Monday, September 15, 2014

Three weeks in

Week Four of this college football season kicks off in three days, when my Auburn Tigers travel from the so-called plains of Eastern Alabama to the so-called plains of Eastern Kansas to take on the K-State Wildcats. (Usually plains are not "so-called" in Kansas, but the KSU campus is located by the beautifully rolling Flint Hills that extend northward all the way from northeastern Oklahoma to southeastern Nebraska.)

It will be a road game versus a ranked opponent, in prime time on ESPN, and I expect it to be a pitched battle like the one that unfolded when the teams met in 2007.

But I digress. Tonight I am here to ask: What did we learn from Weeks One through Three?

Actually, I'm here to answer: We learned nothing, except that the whole idea of pre- and early-season polling is stupid.

For many years I have been saying that there should be no polls until after the first four (or perhaps even five or six) weeks of the season have been played. Friends can vouch for me.

Early polls are nonsensical for a number of reasons, most of which are obvious. The primary one is that college football teams are college football teams and are therefore hit by significant attrition every year. If a team lost eight starters to graduation and three of them went pro, how can a bunch of journalists possibly know how well their replacements will play and thus how well this year's team will fare?

There is also the matter of college kids being much more susceptible to emotion and momentum and perception than professional players. After all, we're talking about 19-year-olds living away from home, often for the first time, not 29-year-old millionaires with families.

The inevitable innacuracies of early polls get proven every single year and this year is no exception. To wit:

Georgia went from being considered a middling SEC squad to being considered a national title contender because they beat Clemson by double digits in Week One. But why did anyone think Clemson would be a formidable foe in that game, when it was their first appearance after losing the best quarterback in school history and arguably the best receiver in school history?

South Carolina opened the year being thought of as a contender in the SEC East. Then they were considered an afterthought after losing to Texas A&M in Week One. But now they are again considered a contender because they beat Georgia in Week Three. But like I just illustrated, why was Georgia considered a power on the basis of one game (on their home field) against a team whose top talent from last year is depleted?

Out west, USC got elevated to the status of Pac 12 contender and national spoiler after a three-point win over Stanford. That was understandable, but it is noteworthy that no one asked if Stanford's six red zone trips without a score might be the result of their incompetence rather than USC's defense. Then, one week later, USC travelled to New England and got bulldozed by lightly regarded Boston College, which hasn't made much of an impact on the national scene since they upset Notre Dame 21 years ago.

And speaking of Notre Dame: They are currently ranked #9 based solely on their clothes. Our bedwetting sports media always ranks them at least ten spots higher than they deserve just because they are Notre Dame.

Naturally, media members want to think of themselves as credible, so they always invent a rationale for the ranking they grant the Irish. This year's rationale is the Irish's win over Michigan -- but as those of us in the real world know, Michigan is coming off a 7-6 campaign, has gotten worse in every year since Brady Hoke's first, and plays in a conference that is a shell of its former self.

Please, College Football Media, spare us the polls and rankings and projections and Heisman front-runners until there is more solid material to base it on!

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