Wishing more voters used their expertise for polls

The weekly complaints about the college football polls – chosen by computers, coaches or the media – tire me out. Instead of debating the order of the teams, I’d like to inspect how the polls are formulated.

The computers look only at hard data, already completed game results. There are factors weighed more heavily in the different algorithms, but the computers are basically a real-time assessment of what has happened to date.

The human polls, sadly, seem to be largely a listing of teams in descending order of fewest losses. There’s not much thought in that. Watch what happens this week to the loser of the Auburn-LSU game, the loser of the Oklahoma-Missouri game or the loser of the Wisconsin-Iowa game. They’ll likely fall 5-10 spots after one loss against a currently ranked foe.

Surely, there are one-loss teams better than undefeated teams. Certainly, there are two-loss teams better than one-loss teams. In the current AP Top 15, the schools are ranked in order of fewest losses except for Alabama. That’s one exception It must be easier to keep the undefeated teams ahead until they lose. Poor excuse.

How many of you believe Alabama (with one loss and three wins against Top 20 teams by a combined 50 points) is worse than LSU (undefeated with three wins against Top 20 teams by a combined 16 points)? The common foe is Florida. The Tide beat them by 25 and LSU won by four. So, why again (based upon what has happened to date), is LSU ahead in the polls? It all could change when the schools meet in several weeks, but for the time being, I’ve got questions.

On Sunday night’s BCS breakdown show, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit listed Iowa sixth on his Top Ten list because he simply feels they are of that quality. He knows UI has already lost a game, but he is making a personal judgment. Kirk may be wrong, but I salute him for trying to use his expertise to determine his ranking and not simply ordering schools by W-L record.

In a previous job, I was football SID for Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez. He always asked, “who’s the best team?” as he completed his ballot. Barry didn’t cave in solely to the team’s record, but instead tried to objectively use his expertise in assessing who was better. What a novel concept.

Certainly, opinions from experts can and will be wrong. However, at least the experts who combine their knowledge and the available data are doing more than looking only at past data (like the computers) or simply keeping the undefeated teams at the top because they’re undefeated (like many voters do).

The debate keeps raging and I guess that is publicity for the sport we all enjoy.

 

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

 

 

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