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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Commentary

Rankings are premature, give unfair edge


To paraphrase the words of head coach Kevin Sumlin, there are countless predictions and projections to start the season. As the weeks pass, most of them are meaningless in the final games of the year.

He couldn’t be more correct with his assessment.

Preseason rankings set the tone for the season, and can make it awfully difficult for a non-ranked team to climb up. When schools make the AP Top 25 or USA Today Coaches’ Poll in the preseason, it gives them room for error the rest of the way out.

Rankings this early on are a rush to judgment. Speculating about this season based off the previous one is not always the best course of analysis. Voters are assuming these teams are going to do well, and maintain consistency through the duration of at least 12 games.

There is plenty of chemistry yet to be developed on rosters across the country. Gauging a team’s performance after four or five games is more telling than after one or two. The philosophy of most coaches is to schedule a few easy teams in the opening weeks. So early performances are not always indicative of how they will play in more critical situations.

Not to say that Oklahoma, Alabama or LSU don’t deserve the top three spots — they do. But if either of those teams lose early on, they will not fall out of the rankings altogether; they don’t immediately lose their status.

But on the other hand, it is an uphill battle for schools like UH. The Cougars are just outside of being ranked in both polls, but they need to keep winning. Also, schools ahead of them in the rankings need to lose. It is not completely in their control, but UH will eventually crack the top 25.

However, in the instance they lose, there will be no mercy shown. They would free fall from the rankings no matter how high they climbed.

To even the playing field, the AP and Coaches’ polls should be delayed until about the midpoint of the season. That way the top performers would not be carrying any artificial momentum from their high ranking.

The polls and voters are a necessary portion of the twisted college football formula, but their input should be reserved for a later juncture. A midterm progress report would lead to more controversy and intrigue surrounding its first release.

But with today’s state of college football being less about tradition and more about money, rankings must be updated often. They are too important, and serve as a guideline to college football outsiders. If an average fan is looking for a game to watch, chances are they will opt for the matchup between two ranked teams instead of a matchup of non-ranked teams.

No matter how many games deep into the season, an unranked school downing a ranked one is cause for celebration. Rankings can be a point of obsession for some fans with the legitimacy it brings. But there is a weekly demand for rankings, and those desires don’t go unfulfilled.

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