CRAWFORD | Preseason polls are fun, but in playoff era, don't ma - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Preseason polls are fun, but in playoff era, don't matter anymore

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Since 1936, The Associated Press has published a college football poll. Since 1950, it has conducted a preseason poll.

In college football, it's nearly sacred. There's no AP poll in The Bible, but there's a pretty well-known Top 10. The AP poll is as much a part of college football as the Rose Bowl, fight songs and cheating.

The poll has varied over the years, from 20 teams to 10, to the Top 25 poll we have today. No matter its size, for most of college football history, it was one of the primary designators of the national champion. Its chief rival, the coaches poll begun in 1950 by United Press International and continued in recent years by ESPN-USA Today, is another.

But here's something to remember as you debate where the AP preseason poll this season got it right or didn't.

It doesn't matter. Same for the coaches' poll. Same for any other poll devised by any group of people -- save for one.

That would be the ranking released by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee on Oct. 28, then every Tuesday thereafter until the announcement of the playoff pairings on Dec. 7.

I'm not saying the AP poll will go away. It'll always remain relevant, as it has in basketball. The RPI hasn't rendered the AP and coaches' polls worthless in basketball. But the RPI isn't like this football ranking.

This ranking by football's selection committee will be binding. At the end of the season, teams ranked 1-4 will be in the playoff, period. This isn't the RPI.

The traditional AP poll way of doing things -- you start with a certain ranking and have to lose to fall -- isn't necessarily in play anymore. In fact, we can't really be sure how rankings will fluctuate week to week.

All we know is what the committee says will be its guiding principles: "strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents (without inserting margin of victory) and other relevant factors that may have affected a team's performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance."

Pretty sweeping.

In recent years, the BCS ratings have accorded the coaches' poll an amazing one-third of the final ranking. A human poll, either the AP or one that took its place when the AP no longer wanted its poll used, has made up another one-third of the formula.

Not anymore. Now, there is no formula.

The selection committee will meet in person in Dallas each Monday and Tuesday during the season. At their disposal will be a wealth of resources -- video, statistics, their own opinions and expertise, a data platform from SportSource Analytics to provide any kind of statistical comparison they want to do. (An aside, you might as well follow SportSource Analytics on Twitter now. They're already breaking down statistics on the coming season on their Twitter website SportSourceA).

How much will AP rankings factor into their own strength of schedule projections? We'll have to see about that. AP could be, like the RPI, "baked" into analysis that the selection committee gets.

But will the AP or coaches poll be used as a guide? I think one or either could be a part of the discussion, but neither poll will be a starting point. The committee's will rank teams via secret ballot in small groupings, and each is debated against the team above it and below it.

In reality, AP preseason poll position hasn't counted for much in the BCS era. Since 1998, five schools outside the preseason Top 10 wound up winning the national championship, while only two preseason No. 1 teams won it.

The AP poll will always be a ranking of interest, because of its its history.

And the preseason poll is always welcome as a sure sign that we're about ready to kick things off.

But its days as a major player in the championship process are over. It's just one more thing to get used to in the college football playoff era. There's a new ranking in town. And when it comes to the playoff, it's the only one that matters.

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