Back in the day - like way back, when they were just figuring out the stuff that most of us take for granted - Galileo Galilei said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
And while that memo may not have trickled down all the way to religious fundamentalists (some things never change) or ESPN, those of us who cast our BlogPoll college football ballots live and die by this mantra. Well, as always, most of us.
As such, the weekly balloting is always succeeded by a roundtable discussion, hosted at one site, answered at every site, and dispersed among the masses with the goal of educating one another, and ourselves. The single best thing about the BlogPoll is that - in theory, anyway - we intend for the rankings to be a dialogue. If we talk about this actively amongst ourselves, always with open minds to others' ideas, we'll more closely approach greater truth.
If, reading this, you think that we take ourselves far too seriously, well, you're right. Have a cookie.
Onward, to the preseason Roundtable, hosted by the esteemed Notre Dame blog, House That Rock Built. Click through for the original questions, answers, and links to other bloggers' responses.
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).
The six people in this graph who voted Virginia Tech in the Top 10. In the VT voting grid, you can see that a majority of ballots placed the Hokies in the Top 25, in fact.
I am not, nor never was, a big Marcus Vick fan, but I see a team that lost a lot of talent, run by a coach that's (by many reports) coaching less and less and less, while sleazily seeking more and more and more money. The Marcus Vick "incidents" were hardly that; there's a patter of disreputable behavior that permeates that program, and I think we're going to see the seams start to come loose at the edges. It's already happening off the field. I dare say we'll see it on the field this season, too. Put VT down for 4-5 losses this year in my book.
2. What shold 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?
This topic has been one of great concern at Burnt Orange Nation this summer. We've broken down AP Preseason voting patterns, launched a dialogue on this very question with CFR, and agonized over the proper way to evaluate teams in this early season.
Through all the thinking on this topic, one thing has continued to bother me: a liberal interpretation of the ranking of teams, wherein voters are urged only to vote the teams based on "who they think is best," risks giving voters freedom to make wild rankings that delegitimize the poll.
I'm thinking, for example, of the Boi From Troy's decision to vote Southern Cal #1 at the end of the 2005 season. Technically, if he thought the Trojans were the better team, there's -some- legitimacy to that vote, at least based on the principle that underlies voting teams based on who you think is best.
To 99% of the populace, ranking Texas behind Southern Cal is absurd and even offensive. But there is a school of thought that embraces the "rank the teams as who you think is best, period, results be damned." As appealing as that idea is in theory, in practice it's impractical and a slippery slope, as noted.
I think the more reasonable approach has to incorporate some of both the team evaluation and the won-loss calculus (see: Gunslingers' Lebowski ratings). We want to rank the teams that are best, but I dare say my ballot shouldn't reflect the wins and losses that I'm expecting to see throughout the season. Results matter.
In any case, however interesting the idea is to think about, the most important thing is that a voter be open to change as the season gives us more data to work with. The preseason rankings don't matter all that much. If you start the year in the Top 20, you've got a very, very good chance of playing for all the marbles if you make it through your schedule unbeaten. And that's all that really matters.
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?
Clearly, Iowa at #5, followed by Louisville at #7. I've drank slightly different, but similar, glasses of Kool Aid for both teams. Both could embarrass me.
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.
The polling system is fine, more or less. The only real flaw right now is that too many idiots are given votes that matter. The balloting in the Harris Poll needs to be severely reduced, or made to more closely approximate the Masters Coaching Survey that we saw debut last year. Thirty dedicated voters is plenty to sort it out. Having over one hundred is obscene, and impossible to monitor. Voter ballots need to be made public record, and scrutinized. As much as these polls could approximate that aspect of the BlogPoll, the better. Accountability is important.
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?
I wish we'd started Major Applewhite in the Big 12 title game in 2001. So much would have been different, whether he'd won the game or, like Simms, lost it. We'll never know, and I ain't losing any sleep over it. Bill Buckner, Chris Simms - go home. Relax. The nightmares of your fans are over.