Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Game of AP Poll Leapfrog

I can hear it sitting in the living room at my house in North Tempe.

The cries are ringing out around Sun Devil Nation: "HOW DID EAST CAROLINA JUMP US IN THE POLLS?"

If you haven't seen it, the Pirates from mighty Conference USA (where its 10,000 fans at a Rice game or your money back!) did vault themselves from the "received votes" category to #14 in the nation, one spot ahead of the Sun Devils.

There's a pretty logical explanation for what's going on with this. The AP poll has gone completely batty in 2008, but ECU does have the mettle to justify their ranking so far this year.

If you've watched either of the Pirates games this season (and you should have, they've been in our Viewing Guide twice this season), you've seen a scrappy team of talented and speedy players completely beat Virginia Tech at their own game and then completely overpower #8 West Virginia at home. No one has done what ECU did to the Mountaineers in years. They've got two ATS wins over top 25 teams. Both of those games, P.S., were on national TV.

On the other hand, ASU has a win over FCS Northern Arizona and a rout of Stanford, a team we should have beaten anyway. The Devils and Rudy Carpenter are getting some nice pub on the internet about their 2-0 start, but it's not as if the pollsters have seen Arizona State play, and they wont until September 20.

Also, let's take a look at some of the other weirdness that has gone on in the first three weeks of polling that points to the AP Poll going bananas this season:
  • Clemson began the season at #9, then dropped out of the poll completely after their loss to #24 Alabama.
  • Pittsburgh was ranked. Period.
  • #1 Georgia was bumped to #3 after a win over Georgia Southern in week 1. They were replaced by USC, who was #3, probably because their win over Virginia was more decisive.
  • UCLA goes from getting 6 points in the preseason poll to #23 after beating Tennessee but then gets dropped out this week when they had a bye.
  • Ohio State was bumped down two spots to #5 today because Ohio kept it close, but #20 Wake Forest needed a last second field goal at home to beat Ole Miss and didn't move.
  • #8 West Virginia drops from that spot to just barely edging UCLA out to stay in the poll after losing to East Carolina.
It's also worth noting that the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, which is of course the poll in which coaches don't actually vote but rather have their school's SID usually fill it out, shows major disparities between their rankings and the AP. This week, ASU is up to #13 (AP #15), Clemson is still in it at #23 (AP unranked), West Virginia is at #24 (AP #25) and most notably, those pesky Pirates only cracked #20 (once again, #14 AP).

You know what the whole moral of this story is? I've been saying it for years: I'm glad the BCS doesn't release rankings until midway through the season; the human polls should follow suit. I firmly believe that the AP and Coaches' polls shouldn't come out for the first time until week 4, when every team in the country has played at least three games. It makes so much more sense when the media and everyone else has seen a good amount of film on each team before ranking them.


Mark said...

I refuse to freak out about rankings in week 2 of the season...that said, the more I hang around the blogosphere, the more I like Sunday Morning Quarterback's (now Dr. Saturday at Yahoo!) method of ranking teams. Do it ONLY based on what a team has accomplished so far. Early on, the rankings will look pretty wacky, but it makes the most sense and keeps you from those crazy "Yeah, but OF COURSE X would beat Y" type arguments. By that test...I would expect ECU to be in the top 3, if not #1 when he puts his rankings out tomorrow.

rdbruce said...

for the record...UGA only fell back to #2, not #3