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Official Preseason BlogPoll Roundtable No. 1

I am often asked by awestruck fans with wide eyes and trembling voices, "What responsibilities are entailed in being a BlogPoll voter?"

Some of the obligations of casting a ballot in The Lawgiver's weekly poll are self-evident. For one thing, a BlogPoll voter must be strongly opinionated and his views must be defined by a ratio of vehemence to knowledge seldom seen outside the studio of a sports talk radio station. For another, a BlogPoll voter must have a schedule as leisurely as that of Peg Bundy or a three-toed sloth.


If you have the time to read this trash, you have the time (though likely not the testosterone production) to be a BlogPoll voter!

Finally, he must have an underground bunker beneath his place of residence that is stocked with large quantities of bottled water, substantial stores of non-perishable canned goods, and a complex computer setup connected by fiber-optic cables cloaked by stealth technology to a hidden grid headquartered at a secret location in Michigan . . . but perhaps I've said too much.

Anyway, being a BlogPoll voter entails a greater degree of responsibility than, say, being permitted to participate in choosing the electors who will select the next president of the United States. One of the sacred trusts imposed upon BlogPollsters is the obligation to participate in roundtable discussions, the latest of which is up and running at The House Rock Built.

These are the questions that have been put forward for the good of the order:

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

Notre Dame at No. 5? For all the reasons outlined by Sunday Morning Quarterback, I ain't buying it . . . and I'm not alone: Rakes of Mallow has the Golden Domers seventh.

How many quality losses will it take to get the Irish all the way up to No. 1?

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

As the loaded wording of the question implies, it shouldn't "merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations." A preseason No. 1 ranking means little if it does not mean that the voter believes that particular team will win the national championship game in January.

At the same time, I am hesitant to reward the Auburns, Kansas States, and Texas Techs of the world for their watered-down scheduling while punishing probably superior teams that face tougher slates. This is why I believe Colorado accomplished more in 1990 by going 11-1-1 against Big Ten co-champion Illinois, Notre Dame, S.E.C. champion Tennessee, S.W.C. champion Texas, Pac-10 champion Washington, and the Big Eight than Georgia Tech accomplished by going 11-0-1 against Nebraska, South Carolina, U.T.-Chattanooga, a weak A.C.C. that included a ludicrously overrated Virginia squad, and the worst Georgia team of my lifetime.

The question I am inclined to ask in such situations is, "If these two teams swapped schedules, what would the results have been?" No one seriously believes that Colorado team wouldn't have gone 12-0 against the Yellow Jackets' slate and no one seriously believes that Georgia Tech team could have negotiated the Buffaloes' schedule with 11 victories. Hence, there seems to me to be no way to justify ranking the Ramblin' Wreck above the Buffs.

An excellent exchange upon this subject between Burnt Orange Nation and College Football Resource suggested, quite reasonably, that you have to do a little bit of both. In answering the question, "How good is this team?" it is necessary also to ask, "How well has this team performed?" This is why I agree with Rece Davis that the poll voting should change dramatically from week to week for the first several Saturdays of the season, as preconceived notions are undermined and reality refutes guesswork.

To paraphrase Joey Tribbiani, "A lot of theories didn't work out: communism . . . lone gunman . . . Gang of Six."

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

As I admitted when casting my ballot, that team unquestionably is the California Golden Bears.

At the risk of being accused of having an East Coast bias, I think Jeff Tedford is the Ray Goff of the Pacific Coast and his team is Texas Tech without the stark raving lunacy or the Holiday Bowl victory.

The only Cal I don't consider overrated is Cal Naughton, Jr. Shake and bake, Coach Tedford . . . that just happened!

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

Back in the day, Mike Tyson said everybody had a plan until they got hit. Pat Forde is right that everybody and his brother has a foolproof playoff plan and the reason all those ideas are flawless is that they have no chance of coming to pass. Playoff plans are like Wesley Clark, who was the perfect Democratic presidential candidate right up until the moment at which he actually became a Democratic presidential candidate. As Dudley Moore found out in "10," fantasies are unblemished precisely because they are fantasies.

Because I recognize that everything in life requires some judgment calls to be made, I favor the system of polls and bowls as a fundamentally American method of determining a national champion and I am wholeheartedly opposed to any form of playoff, period.

As I alluded to in my introduction, the flaw in voting in college football polls is the same as the flaw in voting for everything from president of your high school senior class to president of the United States. People often cast votes for silly and ephemeral reasons, which skews the results . . . especially in a telegenic age that acknowledges flash over substance.

My only defense of that weakness inherent in all exercises of popular sovereignty was summed up succinctly by Winston Churchill on the floor of the British House of Commons in 1947:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Take that, "plus one" advocates!

A dude who looks that much like Uga has to be right.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

My answer isn't going to win me many friends in some corners of Bulldog Nation, but here it is: I would go back in time to December 1980 and convince Vince Dooley to take the Auburn job.

Hear me out on this one. As Jay Coulter acknowledges, Auburn was better off getting Pat Dye than the Tigers would have been getting Coach Dooley.

Coach Dye took over a program on the Plains that had won more than six games in a single season just once in the previous half-dozen campaigns and turned it into a contender within two years. Despite a trio of five-win seasons early (1981) and late (1991-1992) in his career, Coach Dye won 99 games and four Southeastern Conference championships. (No other Auburn coach can claim more than one S.E.C. crown.)

Is it even conceivable that the Tigers would have enjoyed as much success in the 1980s had Coach Dooley answered the call? Auburn's 13-7 victory between the hedges in 1983 marked the changing of the guard, as a league dominated by Alabama and Georgia (who between them had won or shared a dozen conference titles from 1971 to 1982) began to be presided over by the high-flying War Eagle.

Coach Dooley began his career at Georgia by going 14-5-1 against Florida, 16-4 against Georgia Tech, and 10-8-1 against Auburn while winning six S.E.C. championships. He ended his career by going 3-2 against Florida, 3-2 against Georgia Tech, and 1-5 against Auburn while winning no S.E.C. championships.

Nothing personal, Coach, but the numbers don't lie.

During the final six seasons of Coach Dooley's tenure on the Sanford Stadium sideline, Coach Dye was over at Auburn going 57-14-2 and taking his team to three Sugar Bowls and a Cotton Bowl.

Meanwhile, former Georgia defensive coordinator Erk Russell---the man who undoubtedly would have succeeded Coach Dooley at the helm in Athens in 1981 and the man after whom I lobbied for my son to be named---became the head coach at Georgia Southern, where he built a program from the ground up and won Division I-AA national championships in 1985, 1986, and 1989.

Following Georgia Southern's move to Division I-AA, Coach Russell posted a ledger of 70-14. As MaconDawg graphically depicts, Erk was bloodied but unbowed.

I take nothing away from what Coach Dooley achieved during his time in the Classic City, both as head football coach and as athletic director. However, when you look at what Erk Russell accomplished in Statesboro, what Pat Dye accomplished in the so-called Loveliest Village, and what Vince Dooley accomplished in Athens following Herschel Walker's departure for the U.S.F.L., it becomes clear that the 'Dawgs got the worst end of that deal.

Some in Bulldog Nation may consider it sacrilege for me to say so, but the facts speak for themselves. If, instead of Vince Dooley coaching at Georgia and Pat Dye coaching at Auburn, the decade of the '80s had passed with Vince Dooley coaching at Auburn and Erk Russell coaching at Georgia, there'd be more hardware in the Red and Black's trophy case.

Go 'Dawgs!