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Football Commentary: Rankled by rankings

BY SCOTT MILLER | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

Nothing in sports makes less sense than preseason rankings.

It’s more logical to pay rookie Matthew Stafford — the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft last April — $41.7 million in guaranteed money before he’s ever taken an NFL snap.

And, ironically, if you can think back to last year’s preseason crapshoot, Stafford’s Georgia Bulldogs were the darlings of the poll.

That was good enough to get them to a few free drinks in downtown Athens, a Capital One Bowl berth, and not much else.

It’s more logical to have the MLB All-Star Game decide home-field advantage in the World Series, all while making it mandatory for every team to have a representative. (Hello, Mike Sweeney, five-time All Star formerly of the Kansas City Royals, whose team was 343-467 over that span).

It’s more logical for Brett Favre to retire and un-retire and then retire again (but still throw balls to high-school kids in Mississippi) and then un-retire and sign with all four United Football League teams at once for a combined $20 million. (Or, for that matter, it’s more logical for the 39-year-old Favre to sign with the Minnesota Vikings for $12.5 million a year and be expected to win a Super Bowl.)

I think you get the point: Preseason rankings are about as important as the actual cause of Michael Jackson’s death, the existence (or lack thereof) of Big Foot, and Paula Abdul — in that order.

It makes no sense to arbitrarily rank any teams in any sports under any circumstances before they’ve played a real game. (And no, spring games, intrasquad scrimmages, and Kids’ Days don’t count).

In fact, if something could make negative sense, preseason polls would undoubtedly fall under that category.

Not shockingly, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz agrees with me on this one. At Iowa’s media day on Aug. 7, he said, “I mean, preseason rankings are a little bit like recruiting rankings.”

Damn, why didn’t I think of that analogy?

But let’s talk about them anyway. After all, ESPN had Rachel Nichols stake out Favre’s Hattiesburg, Miss., compound for (approximately) 157 combined hours over the summer.

The least we can do is use 700 words to cover Iowa’s preseason No. 22 ranking in the AP Poll, because, let’s face it, preseason polls aren’t going anywhere.

In essence, this poll tells us 21 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision are better than Iowa and 98 teams are worse than the Hawkeyes. Simple enough.

So, theoretically, the AP writers all across America are telling us that if Iowa played, say, Florida State — ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll — on a neutral field in pristine conditions, then Iowa would lose.

I guess that might happen. I don’t know a whole lot about the Seminoles, and I haven’t seen them play a game since they thumped Wisconsin 42-13 in the Citrus Bowl, because, well, they haven’t played a game since the Citrus Bowl. (Imagine that!)

Similarly, I don’t know how the Hawkeyes will play this year. I don’t know how they’ll replace Shonn Greene’s production, or Mitch King and Matt Kroul’s leadership, or Jake Christensen’s pinpoint accuracy.

I don’t know who will get injured or what no-name will breakout to become a superstar (see: Greene, Shonn).

And I certainly don’t know if Iowa is the 22nd-best collegiate football team in the country. If I had to guess, based the Hawkeyes’ experience on the offensive line and its returning firepower on defense, I’d put them somewhere in the top 30.

But really, there’s no use worrying about it — just like there’s no use in worrying about whether or not Ferentz could out-duel the great Bobby Bowden.

If you want something to worry about, then think about Jewel Hampton’s apparent “minor” knee injury or look at Iowa’s road schedule (Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State) or ponder life without King and Kroul.

But whatever you do, don’t look at a preseason polls. They means nothing.


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