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Preseason Polls: Why they do and don’t matter

As of Sunday, the Associated Press released their preseason poll and it is no surprise that Florida State, the defending BCS National Champion, sits at the top spot. The Noles received 57 of the possible 60 first place votes with one each going to Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma. The USA Today poll spread the first place wealth a little more, with Florida State getting 56, while Oklahoma got 3, and Oregon, Ohio State, and South Carolina each getting 1 vote. That last bit is a head scratcher and for good reason.

South Carolina is at #9 in both polls, but since only the last of the coaches poll becomes public, we(the common mass of college football fans) see illogical and flat out biased votes with no accountability. For the most part, both polls said the same things in regards to who made the top 25 and where they sat. There were a few swapping of positions and only one spot, #24, where the team appears on one poll only. That’s pretty consistent and shows that for the most part, the SIDs and aides who cast these votes were watching the same thing. Let’s be honest with ourselves; the coaches largely do not cast these votes. Why even have this poll if it is disingenuous from the start?

One thing that is missing is any representation from the “Group of Five”, consisting of the non-power conference schools. In both polls, UCF, from the American Athletic Conference, is the highest ranked of the non-power conference schools and they are on the outside looking in. While it is possible for at least one of these schools to crack the top 25 in any poll, it is glaringly apparent that there is a negative bias towards these schools. In the case of UCF, they fell from 10th to 26th in the AP poll between the end of last season to this preseason. This set of preseason polls show that the smaller conference schools have very little opportunity to work their way into the playoff conversation, but that was always the objective of the powers that be.

The truth is that while preseason polls are hailed as important by schools, they merely serve as material for shows and pundits to talk about, and are not actually indicative of how a team is really going to perform. Florida was highly ranked in the preseason polls last year and that didn’t work out so well for them. The pollsters also missed on projecting how Auburn and Michigan State were going to do. Also, it is historically bad to be ranked #1 in the coaches poll. Since USC did it in 2004, no preseason #1 has finished at that spot. That is both a sign that the bullseye sits squarely on that top team and that the voters are terrible at predicting who will finish with the mythical national championship.

Here is the bottom line: The preseason polls matter in that they give us a measuring stick to gauge off of. The polls don’t matter because we can’t predict how they are going to do during the season. Either way, they give us something to talk to when standing by the water cooler.

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