Note: Clicking a team link in this blog will show you how everyone voted for that team. Clicking a voter name link will show you their ballot.
The first Harris Interactive College Football Poll of the season was released this week, which means we’re just a week away from the first official BCS rankings. The Harris Interactive Poll is pretty similar in content this week to both the Coaches and AP Poll. It does place Arizona lowest of any BCS component at No. 21.
For reference, here is a list of all of the voter changes in the Harris Interactive Poll from 2009 to 2010. There were only 12 people replaced from what is the largest voter pool of any poll (114). Compared to the AP Poll and Coaches’ Poll, which has replaced about 50% of their voters over the last two years, the Harris Interactive number seems very small. Is that an issue? Probably not, but it is something to keep an eye on. One reason is that voter turnover helps prevent corruption. In other words, if 90% of the voters are going to stay the same from year to year, it makes it a lot easier to “fix” the polls. No amount of change can completely prevent corruption, but there is no sense it making it easier.
With the BCS looming, let’s take a quick look at how humans and computers disagree on No.1 and No. 2. The humans are currently on board with an Ohio State vs. Oregon title game. However, if you look at the computers, they tend to favor LSU, Boise State or Oklahoma in the top two spots. Sagarin does have TCU at No. 2 right now. The Horned Frogs do have a couple of good opponents remaining in Air Force and Utah, but they aren’t likely good enough to make up for the strength of schedule of the other teams.
In the AP, we have a tie for the most extreme voter this week, but we’ll give a shout out to Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal since he is an extreme noob. He has ten extreme rankings and four near the extreme this week. While his ballot isn’t 100% clear-cut, the reason he got there was due to a general trend of downgrading the SEC (Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas) while showing favor to the Big 12, including highest ranks to: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Kansas State. However, he did rank Auburn highest in the nation at No. 3 and Nebraska near-lowest at No. 8.
It was predictable that Arizona’s loss to Oregon State was going to make the situation between Arizona and Iowa worse. Now 37 of the 60 voters rank Iowa over Arizona even though both teams have one loss and Arizona beat Iowa. For some reason Craig James doesn’t even rank Arizona, while he ranks Iowa No. 16. You would think that if their opinion of Arizona dropped so much after their loss, the loss would also affect their opinion of Iowa, whom the Wildcats beat. Note that the four released BCS computers (without preseason bias, i.e. not Billingsley) all still rank Arizona over Iowa. Of course, if Arizona loses again, all bets are off, and I would expect that the voters and the computers would likely rank Iowa over Arizona.
We finally have a great three-way head-to-head-to-head situation to discuss: Auburn over South Carolina over Alabama. The Tigers are undefeated and beat South Carolina (one loss) who beat Alabama (one loss). So you would think that is the order they would all be ranked on people’s ballots. However, six voters have South Carolina ranked over Auburn, a team they lost to. The Gamecocks pulled off an amazing upset of Alabama, but Auburn is undefeated and already proved they could beat South Carolina; they may be able to beat the Crimson Tide as well. Voters could at least give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt until Iron Bowl at the end of the year.
19 of the 60 voters still rank Alabama over South Carolina, and the following 17 voters rank Alabama over undefeated Auburn, who beat South Carolina, who beat Alabama. These are people who obviously would not be able to abide by the difficult and final decisions handed down by playoff games. To them, the results on the field don’t matter nearly as much as their own opinions about some other hypothetical game that may (but likely won’t) happen in the future.
Oh and as an SEC on ESPN bonus, Craig James is the only voter to rank Arkansas over Alabama.
Note to voters: ranking people in the proper order this week doesn’t mean that the teams have to finish that way. Some of those teams are bound to have other losses. However, based on what you have seen on the field, and in line with AP guidelines, teams should be ranked based on their head-to-head results when all else is equal. You can always change the rankings again next week when you have more information to go on. As an added bonus, obvious biases (preseason or otherwise) and/or lack of effort won’t be so obvious during the course of the year.