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What Really Grinds My Gears: Pre-Season Polls

The first of what may become a series of posts where I complain about things.  Contain yourselves. -HB


These dahn guys stickin' theah polls in yah face...

Lindy's 8
Athlon 11
Phil Steele 15
SI 13

What the heck are these guys doing?  Lindy's says we're #8, and Phil Steele says we're #15.  Now, these are two of the "most accurate" weathermen in the business, and one of them says bring an umbrella while the other is urging you to stockpile food and head for high ground.  This isn't philosophy, here.  I mean we've got stats and returning starters and coaching changes and historical patterns to base these things on, so why do these guys appear to be waving their arms in the dark trying to catch a bat?

I'll tell you why, because none (translation from the less-hyperbolic "few") of them have defined what the heck it is they're ranking.  The question is:  Is this a power poll or a prediction?  Now, most magazines will tout their accuracy over the past convenient time period, which, if they're comparing to the final AP Poll, means they're calling themselves a predictor.  My complaint is that the same magazines will then talk about their rankings as if they're a power poll, then switch back to talking about how tough someone's schedule is and that's why they're not ranked higher.  From a publication that comes out once a year (most of them), you'd expect a little more precision.

So here's what I'm going to do.  Each week, I'll feed you guys a load of crap in the form of my half-assed stab at the most up-to-date Horn Brain rankings, with a very detailed description of my methodology.  Invariably, since I don't have 3 freakin' months to put these together, I'll have some inconsistencies, which I would certainly encourage you to point out (I won't be this grumpy in the comments section).  You're also welcome to throw up your own Top 25 in the comments if you just find it too different from mine to nitpick (Be warned, if you've never sat down to build your own rankings, it is quite a pain).  I'll see if I can't suck the other authors' lazy butts into this as well.  The goal will be to come up with a very mechanical and precise way to go about putting together a ballot, focusing the controversies inherent in polling into their most basic forms so that they present themselves in separate little packages for our debating pleasure.  We will learn how to think about polls, readers, but we will not learn what to think.  If brainwashing is what you're after, just tune into Herbstreit in December as ESPN convinces you that Ohio State deserves a third shot.

If you're the type that does your homework ahead of time, the first entry in this series will be a pure power poll.  We're ranking football teams in a vacuum.  They do not have schedules, they have only players and coaches.  You rank the 25 best teams.

Oh, and good luck.  It sucks.