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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MZone Top 25...and other thoughts on polls

Below is our latest Top 25 in the MGoBlog Blogpoll following the first weekend's games. As you'll notice by the "movement arrows" on the right, there were some serious changes on our ballot from our pre-season poll -- as there should be. Because, while it's only one game, anything before last weekend is simply based on guess work and reputation. At least now one can start to take actual on the field performance into consideration.

That's why I believe too many AP voters put far too much weight into their pre-season polls and don't make enough changes once the season finally starts. Teams become entrenched and move up or down based on where they started in a poll, movement that has nothing to do with games played, just past reputations and the expectations coming off the previous season. I say this even though the current "system" greatly benefits teams like Michigan.

Take the most recent AP poll: Michigan, which started at #14 in the pre-season AP poll, moved up 4 spots to #10 this week after a less-than-impressive 27-7 victory over SEC doormat Vanderbilt Saturday. That's the second biggest leap in the poll outside of Tennessee's stoning of previously #9 Cal.

Thus, my question is, even as a diehard and extremely biased Michigan fan, what on earth did AP voters see during the Wolverine home opener that led them to believe the Wolverines deserved such a climb into the top 10 teams in the land? Did I miss something? In our MZone poll, we actually dropped Michigan two spots based on that same performance instead of simply moving them up because of where they started and the fact others ranked above them in our initial poll lost.

I think this goes to the other major flaw I've come to realize as someone involved in ranking college football teams all of two ballots: voters don't see shit in terms of games. They can't. It's physically impossible.

Since I no longer live in the state of Michigan, when I don't travel back for the games, I sit on my ass each Saturday in the fall and watch nothing but college football all day long. This past weekend, I watched the M-Vandy game start to finish, 90% of Ohio State-NIU, some Tennessee-Cal, some USC-Arkansas, some ND-G.Tech, flipped between a couple other games before watching a good chunk of Miami-FSU on Monday. In addition, I watched ESPN's College GameDay Final Saturday night (aka the Greatest TV Show Ever Produced).

And still, I didn't see shit. At least not enough to make an informed decision on all the teams I voted on or for. No, I -- like all poll voters -- had to rely on TV highlights and what I read in newspapers and online.

For example, if you saw the Michigan-Vandy highlights, you probably saw Grady punching it in after the impressive first drive, you saw Ecker's leaping catch in the end zone and Manningham's long TD reception sprinkled in with some of the six sacks and recovered fumbles by the Michigan defense. All culminating in a respectable sounding 27-7 final score.

Seeing that, no wonder AP voters moved Michigan up to the top 10. But if you actually watched the entire game, you saw a much more uneven performance. A performance more suited to a ranking somewhere in the mid-teens at best. At least that's what I saw.

So, below is our poll. You'll notice that our previous #1 FSU, which won, actually dropped. Because I thought some teams looked more impressive. Most importantly, we actually tried to "throw out " the preseason ranking as much as possible, giving much more weight to what happened last weekend rather than to what folks thought "should" happen based on two-a-days or spring practice.

Please feel free to leave your feedback on the rankings in the comments section. Would love to hear your thoughts.

1Southern Cal 5
3Ohio State 1
4Florida State 3
5Auburn 2
6Tennessee 18
7Louisiana State 2
9West Virginia--
10Notre Dame 3
12Iowa 2
13Miami (Florida)--
14Virginia Tech 2
15Georgia 7
16Clemson 3
17Michigan 2
18Texas Tech--
19Penn State 4
20Nebraska 6
21Louisville 11
22Minnesota 4
23Cal 2
24Arizona State 7
25Alabama 5

Dropped Out: Oklahoma (#16), Colorado (#25).


WolverineinWA said...

Jesus Christ Yost... It was the first game of the season. Of course things are gonna be a little shaky. Were we watching the same game? Cause I thought the D looked great, even if it was Vandy. I think you'll change your tune after we dominate CM and beat ND.

Are are you trying to protect yourself in case we lose to ND?

Brad said...

Have to agree with wolverineinwa, I thought we showed a lot of promise Saturday. The D is worlds better, and the offense was a few dropped passes away from a 30+ or 35+ performance. Easily correctable. Going back to the D, we won't be pissing leads away again this year, bank on it.

Allaha said...

Yost makes two good points:
1) it is impossible to cast a fully informed ballot, which therefore means a lack of information (and perhaps misinformation) goes into voting -- sort of like national politics.
2) voters tend to give too much weight to their prior choices (i.e., incumbents) -- sort of like national politics.

Given the significance of the preseason polls in determining the bowl matchups, and therefore the national championship game, I am beginning to think the first polls should not come out until early October. I can see many benefits to this change -- notably more information, which should lead to better polls -- and no harm.

Anonymous said...

And because College Gameday Final (a great show because of content, not at all because of anything it adds to that content) didn't show a second of Alabama-Hawaii (somewhat understandable), you drop Alabama 5 spots based solely on the 25-17 final score (a completely understandable action). What you couldn't have seen, though, was that Alabama led 22-3 at one point, and had two questionable TDs taken off the board due to instant replay, before Hawaii made a few big plays to put up 14 points. Just one example of how going by final score alone, a necessary evil in the current system, can be unrealistic. I don't know if Alabama is fit to be #20, but I think if you already thought so, the actual happenings in the Hawaii game wouldn't persuade you that you needed to drop them 5 spots. Not a criticism of you, but a point about the wider system.

King of Ducks said...

i love you guys. 11th for my ducks. if only the ap was as smart as you. jonthan stewart will win the heisman once in the next 3 years

PeckHorn78 said...

Well, it's all about ratings- now that the AP has OBSU and Tejas #1 and #2, irrespectively....

Marcoux said...

I have no problem with you dropping us "all the way" to number 4, which is still higher than even this Nole would rank us. Our defense alone puts us in the top 5. Our offense didn't exactly show-out, but Miami's D is sick as well. I also like your pick of USC at #1. There appears to be very little drop-off in talent, as opposed to what most expected, and all they've reeled in the past 4 years is loads of 5-star talent. With a pitiful Pac 10 schedule, they may run the table yet again. And I LOVE Notre Dame at #10. I look forward to watching Penn State bitch slap Quinn & posse this weekend. Great list overall.

matt said...

wait, wait, wait...you're bitching about michigan moving up four spots, when you move tennessee up EIGHTEEN spots in your own poll?

dude - you're doing the same exact thing - seeing a traditional power play a good game and immediately jumping on the bandwagon. i don't know if tennessee is a top ten team or not, but if you're willing to bump them up 18 spots, basically based on one good (home) performance and a reputation as being good, well, don't blame the voters for doing that for michigan.

and for the record, i wouldn't have bumped michigan up to the top ten, either...

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to the Ric Flair method of ranking: To BE the man, you have to BEAT the man. Therefore, Texas is still #1.

beast in 'bama said...

Yost, I have one major problem with your poll - dropping Louisville 11 spots from 10 to 21 (and I'm not a U of L fan).

I assume you dropped the Cardinals 11 spots following a 59-28 rivarly win over Kentucky due to the fact that they lost their star running back in the 3rd quarter.

Now I think we'll all agree that Louisville won't be the same team after losing Mr. Bush, but that drop in performance should come LATER. What a poll should reflect is the most recent performance of teams, not their projected performance based on injury to key personnel. That's what the oddsmakers at sports books do...

The King said...

Yost, why did we drop Louisville 11 spots for obliterating an SEC opponent? We barely beat our SEC opponent and we moved up.

Is it because Michael Bush got hurt? Maybe the guys behind him will be just as good, right?

harry hasselhoff said...

King, I've got to disagree. We didn't barely beat Vandy. We were a couple dropped passes from hanging 40+ on them, and other than a gimmick they couldn't do squat against our D. That's also why I disagree with Yost's assessment of Michigan as looking less then impressive. Given they have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and are learning a new run-blocking scheme, I thought Michigan looked good.

The early problems with the offense will get sorted out with some playing time. The playcalling was actually pretty good and nobody would be bitching about it if the plays had been executed better. Again, its just a matter of playing time. Remember its the first game of the season.

At least watch another game before dropping them three slots and boosting TN up 18 spots for beating a terribly overrated Cal. Based on your criteria, OSU should fall several more spots for allowing Garrett Wolfe to run all over them.

Anonymous said...

I heard depending who wins this week between ohio state and texas, Northern Illinois or Rice will be next weeks #2 team in the nation.

Ungar Kelt said...

I still fail to see what was so disturbing about Michigan's effort versus Vandi. It is obvious that this was a game where the offense wanted to work on the "zone blocking" defense, and that is why they ran the ball 51 times and only threw 22 passes, about a 70-30 split. Why else would we run Hart 31 times when he has so many capable backups?

After a quick glance at last year's split, it was more like 60%-40% or less in some games (against MSU, when Hart had 218 net yards, the rush/pass split was 54%-46%).

I think this week the O-line will feel more comfortable with zone blocking and the offense will be more pass oriented than last week. I expect less dropped passes and more downfield passes.

Of course, this forum will be rampant with complaints no matter what the effor is. Too many people are getting ulcers over a relatively smooth "preseason" win margin of 20 points over Vandi. I think a lot of Michigan fans enjoy wallowing in self-pity, and anything less than a 84-0 drubbing of CMU will make them feel good.

nittney lyin' said...

Agreed on the over-stickiness of pre-season polls, but agreed with bama and king on Louisville. They scored 59 and rushed for 363, almost 250 of that by Bush's backups. Kentucky stinks, but are they that much worse than Vandy? Bush is a loss, but that's a system team. I'm still impressed until I'm shown otherwise.

F Clemson said...

What's with the freakin' love for KKKlimpson? Jesus, they played Florida Atlantic/Broward High, Tammy threw his headset at the ref in a tantrum over a fumble call in a game he was already winning big in, and you guys splooge over them in your poll. Once again, the overated Athletically Challenged Conference gets something else to inaccruately claim conference superiority over.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but ND will be slapping Penn State all over the field this weekend.


Anonymous said...

West Virginia # 9?

If WV played Miami, FSU, Michigan, ND, Penn State or Nebraska on a neutral field, who would you bet the farm on?