CASSILO: Removing polls, confusion from football

David Cassilo

Last week, the USC Trojans lost their first game of the season to the Oregon State Beavers. This created mass hysteria through the college football world. Rather than focus on apparently meaningless subjects such as the baseball pennant races, ESPN acted as if the USC loss was the sports equivalent of a devastating hurricane. We were led to believe all hope was lost for USC and that they might as well just quit playing football and focus on their studies because their national title hopes were as good as over.

However, as crazy as it may seem that all of this coverage on ESPN was a waste, the Trojans are in fine – perhaps even excellent – shape. They have figured out the secret behind the big sham that is the BCS. For the rest of you who aren’t in on this information, let me enlighten you. The dirty truth is that if you lose once and it happens early in the season, no one cares.

Whether it is a statement about the human mind or just laziness when it comes to looking up stats, poll voters tend to place more importance on how recent a loss was rather than how bad a loss it was. So if you are going to lose at Oregon State, it’s best to do it in September because by the end of the season, that game will just be a hazy memory in the minds of the voters.

To see why this is the case, we have to look back no further than the ’07 college football season. The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks were undefeated going into their final game against the third-ranked Missouri Tigers. Also at this time, Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech all had two losses. Kansas fell to Missouri for their first loss of the season. Although it lost to the third-best team in the country in its first loss all season, Kansas was ranked behind Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech the following week.

Now it is possible, and somewhat likely, that Kansas was not as good as some of these teams. However, if that’s the case, then let us see it firsthand. Do not make this decision because some writer for the Associated Press cannot recall how Virginia Tech lost but the Kansas loss is fresh in his memory.

The obvious and most talked about change to the BCS system is to add a playoff. This is truly the best answer, and one that clearly makes too much sense to adapt into the FCS, but it is so widely discussed it would be a waste of time to detail the pros and cons of adding a playoff system.

Instead, I offer a different and more radical solution to the mess we see in college football each season: It is time to eliminate the polls. Not just for a few weeks or until the end of the season – eliminate them entirely. Why should voting prior to the season influence how we view teams for the rest of the year? The numbers are assigned based on people who do not watch every college football game, and since the BCS started, the top two teams in the polls sometimes do not even play for the national title.

Why should we view USC as a Top 10 team right now if they have already lost while dozens of other teams have not? The goal of college football should be to prove that you are the best by beating good teams. A team like USC, who was ranked No. 3 to start the season, has an advantage over an unranked team with a better record just because the voters viewed USC as superior before the season.

As an alternative, college football should follow in the footsteps of college basketball. There should be a committee of experts, who for several days evaluate every possible aspect of each team’s season. After they have exhausted themselves looking at all the information at hand, they then choose who plays for the national title – either in one game or a playoff system. This committee will be far from any sort of ranking based on the subjectivity of voters.

Some may argue that this would hurt college football, but it would help instead. Sure, you may not have the hype of the No. 1 team visiting the No. 6 team, but instead, every team would be equal to start the season. Therefore, every single game matters. With everyone on an even playing field, Northwestern versus Illinois is as important as Alabama versus Georgia.

Whether this is the solution to the mess of college football rankings or not, it is clear that change is necessary. The entire system is a joke. Losses in September do not carry the same weight as those in October, November or early December. From the start, an unranked team in the preseason poll begins at an automatic disadvantage without playing a single game. These problems and many more are continuing leaving college football in disarray. Sports should entertain the fan, not confuse them.


David Cassilo is a junior communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].