Ah, the old days.
Or, rather, last August. It was then – and the August before and the August before, etc. – I’d piece together my preseason Associated Press Top 25 list.
Many have screamed about such preseason polls. They’ve called it folly. And, to some degree, yeah, OK…
But, man, they are also great marketing ploys. For the summer magazines. For the Associated Press. For USA Today, which publishes the coaches’ poll. And they certainly are for college football.
The polls get the juices stirred. They get the debates raging. Meanwhile publishers and those selling game tickets cash in. I see the marketing angle even more clearly now that I’m at Wheelhouse Creative.
The only gripe I ever had about the polls is when they were used in the old BCS days to determine playoff teams. The A.P. eventually removed its poll as a conflict of interest.
Anyway, as long time followers know, I took all my votes seriously, but perhaps moreso my preseason poll. I didn’t want to copy what’s in a summer magazine. (I did, however, contribute to Athlon through the years, including the latest edition.) I wanted to do my own work. I took pride in it.
And, man, did I climb out on some limbs. When most were ignoring Notre Dame, for instance, I placed the Irish No. 3 in the preseason poll. Joe Kinsey of Busted Coverage said I was his favorite voter because I cause “chaos and fans lose their minds over Mitch’s ballot.”
Yet guess which team entered a game against Miami No. 3 on Nov. 11 that 2017 season. Yep, Notre Dame. Stand up for your beliefs, folks!
I similarly ranked LSU – and, yes, WVU — higher than most, etc.
Anyway, I now watch more as a spectator from my public relations/marketer’s desk. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m less interested. I’m rooting for those still in the sports writing game to put in the work, to give us the clearest picture of what’s happening in our beloved sports.
So, out of curiousity, I compared Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 to a couple summer magazines’ lists. Are the voters doing their own work? Or are they simply copying from Athlon, Phil Steele, etc.?
Here’s what I found:
Of the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll, five were ranked exactly as listed in the Athlon preseason poll. For the math challenged, that’s 20 percent.
Of the others, the difference in ranking per team was an average of 2.65 spots. If you use the difference overall, including the teams ranked dead on, it’s 2.17.
Also, there were two notable outliers in Nebraska and Stanford, both ranked seven spots higher in the A.P. poll than in the Athlon magazine. If you toss those two out, you’re left with a miniscule 2.167 difference or 1.7 if you include the teams identically ranked. (Athlon, by the way, had Missouri No. 23, which was No. 26 in the A.P. poll, and Virginia No. 25, which was No. 32 in the A.P. listing.)
If you prefer the Phil Steele ranking, which arrives later in the summer, you’ll find a wider average gap. Perhaps in the dog days of summer, voters make their lists before seeing Steele’s magazine.
Anyway, Steele’s Top 25 had a difference of 4.17 spots from the A.P. poll if you exclude three hit on the button (No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 21 Iowa State). If you include those three, the overall difference was 3.84 spots per team.
Steele had three teams that were completely against the grain in respect to the A.P. poll.
He has TCU No. 14 (which, by the way, I agree with), while the A.P. poll has the Horned Frogs at No. 31. He has Miami No. 15, while the A.P. poll has the Hurricanes at No. 29. He has Virginia Tech No. 25, while the A.P. poll has the Hokies No. 36. (Technical point: Those three aren’t “ranked” in the Top 25 because, well, they aren’t IN the Top 25. They are in the “also receiving votes” list though. Fortunately, I can still count.)
In sum, it looks as if voters are still relying on summer magazines or online rankings. That will probably never change. Research is work. Few choose to take that on.
Yet I’ll continue to watch. I’ll continue to tear through the polls, looking for my teams.
And I’m sure all other college football fans will for years as well.
Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.