This Week's Rankings

Lewis and Who?  (Look West, Poll Voters)
(published the week of Nov. 5, 2000)

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times.  When college football’s poll voters look west, their view seems to be blocked by the Rocky Mountains. 

Look at the A.P. poll.  The Washington Huskies have amassed an 8-1 won-lost record despite having played the toughest schedule of any 1-loss team and the 3rd-toughest schedule (4th–toughest according to the BCS) in the country—an accomplishment that merits the #2 ranking in the nation.  Yet the A.P. poll ranks Washington #7.  (The coaches’ poll ranks Washington #6.)  Washington and Miami (the A.P.’s #2 team) lead the nation with 2 wins over the A.P.'s top-10 teams.  In comparison, the A.P.’s #3-#5 teams—(9-1) Florida State, (8-1) Nebraska, and (8-1) Florida—have combined to beat 0 teams ranked in the A.P.'s top-10.  How can Washington justly be ranked behind these 3 teams?  Either there is no internal consistency in the A.P. rankings, or beating good teams doesn’t matter nearly so much as posting large margins of victory. 

Washington’s being ranked 4 spots behind Florida State is particularly egregious.  Yes, the Seminoles have posted several large margins of victory; and, yes, they might well be favored over Washington in a hypothetical matchup on a neutral field.  But the Seminoles have accomplished nothing versus the A.P.’s top-15 teams, posting a won-lost record of 0-1.  Washington is 2-1 versus the A.P.’s top-10.  And for those who care about common opponents, Washington beat the team that handed Florida State its loss. Don't teams’ actual accomplishments matter more than their unrealized potential?

Nevertheless, the Huskies may well lose this week, because they play (6-3) UCLA, the #12 team in the country.  Of course, the Bruins aren’t ranked #12 by the A.P. or coaches’ polls; in fact, they aren’t ranked by the polls at all.  The Bruins have played the nation’s 2nd-toughest schedule, have beaten 5 top-50 teams (including 6-3 Michigan, which is ranked by both polls) plus Alabama, and have lost only 1 game to a team that the polls do not rank among the nation’s top-10.  But how can the poll voters be confident that UCLA’s  games really happen?

Elsewhere, both the A.P. and coaches’ polls rank 1-loss Oregon  St.—a team that, along with Miami, would be undefeated if not for a loss to Washington—behind a 2-loss Purdue team that has not beaten a top-10 team in either poll and which dropped a game to (4-6) Penn State.

The polls need to wake up and spell the roses—literally.  The teams vying for the Pac-10’s Rose Bowl berth are playing some of the very best football in the country.  And, yes, they really do exist. 

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