Sports Post: Pre-Season Rankings Are Silly

Pre-season rankings are the silliest thing ever to happen to College Football, and I’m putting that over the lack of a playoff (until 2014) and the absurd ‘violations’ the NCAA puts on student-athletes.  For now I’m just going to discuss the silliness that is pre-season rankings.

Here is the Top 10 from the Coaches Poll (it’s nearly the same as the AP at this point, though):

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes
  3. Oregon Ducks
  4. Stanford Cardinal (yes, it’s just Cardinal for those that didn’t know that)
  5. Georgia Bulldogs
  6. Texas A&M Aggies
  7. South Carolina Gamecocks
  8. Clemson Tigers
  9. Louisville Cardinals
  10. Florida Gators

It’s actually not that terrible of a top ten because most of the historically good schools, and recently good schools, are up there.  But there’s a problem putting up ‘historically’ and ‘recently’ good teams high the rankings, because the rankings are suppose to reflect this season, not last season, not a season five years ago, etc.  Rankings should reflect how good a school is now, yet people are so quick to roll out rankings just to appease (and sometimes anger) the masses – there were rankings a day or so after the BCS National Championship game.

Like I just said, rankings are there to appease the masses to give them something until next season.  To focus on, to argue about with comrades, to self-analyze, to be proud of, etc. It’s a terrible concept, ranking in general that is, too because it’s really hard to quantify how good a team is, especially when we are so eager to look at games where Oklahoma absolutely demolishes, say, Texas, but then barely loses to Rice somehow.  How can one rank a school that has a tremendous win and a tremendous (but close) loss vs. a school that has won two games against mediocre competition? It’s a difficult science, but I digress because that isn’t the point of this post.

What’s silly about rankings is where a team starts out in the rankings.  What do I mean?

Since human rankings do play a partial role in the end-game BCS rankings, a school that starts outside of the Top 25 (hell, even the Top 15) has an almost impossible chance of making it to the BCS Title Game, especially if that school is a non-BCS contender.  That and many people will disregard the non-BCS school for just being a non-BCS school, even though non-BCS schools are set up as fodder for BCS schools. That’s why we haven’t seen Boise State, or Utah (pre-Pac 12), or any other non-BCS school in the BCS Title Game; though, Boise State did have a chance a few years ago, had they not lost to Nevada (?) I believe.

Then there’s the schools that get ranked very high on the beginning of the year.  Let’s look at Oregon, which is currently #3 in all rankings (BCS rankings don’t come out until Week 8 thankfully). Oregon plays in the Pac-12, which is a BCS conference, albeit a weaker one.  Let’s say Oregon slips up at the beginning of the season and loses to Tennessee in Week 3.  Well, they likely will drop several spots because Tennessee isn’t seen as great school (but not too many spots because Tennessee is still a ‘powerhouse’ SEC school).  What’s the benefit of Oregon being ranked so high early on in the season?

The Coaches' Trophy later presented to the 200...

The Coaches’ Trophy later presented to the 2008 Florida Gators football team seen at the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Media Day at Dolphin Stadium on January 5, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People, rankers namely, will see Oregon has had the talent to be a Top 3 school in the nation and that their loss early on in the season was just a slip-up, so if Oregon can win most of their remaining games they will likely easily be put in the Top 10 and in line for a BCS bowl and a nice payday – hell if Oregon (or any high ranked BCS school) lost very early on in the season and won out, that school could make it to the BCS title game barring undefeated schools.  This wouldn’t normally happen for schools such as Kent State, Rice, Troy, etc., because one loss is all it would take for their season to be over with in regards to the BCS, though Northern Illinois beat this issue last year when the Huskies had one loss and still made it into a BCS game (where they were slaughtered).  That is an exception not the norm.

Essentially what I’m saying is, don’t release human rankings until at least Week 6 because people will perceive pre-season rankings as the end all, be all rankings of how good, or bad, a team really is that season.

“Oh, Oregon was ranked #3 to begin the year; even though they’re #16 now they definitely have the talent!”

“Ball State wasn’t even ranked during the beginning of the year, even though they’re #12 now they do NOT deserve a BCS shot whatsoever.”

Not everyone is that dense, but you get the idea.  Rankings, especially pre-season, are silly when used seriously. Rankings can be a fun tool when you and your friends have varying opinions on which schools should be where. Plus they are used as motivating factor for some schools – “The #1 team is coming to our house to play, we better knock them off that #1 spot!” (I’m not really Vince Lombardi, so that was a weak effort, I know.)