All Together Now (except for USC): We’re No. 1!

You're right, Trojan Boy; You're No. 2


Who’s No. 1?

No one really knows. We may not even really know on Jan. 9, 2009, the day after the BCS title game. That’s because the game’s participants will have been decided by polls – which are heavy factors in the BCS standings that determine which two college football teams deserve to play for the national title.

Except sometimes/often, the polls fail to pick the right two teams.

Polls. I’m done with them.

I’m done with them in sports. I’m done with them in politics. Done with them.

We should all be done with them.

College football is the only major sport ruled by polls. Sure, other sports have polls. They provide fodder to fan chats and allow way too many foam fingers to be sold. But their championships are decided by the only poll that matters (or should matter) – the scoreboard.

At least a handful of teams could earn a shot at the title. College football uses polls to determine which two will play for the crown.

And as we’ve already seen this season, the polls are usually wrong. The consensus No. 1, USC, had its consensus tail whipped 27-21 Thursday night at Oregon State, defeated by a team that was better prepared, more motivated, and – at least for a night – seemingly more talented than the team whose name had all but been printed on the tickets for the national title game.

So now someone has to be No. 1. Second-ranked Oklahoma is most likely to slip into the void – if it can survive at No. 24 TCU on Saturday. Maybe it’ll be No. 3 Georgia, which hosts an Alabama team reveling in its return from mediocrity. Why not Florida, Missouri or LSU? Any of them could lay claim to the dubious distinction of being No. 1.

A distinction that will mean nothing until January.

By Saturday morning we’ll no doubt be flooded with a tsunami of polls reacting to Friday’s presidential debate. Who won? Who won among independents? Whites? Blacks? Hispanics? Likely voters? First-time voters? Student voters? Affluent student voters? Soccer moms? Hockey moms? Poker dads?

People on both sides of this presidential campaign circus will wring their hands in consternation over what each poll means for their candidate’s chances to win. Pundits will dissect each poll as if it were a lab frog, searching for meaning behind the numbers.

Well, they’ll mean about as much as those polls that had USC at No. 1

The only poll that matters during this political season is the one that will be taken on Nov. 4.

The only one that should matter in college football is the one registered on the scoreboard at the national championship game. Unfortunately, too many polls matter. And almost all of them get it wrong.

Reuters photograph


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