Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Is there a need for Preseason Polls?

As if there haven’t been enough stories written about the Michigan Vs Appalachian State game that start with “Never before….” Now there is another one. Michigan dropped from the #5 spot in the preseason polls all the way out of the rankings. That’s a 20 slot drop, the worst drop in the history of these polls.

Honestly, should we be surprised? Looking at it objectively, how can anyone argue that Michigan should be among the top 25 teams in the country based on the games that have been played this season? The only reason Michigan dropped so far was because their initial ranking was so high. That initial ranking that was based on what…the spring game?

I don’t think that there should be a preseason poll. How can you rank teams based on what they did the previous year when so much changes in the off season? There are coaching changes, players graduate or go to the NFL, there are off field issues that teams face. If the coaches and media waited until after week 1 to vote on the first poll, the voters wouldn’t have to deal with any embarrassing moments when the team they ranked #5 gets outplayed by a Division 1-AA team. They won’t have to worry about getting ridiculed at the end of the season when the preseason #1 team ends up out of the rankings entirely.

More importantly, we have to keep in mind that preseason polls can actually play a major role in determining the National Champion at the end of a season. If there are 3 undefeated teams, the two that started the season ranked highest are most likely still going to be ranked higher than that third undefeated team. And based on what? The previous season and off-season? Do we really want our current season to be influenced based on what happened last year? Yes, USC and LSU had great seasons last year, but if we get to December with USC, LSU, and West Virginia all undefeated it doesn’t make sense that because of what happened last season, USC and LSU get the National Championship Game invitations.

The polls do not matter in week one. They make for interesting discussion before the season starts, but other than that they don't really serve any real purpose. They do however, matter very much when it comes to the end of the season. We at Michigan understand that quite well based on what happened at the end of last season. The voters are well qualified to compile a fair and accurate poll – as much as that is possible, but they need to have actual games to base their votes on. They can’t be forced to use how teams finished the previous year to start out their ballots on week 1. We saw the consequences of this last year with Notre Dame starting out the season at #2, and then again this year with Michigan being ranked #5.

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