Worthless. That’s what I think of preseason polls.
Oh, I know they’re fun for fans and they invoke a heavy dose of chest puffing among players. But they don’t mean squat. And if you don’t know that by now, well, you’ve been in a coma since early fall when Appalachian State thumped then No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor to ignite the most curious ( and entertaining, may I please add) college football season perhaps the in the history of the sport.
Now a conference no one outside of the players blood relatives has even heard on – the Atlantic Sun (doesn’t that sound like a casino? – has transformed the college basketball preseason polls into filthy rags. Gardner Webb and Mercer, the Bulldogs and Bears, lack-of-respectively, embarrassed some guys wearing big-time unis last week and rendered their vanquished to the ranks of the unranked. Kentucky and USC, Nos 22 and 18 in early polls, will probably climb back into the rankings before long – although one could argue that they’re right where they belong right now: out of the top 20 and starting at a long season of attempted redemption.
If you look at college footballs’ preseason rankings and four teams that were in the top ten -No. 1 USC, Texas, Michigan and Louisville – are ghosts (at worst) or understudies (at best) in the current rankings. Quite simply, none of them were nearly as good as their preseason hype. And since then teams that were nowhere to be found in the top 20 – No. 2 Oregon, undefeated Kansas, Missouri, Clemson, South Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, UConn (who knew they played football there?!) – have made 2007 a season to remember.
College basketball’s prognosticators obviously learned nothing. The preseason rankings are filled with unis – name schools whose biggest strength lies in the letters across the players chests. Nary a surprise among them. Neither Gardner Webb nor Mercer cracked the Top 25, and perhaps they shouldn’t. In college hoops, at least, those wins will count for something in March, should the two teams continue to play well and notch perhaps another couple of quality wins and do well in AS (Atlantic Sun). That’s when the venerable suits comprising the NCAA basketball committee locks itself in a room with a ton of very expensive shrimp and decides which teams receive invitations to the not-so-elite field of 65 teams that will have the opportunity to compete for the national title.
USC and Kentucky are the kinds of teams that typically qualify just by showing up for every regular season game with clean unis. Not so GWebb and Mercer. But they’ve already opened some eyes.
The problem with the college football preseason poll is that it provides teams with an unfair advantage given the few spots in prestigious – read: phat payoff – postseason bowls. It’s like spotting the New England Patriots a touchdown every Sunday. Most seasons, those early notches prevent less-prominent teams with great records from breaking into the bowls of golf. This season is an aberration (though I hope not). LSU v Oregon (or even Kansas) in the title game will be refreshing.
Kill the preseason polls and allow the season to exist at least for a few weeks before releasing the first rankings. At least, by then, they won’t simply rank.