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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

GUEST POST: The Final USA TODAY Coaches' Poll

As we at the M Zone slack off as the holidays near (not unlike a Michigan defense in the 4th quarter), luckily BaggyPantsDevil is filling the pipeline with another guest post. Please pardon any spacing errors as cut and paste out of an email sometimes doesn't translate well here on Blogger.

The Coaches' Poll (I Guess it Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time)

This year’s final coaches poll included—for the first time—how the coaches voted. I was curious to see if there were any anomalies in the voting. There are seven Michigan opponents on the Board of Coaches, two coaches apparently felt Michigan was indeed better than its record, Terry Hoeppner voted Michigan at 14 and Randy Walker voted Michigan at 16. Maybe Terry Hoeppner is just trying to make sure Michigan continues it’s tradition of not running up the score against Indiana and playing the second string in the second half.

What was kind of interesting to me concerned Oregon. They are at 5 in the final poll, but three Big Ten coaches voted them somewhat lower. I think this is interesting since the Big Ten as a conference stood to gain from Ohio State getting the BCS at large bid instead of Oregon. Jim Tressel—whose team was pretty much “competing” with Oregon for that at large bid—voted Oregon at 9. Also, Barry Alvarez and Randy Walker—who through a domino effect also gained from Ohio State getting a BCS at large bid—also voted Oregon lower at 8 and 9 respectively.

Charlie Weis apparently knew—like everyone else in the country—that Notre Dame was getting an at large bid, he had Oregon at 6. Lloyd Carr voted with the average and had Oregon at 5. I can only guess that his integrity might be even greater than we think or that he feels the season’s a wash and isn’t too worried about getting into a “better” bowl game.

Now, I don’t think Oregon is more “deserving” or that they’ve been cheated out of something and definitely don’t want to listen to them or anyone else from the PAC-10 whine about the “east coast bias” anymore. Besides, PAC-10 coaches did the exact same thing! Notre Dame was 6 in the final poll, but Mike Bellotti voted them 9, Jeff Tedford Voted them 10, Bill Doba voted them 12 and Tyrone Willingham voted them 9. Of course, since Washington is 2-9, Willingham’s vote may be for more personal reasons.

Now it shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone that this sort of thing is happening. The coaches poll has always struck me as a bit suspicious, yes, I’m looking at you Phillip Fulmer. I can even understand the logic behind getting the gentlemen who know the most about college football to vote. But, it’s called CONFLICT OF INTEREST people! Plus, the coaches are asked to vote during the busiest time of the year for them. I don’t have enough time to watch enough college football games to make me feel comfortable picking the best 25 teams, I know coaches during the season have even less.

Although the Big Ten coaches don’t look so hot, I do find it suspicious that that PAC-10 coaches all picked on the same team, Notre Dame. Personally, I think that was a tactical mistake, Notre Dame was getting into BCS game this year, PAC-10 coaches might have been more successful targeting Ohio State. So, was there collusion on the part of the PAC-10 coaches as to which team to try to drop in the polls? And, was it Ty Willingham who suggested Notre Dame?

What’s really shocking to me is that there’s barely a mention of this in the sports media. What’s the point of freedom of the press—and yeah, I know it’s just football and not really that important—if the press doesn’t go after a story about how college coaches vote in the polls to benefit their teams. Right now, the sports media is too busy gushing about the USC-Texas match-up in the Rose Bowl. It makes me wonder, are these guys in journalism or are they in marketing? It seems like the relationship between ESPN and the NCAA is as incestuous as the relationship between coaches and the Coaches Poll.

Anyway, I still think Notre Dame-Ohio State is a better matchup for college football even though I view it like the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, I can’t say I really want either side to win.


BaggyPantsDevil said...

A couple of additions to this. First, you can go here:


to view the coaches ballots.

Second, a couple of guys with far more time on their hands did a much more thorough statistical analysis of the voting patterns. Go here to see their work.


Yeah, I know they’re Notre Dame guys, sorry about that.

And, finally, these voting patterns have finally merited some mention in the sports media. Stewart Mandel at SI.com briefly discusses it here:


The thing is, he references the above mentioned Notre Dame blog and is pretty much just parroting what they wrote. How is it that bloggers have more time to do a fairly thorough analysis of voting patterns, while the people whose day job is to write about sports can’t?

Yost said...


As usual, good stuff. I wrote a very lengthy comment to your post but *&^% didn't go through so I probably won't put up whole thing again. But, in a nutshell...

I think ND should be much lower than they are b/c their best "win" is a close LOSS to SC. And that loss to MSU at home now looks terrible. The only ranked team they beat was us. Put it this way, if they wore "Minnesota" jerseys and had same schedule, they'd be #12ish.

Re: some votes...

* Gary Barnett didn't even rank us. Wonder if that has something to do with his old NW days.
* Larry Blakeney at Troy State (I didn't know HS coaches voted) didn't rank us but did rank Nevada, Toledo and our Alamo opponent, Nebraska
* Also giving Michigan no love were Pat Hill, Houston Nutt, Bob "Where my secret plane" Petrino and Frank "Get me a drink" Solich
* Most telling to me was Tressel voting us 21 but Iowa 20 even though they crushed Iowa and just snuck past us. I think this says a lot about what he thinks of the program these days.

Benny Friedman said...

The bluegraysky analysis is excellent. It just shows how bogus all these polls are and the fact that college football uses polls to determine its championship contenders is the single worst thing in all of sports.
What it doesn't mention is how these coaches likely don't even fill out the ballot. It's most likely done by a staff memeber who actually has the time to do it. I believe the coaches are too busy with game planning and practice to worry about whether Louisville is better than Texas Tech.
Finally, the reason why this analysis wasn't performed by an actual sports reporter is the same reason why a comedy show - "The Daily Show" - is the only TV program out there documenting the hypocrisy in Washington. CNN, Fox, MsNBC - they just take everyone at their word and that's because reporters are incredibly lazy and are satisfied to just take whatever is given to them and spew it out.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Benny, you are dead on balls accurate about the state of journalism in America today. Apparently, only a "fake" news show satirizing the news is capable of providing any real news commentary and it takes bloggers and fans to look beyond the hype of the sports world.

Stewart Mandel even admitted his own analysis was "informal" and said the Blue-Gray Sky guys have "significantly more time on their hands." They shouldn't have more time to devote to this, Stewart, this is YOUR job!

We should be doing the informal analysis, while the professionals should be digging deeper.

UOStudent said...

As to the Pac-10's voting down of Notre Dame, I don't think it had anything to do with them trying to get a better BCS spot, as it did with the fact that the Pac-10 plays ND the most out of all the conferences, so they know best as to how well they play. The coaches may not watch some tape of all of the schools in the country, but I guarantee you they look at tape of the schools in their conference. They probably just saw ND for what they are this year, overrated. As yost said, put them in any other jersey, and they'd finished 12ish. Their most notable victory is against you guys, and since then, they haven't done anything except lose to MSU, choke in the 4th quarter against USC, and barely squeak out victories against sub-500 teams like Syracuse and Stanford. They clearly aren't as strong as a team like Oregon, Auburn, or Ohio State. In the end, they'll be exposed for the weak team they are, as Ohio State will roll all over them.

BaggyPantsDevil said...


Actually, Notre Dame played the identical number of Big Ten teams with the identical result, two wins and one lose. I too think Notre Dame is overrated. I also think that the people running college football want them to succeed and want them in a BCS bowl game. Consider all that LSU has gone through this year—real life stuff, not football field stuff—and that they finished at 10-2, yet the feel good story of the year is that Notre Dame is back.

I also think it’s a little naive to believe that with the entire country—to include college coaches—jumping on the Notre Dame bandwagon, PAC-10 coaches are the only ones who actually watched tapes of all the Notre Dame games and see them for what they are.

The three PAC-10 coaches who did not play Notre Dame ranked them the lowest (9, 10, and 12). Tyrone Willingham also ranked them 9, but Walt Harris—who just lost to them—ranked them 5 which is higher than the poll ranking.

It’s pretty obvious, considering the significant differences in voting by conference and how those differences would benefit each coach, that both PAC-10 coaches and Big Ten coaches ranked teams so either Oregon or Ohio State respectively would get the at large bid and their team would then get into an upgraded bowl game.