are ranked from the preseason till after the national championship. We all want the four or eight best teams playing for the championship. Preseason polls make that nearly impossible to achieve because they distort the rankings and data for the rest of the season. Eleven of the top 25 teams in the 2018 preseason didn’t even finish ranked. In 2017, nine didn’t finish ranked. In 2016, 13 didn’t finish ranked. It is very common that those early season matchups that were so hyped up turned out to be nothing burgers, but they did affect the rankings.

What is the purpose of preseason polls if they are so incredibly wrong. The goal is to find the four best teams in the nation and let them fight it out for the national championship. However, that is nearly impossible to get right because the preseason polls give miss information that only further convolutes the process of determining who the best four teams are for the College Football Playoff. If you are not convinced yet, I have proof.

This will be a journey down the rabbit hole so please hang on tight and keep and an open mind. The polls regularly reflect the voters desire to be right about their preseason selections rather than looking at the data objectively. Here are a few glaring examples of the head-scratchers:

The Proof

1. Wisconsin came into the season ranked #4. In the week four poll, Wisconsin was 2-1 and ranked #18 with wins over New Mexico and Western Kentucky. The team they lost to, BYU (2-1) was ranked #24. And the team that beat BYU was Cal (3-0), who was unranked. How on earth does that make sense?

2. Texas trashed Georgia in their bowl game yet Georgia finished above Texas in the final AP poll. Georgia is talented and was a sexy pick for the College Football Playoff after started #3 in the preseason? They both finished the season with the exact same amount of wins (2) over top 25 teams, and they have a head to head matchup.

3. Northwestern finished 8-1 in the Big Ten and only got 13 votes in the preseason poll.

4. Stanford came into the season ranked #13. They won their bowl game to finish the season 9-4. So how did the Cardinal finish unranked while seven other teams with at least four losses were ranked? Stanford’s only losses were to top 25 teams: Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, and Washington State. Three of those teams finished in the top 14.

SEC Preseason Poll Magic

5. Early in the season that LSU had two top 10 wins (Miami, Auburn). Those wins propelled LSU from #25 in the AP Poll to #5. Neither Miami or Auburn finished ranked. So, those two wins weren’t nearly as good as they were portrayed publicly. That eventually set up an “epic top 5 showdown” between Alabama and LSU. Alabama won the game 29-0, and LSU got a quality loss. The Football Playoff Committee then still had the Tigers ranked #7.

6. Now let us look at Florida. They came into the season unranked. At the end of the regular season, the Gators finished #10 in the country but only beat one team that finished in the top 25. In week six they beat the “#5 team” in the nation LSU which we just learned about. The next week they beat 3-4 Vanderbilt and were ranked #9. That set up a top 10 showdown with #7 Georgia. Georgia won, so adding that to their preseason hype only magnifies the SEC table thumping.

7. Kentucky finished the regular season at #10 in the nation despite only beating one team (Florida) that finished the season in the top 25

There were so many more examples, but you get the point. This is not a knock on LSU, Georgia, Kentucky, or Florida. All are talented teams that had a great season. However, they are just prime examples in 2018 of how preseason polls manipulate the rankings and end up leaving the SEC overhyped. They ultimately only ended up judged from games they played against themselves.

Fans Deserve Better

Imagine a world where there are no preseason rankings, and polls start after week four. There would have been information on teams that came into the season with so much hype. We would have already known Miami, FSU, USC, TCU, Auburn, and Wisconsin weren’t as good as advertised. Teams that beat them would get credit, but wouldn’t falsely rise so far in the polls. Starting the rankings after four weeks would create a much more accurate representation of schedule strength and conference strength. Right now we rank teams before they have played a down of football. We have seen time and time again that a top 5 talented team doesn’t make them a top 5 team.

In addition, if the preseason polls were eliminated college football fans would get much more of what they really want and deserve; great games. Teams would no longer have the luxury of preseason top 5 rankings while playing a cupcake non-conference schedule. You would see many more teams trying to put big names on their schedules early in the season to propel them to the playoffs. Fans would respond to that by eliminating the attendance problems many schools are facing. And viewership who certainly increase. All of which leads to more money for everyone except the student-athletes who are actually generating the money, but I digress.

Get rid of preseason polls and Make College Football Greater.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I’ve been saying this for a while. I told an SEC fan that the AP poll was worthless. His response: “I can’t understand how you can even say that!” I ran through some of the same points you make (if the AP ranks Mississippi or Vanderbilt preseason it pads the SEC schedule and perception).

  2. The premise of this article is that the CFP committee that produces the playoff rankings are not doing their job, and are just mimicking the AP poll, which is not true. This article provides no evidence that the CFP committee is simply copying the AP poll, and without that evidence, this article is just an uninformed hit piece with no basis in reality.

    1. The first CFP raking this year differed from the week 10 AP poll by an average of 2.6 spots. That’s including a huge outlier of NC State who was ranked 21 by the CFB committee and the equivalent of 41st by the AP poll.

      The first 7 spots broke down like this: with 5 in the exact same spot and 2 off by one (LSU / Notre Dame swapped spots)

      17 of the 25 spots were off by 2 or fewer including the first 11 spots.

      Overall the two rankings were incredibly similar. with 23/25 teams from the CFP ranking appearing in the AP poll with an average difference of just 2.6 positions. So I think it’s fair to say that the CFP is heavily influenced by the existing polls.

      And for what it’s worth all of the SEC teams that the CFP committee put in their first ranking were either the same or higher than their spot in the AP poll, perhaps indicating even more of an SEC overhyping.

  3. I totally agree with the validity of what this man has to say .the preseason rankings are not valid and only used to serve those of the sec conference and acc biases all around
    Seriously anyway who thinks otherwise is carelessly ignorant .the process has to change expeditiously for the sale of scheduling sec ,big 10 and the acc.early in the season stop scheduling g the cream puff teams who aren’t reanjed at all before or during the season.my question is why Alabama .Clemson aren’t scheduled against teams like Michigan or Ohio State or northwestern . Any big ten schools except for the LSU game against Wisconsin a few years back .what is the sec afraid of ?? Could it be they can’t play football in extreme cold weather and snow in the big house or the shoe .honestly I’m convinced that is why those teams are not scheduled against yes in the big 10. But this dog and pony y show called the cfp committee is a joke and have no true concern for the fans or the players .I could is better judgement than they ever could.its a travesty and biases for sec and acc period..let’s get real change the system and stop the preseason. Garbage it always proves itself wrong time and again..

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