One of the worst aspects of the 16-year BCS era was the pre-eminence of the polls, especially in the latter eight years, when polls accounted for two-thirds of the formula and essentially decided who'd play for the title every year.
The best thing about the Playoff era just might be the obsolescence of the polls. And considering how the polls have been hijacked by one particular conference, that is a welcome change.
Consider the latest AP poll. Is there any justification that eight -- eight! -- SEC teams are ranked in the top 25? This after the SEC went 6-6 against non-conference opponents in Week 1 and has yet to defeat a Power 5 opponent currently ranked in the top 25?
Even after near escapes at home against Appalachian State and Nicholls State, Tennessee and Georgia are still ranked 12th and 14th, respectively. With wins over UMass and North Texas, Florida is deemed good enough to crack the top 20. Ole Miss, despite two losses, is still ranked.
The residual effect of such rankings is that, since the SEC is about to begin conference play, it guarantees that its teams will continue to be disproportionally represented in the polls -- as most of these matchups will pit "ranked teams" against each other. And based on the performance of its teams in the season's first three weeks, there's no justification that more than half of SEC's 14 teams should be ranked.
Thankfully in the Playoff era, the selection committee is free to dispense with any influence from the polls. In the two years so far it has largely done that, fashioning its own rankings without any preconceived bias from the very flawed voting process.
The problem with the polls - the coaches poll is even worse than the AP, but I digress - is that their voters are now greatly swayed by a narrative presented by ESPN and its affiliates, which includes the SEC Network. ESPN has a fiduciary duty to pump up the SEC because of its business relationship, and most writers and coaches (and their proxies) for the most part eat up the propaganda presented by the "Worldwide Leader" as if it's just plain information.
The lack of effort and independent thought by by the voters are astounding. How else do you explain the following in this week's AP poll:
- Alabama is overwhelmingly ranked ahead of Louisville, even though the Tide barely got by Ole Miss, a team that was beaten more soundly by Florida State, which was routed by Louisville
- Tennessee is ranked one spot in front of Miami, which routed Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., while the Vols needed OT to beat the Mountaineers at home
- Texas is one spot ahead of San Diego State, which is unbeaten and beat Cal whereas the Longhorns lost to the Golden Bears
- Ole Miss and Oklahoma are still ranked even though both are 1-2
No need to answer that. It's a rhetorical question anyway. Trying to make sense of these polls is a waste of time. Fortunately, they no longer have a hand in deciding the national championship.
Game of the Week
Wisconsin at Michigan State (-6), noon ET, BTN
Both Wisconsin and Michigan State are unbeaten, with wins over LSU and Notre Dame, respectively. Yet this game is relegated to the noon window on BTN, instead of ABC later in the day (you can thank Jim Harbaugh for that, as Michigan somehow ended up as the 3:30 p.m. ABC telecast). Mark Dantonio will take this as a personal affront, but he had better find a way to solve new Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook, who'll be making his first career start.
Also keep an eye on
Stanford (-3) at UCLA, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
UCLA has been touted as an emerging power ever since Jim Mora was hired as coach five years ago. Yet every Bruins season in his tenure has ended in disappointment. UCLA made the Pac-12 title game in his first season but has failed to win the South Division since. He has also never beaten Stanford in five tries, losing by double digits each time except in the 2012 conference title game.
LSU (-3.5) at Auburn, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN
Les Miles is very much back on the hot seat a year after he was nearly fired. The Bayou Tigers are off to a shaky start this season, having lost to Wisconsin and struggled against Mississippi State, thanks to subpar quarterback play once again. Auburn's Gus Malzahn is likewise in trouble and he may need an upset of LSU to fend off the mob that's calling for his job three years after he led War Eagle to the 2013 BCS title game.
Player to watch
Penn State at Michigan (-18.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Only one primarily defensive player has ever won the Heisman Trophy -- Charles Woodson in 1997, beating out the likes of Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf and Randy Moss. His alma mater might very well come up the next one in Jabrill Peppers, a former defensive back converted into linebacker who can do it all. Last week, he nearly single-handedly brought Michigan back from an early deficit against Colorado, punctuating his performance with a punt return for a touchdown. Expect more of the same this week against Penn State.