Thursday, August 17, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable #1

I wasn't going to post anymore until this weekend, but its a slow afternoon at work and the questions for the first BlogPoll Roundtable of the season are up. Thanks to the Notre Dame affiliated blog The House Rock Built for stepping up to host the first discussion.

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

I don't have a definitive answer for this question. Ohio State at #1 seems too high for having 9 new starters on defense but that has been beat to death. Texas at #2 seems inflated with a freshman QB (another story line that is getting old already). As for underrated teams, I think that Cal deserved better than #10, they should be about 5 spots higher based on the talent of their defense and the Lynch/Fossett duo. As for a specific voter, Frank McGrath (Tulane) left Cal out of top 25 entirely, but was kind enough to explain it when I asked. Brian from mgoblog put Iowa at #2 which is either going to turn out brilliantly or terribly. I'm voting for 'terribly' right now.

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

Preseason polls that attempt to project the end of season standings are inherently flawed. In an effort to be correct, they reward teams with easy schedules. When these teams then win the easy games, they move up. Over the past several years a sort of conveyor belt effect has been established in the major polls. When teams lost they drop a number of spots and the teams that won generally move up in order to take their place.

This becomes dangerous when mixed with preseason polls that attempt to predict the final season outcomes as it tends to give teams with easier schedules an even easier route to #1. This self-fulfilling prophecy has largely killed the validity of any media-sponsored poll in my mind. (This is as a result of the media feeling pressure to make 'correct' predictions at the beginning of the season.)

Preseason polls should instead be an attempt to honestly assess the quality of the various programs going into the season. They represent the voter's best guess of who the best teams will be in week one. For this reason, I try to emphasis factors like number of returning starters, leadership at key positions and good coaching. As the season goes along, these factors become less important to the teams success and each week more on-the-field evidence is gained to take their place. By the time conference games are being played, I try to base my ballot entirely on what each team has demonstrated on the field.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Did I mention that I put Cal #1? While I'm still not wild about the Bears on top, I haven't yet found an overwhelming choice to replace them. As a result of this wide-openness, I'm as excited for this season as any in recent memory.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

I think that the biggest flaw in the major polls is the conveyor belt effect that I've already discussed. Teams that win move up automatically no matter the quality of the win, teams that lose drop down. I legitimately like the total chaos that the national-champion-by-vote system used by the AP creates. I don't think that coaches should vote in a poll because a)they can use the poll to exact revenge (the Fullmer effect) and b)they just don't have time to be good voters.

I do think that there should be only one poll in use, as split national championships aren't any fun. The poll that is kept around should make votes public and should make an effort to eliminate any regional bias, just to keep things fair. I've always regarded the BCS as a failed experiment that has outlived its time. It's time to return to the pre-1998 system.

The biggest flaw that the blogpoll has is a lack of clarity about voter principles. Brian provides some guidance, but as this roundtable brings up, there are many different interpretations of what a preseason poll should represent. Establishing a clear consensus and sticking to it would strengthen the poll immensely in my view.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

I'm fairly new to A&M so this answer is going to be wildly uneducated, but I would go back and find a way for Bonfire to go forward after the 1999 tragedy. The school decided the continuation of this tradition was too risky and none have been held since. Several people I've talked to believe that many Aggie traditions began to fail the day the University decided to end Bonfires.

As a Michigan alum, I would sure like to go back in time and have Pat Massey finish the tackle on Vince Young in the Rose Bowl. I'm sure that I'm missing something more significant, but that is the play that jumps out at me.


At 11:45 PM, Blogger AgRyan04 said...

Aggie tradition and school spirit did begin to falter after Bonfire fell.

I've been on campus since the fall of '00 (I went straight from undergrad to grad school) and it's really interesting to see how the student body has changed. I've seen students from the Class of '98 all the way to the newest c/o '10. It's kinda weird and sad at the same time.


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