Writers, coaches should dump early season polls

This was Paul Johnson's reaction when he was asked about early season polls, and I can't say that I blame him.

This was Paul Johnson's reaction when he was asked about early season polls, and I can't say that I blame him. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

Damn, I’m good.

OK, so this hasn’t been the best financial start in the history of Weekend Predictions. But I’ve hit most of my major picks so far, and after nailing South Carolina’s upset of Mississippi Thursday night, I think I’ve finally stumbled upon the winning formula for this season: Just pick against one overblown  highly ranked team every week.

The Rebels began the season as an overrated No. 8. They rose to a really overrated No. 4 through attrition. But when they lost to the Gamecocks, 16-10, in Columbia,  it was the fourth straight week a top 5 team has lost since the preseason rankings came out. They have been, in order: No. 3 Oklahoma (to No. 20 BYU), No. 5 Oklahoma State (to unranked Houston), No. 3 USC (to unranked Washington), and No. 4 Ole Miss (to unranked South Carolina).

Overall, seven top 10 teams and 10 top-15 teams already have lost, and we’ve bare touched Week 4.

The fact that three top-5 teams have lost to unranked teams is the really disturbing part. Are you starting to get the feeling that early-season rankings don’t mean anything?

It has been said before but it’s worth re-stating: Early season rankings should not exist. The Associated Press writers’ poll and the USA Today coaches’ poll should forget about pre-season rankings. They shouldn’t come out with opening polls until at least — at least –  early October, after most teams have played five games. That would eliminate so much of the goofiness.

Now, the argument against this is that fans and media debate rankings from the time the pre-season polls come out in August. Debate is what makes college football special. The problem is that you have teams that are either significantly overrated or underrated in the pre-season. That can have poll ramifications for the rest of the season. For example, LSU was a preason No. 11 and now is at No. 7 because other teams have lost. But it’s conceivable if the poll didn’t come out until October, the Tigers would open with a top-5 ranking.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose team has dropped from No. 15 to out of the rankings, said it best: “I do not care about the polls. That is ridiculous anyway. I can look and see so many different things that do not make any sense. How can Oklahoma be ranked ahead of BYU or Oklahoma State sitting ahead of Houston? Teams that have beat teams head-to-head are nine spots behind them. Right now, this time of year, the poll does not mean anything.”

They’re fun to argue about. But they I think we can do without the arguments in September.

74 comments Add your comment

Island Dawg

September 25th, 2009
12:19 am

Yeah, but the audience wants them so they will always exist in some form. I hate the media darlings being anointed in June as UGA was last year for beating a crappy Hawaii team.. They make sh!t for sense, Jeff, but as long as Athlon needs to sell magazines and websites need traffic they’re here to stay. Also think recruiting class rankings are bollocks.


September 25th, 2009
12:28 am

You’re dead on about pre-season and early season rankings.

If we can’t have a playoff… shouldn’t we at least start everybody at the same starting line?

Reid Adair

September 25th, 2009
12:34 am

Pre-season polls are about as useless as recruiting rankings (individuals and classes by school). And yet, unfortunately, many people out there want to see them – so I doubt they will go away any time soon.

I would imagine most coaches are like Paul Johnson. They realize that pre-season polls don’t mean a thing.


September 25th, 2009
12:41 am

Thinking the same thing tonight listening to the coments during the game. Comentators fussing about how Miss was over ranked – Then later mentioned on another point that they were all voters.

I agree 100% but was thinking game 3-4 and let all these teams know that if you schedule patsies your first 3 games, it will effect you opening ranking… and you dont have as many weeks to climb up the poles either. Where you start – after weeek 3,4, or 5 becomes even more important.

People can still argue and write about what the opening rankings will or should be. Would make the first third of the season much more exciting

Talk to B.O. and get him to change it. He needs something to take focus off all his other issues.

The Ghost Of Wally Butts

September 25th, 2009
1:27 am

Polls give us something to argue about. They serve a larger social purpose.

Think about if baseball had instant reply – no more fun watching Bobby Cox getting ejected. No Billy Martins kicking dirt.

Think about hockey without the fistfights.

Think about olympic gymnist judges that can’t be bribed.

Or about boxing matches with no subjective scoring by judges.

We need the subjective controversy of polls in our college football to keep our blood fired up.

Whopper Dawg

September 25th, 2009
1:35 am

All polls are meaningless, even the last one. Unfortunately, the polls also determine the national champion. Playoff, please.

Ted Striker

September 25th, 2009
3:01 am

Column makes sense but Pandora’s box is open.

(Actually I’ve seen Pandora’s box and this sure as hell ain’t anything like hers).

Jive Lady

September 25th, 2009
5:39 am

Preseason polls are like death and taxes…

And who hasn’t seen Pandora’s box?!?! ;)


September 25th, 2009
5:46 am

The hype is really for big business now. Selling seats, team gear…..and for sports writers something to fill up those columns!

Of course if you start with over matched opponents and you crush them you make ESPN highlight tape..more wows.

We really do not need to rank anybody until October 1st….after 3 games or so. That way the stats and the eyeballs can make better predictions. But you can never tell me that the best example of over ranked teams – Ohio State will always be selected in the top 10 preseason.

Mitch (the one in Rome)

September 25th, 2009
6:18 am

The polls and the BCS are the very reason college football is inferior to the NFL and the reason I’m learning to hate college football. Not football, the way the college system works for D 1 A.

A win just does not count as a win and a loss is the end of a season. It’s a load of crap. I’m tired of watching my team and feeling like we lost if we don’t blow someone out or we give up points or the game is close when it’s not supposed to be so that some damn fat guy who has never played can rank us lower and cause us to miss a chance to play for all the marbles. It’s not right and it’s killing college football.
I’m to the point that I don’t want to watch it. It’s too damn depressing.
The fact is that Ole Miss and South Carolina are two pretty good teams. Yes, Ole Miss is overrated. But they don’t suck either. South Carolina punched them in the mouth. Just like last year Ole Miss punched Florida in the chops. You know what, Ole Miss’s season is over! Why, because they will fall in the polls, be viewed as loosing to a team they were supposed to beat (based on what?) and will struggle to make it to a BCS bowl so as to have enough money to continue on the BCS money train.
Dude, I’m not against money. I’m going to go make some in about an hour, but I want a win to count as a win regardless of it being ugly or not.
In the NFL, a win is a win, even if it looks like death warmed over. There are no style points in the win / loss column. A win is a win and a loss is a loss. Period. That is the way it should be.
There, I’ve said my peace. And you know what, I’ll feel better by tomorrow night, watch Georgia, and be pissed if they don’t cover because they will probably drop in the polls and I’ll start my rant all over again.
Thanks for the column Jeff. Always love to read and vent!


September 25th, 2009
6:29 am

Florida definitely should not be ranked #1 right now based on schedule and performance (especially the offense). The Gators may end up with that ranking, but they don’t deserve it right now. Alabama does. I would rank Miami #2 right now. Florida #3. Texas wound be #4. Any of about 10 teams could end up playing for the BCS this year.


September 25th, 2009
6:31 am

Also….I would rank Tennessee #1 for having the worse offense in the nation and for a coach who game plans so his team will not be beaten by more than 30 points.

Motown Hound

September 25th, 2009
6:56 am

Pre-season and early season polls are based on very little fact, which can be equated to an opinion, which can be equated to an anal pore, which can be equated to every one has one. Logic would dictate this to be true based on the energy spent on blogging after these columns.

I’m Motown Hound……good day


September 25th, 2009
7:19 am

What a travesty that Ole Miss had risen to No. 4 in the polls,..especiall in light of their schedule leading into last night’s game. Justice should see them fall to the 20-23 range after losing to a mediocre South Carolina squad.

Jonas Grumby

September 25th, 2009
7:24 am

There are two problems with early season polls. 1) The first poll is based largely on how a team finished the previous year and how many players it has back. You can extend that to the unofficial offseason rankings, which come out some time around Jan. 10. 2) Most of the voters are too reactionary to one game, good or bad. In addition to these points, it’s also a fact that teams evolve over the course of a season. So it’s a fallacy to say this team is the fourth best team in the country.


September 25th, 2009
7:25 am

The preseason rankings should start with the final rankings of the previous season. That way all the bowls will mean something. The mags can still do their predictions and we would still see how that turned out. The more important point though is you have to stop penalizing teams for playing tough games out of conference. A loss there should not drop a team 10/15 spots while a win of a directional school moves a team up. The pundits all scream for better games then they vote the in a way that encourages teams to schedule bad teams.


September 25th, 2009
7:27 am

Does anyone else thinks Craig James loves himself? I mean we all should love ourselves but I’m talking the George Hamilton type of admiration.

You can call the Bachelorette there just the least bit narcissistic as well but his analysis of why a play worked or didn’t seems to get better each Thursday even if he did have a bad night.

Houston is going to get beat up pretty bad but they should be fine and end up respectable and in the Cotton Bowl or some such again this year. There is no substitute for live ammunition.


September 25th, 2009
7:51 am

What is that old saying about going from: “confine your crap to the crapper!” Mando hit it on the head… Jeff Schultz, one pick does not make a pattern… However, 6-13 against the line does.

Gen Neyland

September 25th, 2009
8:00 am

Maybe Sagarin, with Mississippi at 64th, Florida at 21st, Auburn at 15th or Miami-Florida at #1 is truly the more accurate week to week indicator of college football in the 2009 season. Afterall, computers don’t show the love for emotion (Okay, HAL is an exception). Come October, things will begin to level out and the AP or Coaches poll may follow suit…By seasons end, there will still be some folks unhappy with the human element.


September 25th, 2009
8:05 am

When do you start? Some teams open up with three straight FCS schools or non-conference match-ups that aren’t theat strong. Poor Jevon I guess those 24 NFL scouts will be back next year to watch him play at Ole Miss.

Congrats to the OBC and the Gamescocks. Great show last night.


September 25th, 2009
8:13 am

Ole Miss did not look so hot last night. Now I am totally confused about how good anyone in this conference is actually. Now all we need is Arkansas to beat Alabama in the Hades bowl.

Eastside Jacket

September 25th, 2009
8:19 am

Athlon, Street & Smith, etc. can all still have their preseason polls. It’s the major polls (AP & USA Today) that Schultz is tlaking about. Let the fans get all foamed at the mouth over the magazine polls. Save the two real polls til the first weekend of October.


September 25th, 2009
8:28 am

The polls are stupid, but as you note, Jeff, the debate is what many of us like about college football. As for Ole Miss, the sound you hear is several thousand Ole Miss fans puking up their purple Kool-aid. The other sound is several sportswriters choking on their assessment that Snead was the second best QB in the SEC. Cox, Mallet, Todd, and McElroy are all better. Ole Miss now reverts to its usual and familiar position, but that makes them more dangerous for Bama……and of course, Bama must get by Arkansas and Kentucky before playing Ole Miss.

Lilburn Dawg

September 25th, 2009
8:31 am

Jeff is right. The pre-season polls are meaningless, but they give us something to have fun arguing about. They don’t do much as far as being a vaid indicator of the teams. I have wondered how Ole Miss has gotten ranked as high as #4 when, after watching them play last night, they surely belong in the bottom 20’s. They were overrated this year just as Georgia was last year. And the fact that so many power houses play “high school” teams during the first couple of weeks of the season, the true rankings get fuzzy. But there will always be rankings so that whoever is picked to be on the top of the heap will be the target for everyone else to shoot at and knock down.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

September 25th, 2009
8:48 am

The sportswriters should not have a poll. They pretty much don’t have a clue. Always on the USC and Ohio State bandwagon, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t take 3 N Dame losses to get them out of the top 20. They obviously read their own writings and that curdles their brains


September 25th, 2009
8:53 am

All polls are meaningless and wrong….pre-season are worse but during the season and even after the season are very bad too.

Human opinion should be taken out of football.

We need a 16 team playoff with conference champs, and at large teams would be chosen by a consensus of computer polls…..no human opinions allowed at all.

It would be the most exciting sporting event in the history of the world and do away with this mythical BSbcs that we have now.

Paul Johnson is dead on about he polls just like he is dead on about most everything. Anyone that puts any faith in the polls is a fool.

Thank God and Greyhound that chan gomer gailey is gone forever…he should have taken the BSbcs with him.


September 25th, 2009
9:00 am

Cuz, I am with you. I never thought I could pull for Putrino but……
War Eagle!!


September 25th, 2009
9:06 am

Playoffs are the only thing that will solve the “Who’s The Best” issue. the BCS is a joke and polls are nothing more than opinions, and they are like exhaust pipes…everybody has one.

Also, the poll ranking gets into a players head sometimes and messes with them. They need to be focused on one thing: Win! Stack up wins and you want have to be concerned about everybody’s opinions, or exhaust pipes!


September 25th, 2009
9:23 am

If Rene Curan had not deflected that pass or Stephen “Jerry” Garcia decided to run, USCe would be a top ten team this Monday.

Ken Stallings

September 25th, 2009
9:26 am

Jeff, you are absolutely correct and I wish more journalists would advocate eliminating the pre-season polls. In fact, I would like the NCAA to require no polls until completion of the week three schedule.

That would ensure no good teams would be buried too low and no poor teams would hang around. The pre-season polls are a beauty contest.

#1 GT fan

September 25th, 2009
9:31 am

Okay. Yes the pollls give people braging rights of there favorite teams ( maybe for only a couple of days though ) and it lets the fans FEEL involved with there favorite team BUT I think they should waite till atleast the 4th week to start ranking teams. People just want there team to be ranked high so when they lose they can just say ” Oh, ya. Well, (insert team name here) was ranked (ranking number here).

And NO ONE ever cares until your favorite team is ranked in the top 25.


September 25th, 2009
9:41 am

They aren’t ever really a good measuring stick until much later in the season… but they are fun to argue about… like power rankings.

When you look at all the high profile losses this year non of them are really suprising. There are easily deduced reasons for each loss. Upsets in name only because of reputation or lack of knowledge.


September 25th, 2009
9:44 am

Las Vegas has to have them


September 25th, 2009
9:44 am

Rankings up thru September SHOULD BE done, but they should be broader. In other words each ballot should list maybe 60 teams (about half) and not rank them 1-60. Just rank them whether they are a top 5, next 5, top 20, top 30….this gives us an idea and a baseline but is allowed to be more fluid till things sort out through Sept.


September 25th, 2009
9:46 am

I don’t think the NCAA has anything to do with polls. They don’t oversee them and they are not in a position to say you can’t have them.


September 25th, 2009
9:59 am

Yahoo has a user poll. Just use that for discussion until after the 4th game. Then the real polls can come out. And think how much fun it will be to guess who gets ranked where. A team like usc could be saying 2 at the start of the season and then oh crap were 15 now.

Athens Varsity

September 25th, 2009
10:05 am

Just take the “C” out of “BCS” and you’ve got it.


September 25th, 2009
10:06 am

The only way to counterbalance having these rediculous preseason polls is for the BCS to take NONE of them into account. The BCS formula should not take into account any poll that starts prior to October 15. That way if the AP and the coaches want to have a preseason poll, fine. They just won’t mean anything, or have any impact on the final standings.


September 25th, 2009
10:06 am

Problem w/ Paul Johnson’s argument: sometimes you have to rank teams higher than another team that’s beaten them. Florida lost to Ole Miss last year, but does anyone really think Ole Miss should have been ranked higher than Florida, the consensus national champs? USC lost to Oregon St. but was still one of the best teams around (certainly in an OPINION poll they would be higher in the eyes of most people than mediocre Oregon St., even though they weren’t better than Oregon State on one Saturday in the season). Polls are not indicators of who won a head to head matchup, and they really can’t be, for the simple reason that the college football season is not a single-elimination playoff.


September 25th, 2009
10:10 am

The AP poll can stay, after all, they’re media writers whose job is to talk about, and hype, the upcoming season. But the coaches poll, which goes into the BCS formula (ugh), should not kick in until the BCS rankings themselves kick in. The NCAA should exert more authority over the BCS.


September 25th, 2009
10:13 am

And we all wish(even the Tech people) that Gailey had taken m and his drivel away as well.


September 25th, 2009
10:19 am

No one complains about early polls in basketball because they have very little impact on the national champion.
Polls are fun. They are fun to discuss, and they are useful when handicapping games, but they should not be used in any type of a formula to name a champion.

College football is a far better game than Olympic ballroom dance. It deserves its champion to be named on the field, not by a group vote.


September 25th, 2009
10:29 am

I agree 100% Schultz

North GA Nole

September 25th, 2009
10:37 am

FSU “upset” then-No. 7 ranked BYU by 26 points and the USA Today still had BYU ranked 5 spots higher than FSU. And FSU’s only loss is to an undefeated Miami team. The polls make no sense.


September 25th, 2009
10:43 am

Nice call CUZ on USC game.

If every conference made every team play every other team and have a true SEC, ACC, Big XII type champion, then the polls would mean something at Bowl time. Give or take 3 games a year are like a bachlor party. You pay a great deal of money for a cheap thrill to “Hit It” hard and walk away smiling. Keep the USC-Clemson, UGA-GT, UF-FSU games on the schedule, but Jax St., Citadel, & So. West Godforsaken games need to be gone. Good for App St. over Michigan, but I don’t need it to decide the best team in the country. Michigan would have lost in comference latter anyway. Drop the POLLS and PLAY THE GAMES.


September 25th, 2009
10:48 am

Hal-lay-lew-yah!!!!!! Finally!!! Week 5 sounds great. Another thing, take the 1-AA schools out of the picture. NOBODY wants to watch their team play AppSt, Ga Southern, etc. If a D-1 school decides to play a 1-AA school then their should be a penalty or some sort of ramifications

The Other St. Simons

September 25th, 2009
11:46 am

Pi$$onadawg , I need a caddy tomorrow morning. Can you come down?

I totally agree with you by the way


September 25th, 2009
11:56 am

Playoffs could be played within the bowl system that is in place…that way, they can keep all that money that they’re afraid of losing. The NCAA doesn’t HAVE to adhere to the polling services…just implement a playoff and the polling system become obsolet. Teams play within their division….PERIOD! Playoffs work for every OTHER sport in the ncaa….time for football to man up and join the real world!!!


September 25th, 2009
12:07 pm

This year we have one delusional school scheduled Tenn Tech. But most years like the other schools fans here, we have more. I as a paying alum would be outraged to pay big bucks to see the East Pennsylvannia State Fighting Amish play the Dawgs. Even if they did bring that black wagon and drive it down the field during pre-game.

Yes Gators, I know USF backed out and you had to get whatever you could. You get a gimmie on Fort Sumter State.

Brad in Jasper

September 25th, 2009
12:28 pm

Agree with about everyone, but alas, the preseason and Middle School recruiting rankings baloney is here to stay.