Tradition bias creates untrue Top 25

BY IAN MARTIN | OCTOBER 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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Clemson and Wisconsin won't play each other for the BCS national championship, even though they should be given just as much a chance as LSU and Oklahoma.

And this was determined before an official game was even played, not because of the BCS.

Preseason polls turn sports into reality television. Sure, the reactions and results are authentic, but there's no longer a vacuum in which the early season games occur. As with an episode of "Jersey Shore," there are falsifications and people prodding the opinions of others.

"You know, Snooki, J Woww didn't really appreciate what you said last night …" an MTV producer might say offscreen.

"Well, voters and fans, Texas is still 'Texas,' even though it went 5-7 last season and has an unstable quarterback situation," a pollster is telling us by placing the Longhorns in the preseason Top 25.
"Makes sense to me" says Joe Footballfan, because Texas is Texas, after all.

By the way, the Associated Press ranked Texas fifth to start the season last year. At No. 24 last week, the Longhorns lost a second-straight blowout to a BCS contender after four wins against meager schools. The burnt orange jersey is keeping them in the polls as much as Mack Brown's credibility. If Texas and surprise Big 12 contender No. 12 Kansas State (a quiet 6-0) switched uniforms and program histories, the Wildcats would be in the top 5. But nay, K-State was unranked to start the season and is playing the system every week just as much as it is playing the team on the other side on the line of scrimmage.

Deeming a squad the best team in the nation before even the first Thursday of college-football season puts the non-typical contender at a disadvantage.

Analyzing last season's results and returning players, it's no surprise Houston is having an undefeated year. Case Keenum is one of the best players in the country, and he leads an offense that can make Chip Kelly jealous. But the Cougars are only No. 19 because the team is climbing out of a hole just to get into the top 25 and has a tough time moving up.

The preseason polls really do affect the outcome of a season in college football without a playoff. In basketball, the top teams make the tournament and get to prove themselves in the finest spectacle in American sports. But in football, discrimination because of your school's perceived lack of history means a loss of a spot in a BCS bowl or national-championship game. Just ask TCU last year or Utah or Boise State in years before that.

And unlike the complexities of money and logistics that restrict a quick change from bowls to a playoff system, escaping preseason bias would take a single act. Eliminate the preseason poll, or simply say that teams aren't eligible until they've played another Football Bowl Subdivision opponent — because nothing is really learned about Michigan State after its glorified scrimmage against Youngstown State.

But history, the element clouding pollsters' votes from spring practice on, will prevail. Since 1950, the Associated Press has had a preseason poll, so obviously there's no reason to change it now.

After all, it is tradition.

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