Polls after Week 2 make no sense

Welcome to the new wave of ready-made quarterbacks like USC’s Matt Barkley and Michigan’s Tate Forcier. There are more like them on the way. Why the Week 2 polls are a disaster, giving the Buckeyes a break and more in the 5 Thoughts for Week 2.

1. September poll problems reign

Come on, people. It’s only Week 2 and you’re already screwing up the polls and making a mockery of the system once again. Yes, I do this exact blurb every year, but the polls are particularly galling for more reasons than normal at this time of year. There are subjective issues, objective issues and offensive issues that go to show the way of determining a college football national champion deserves to be ridiculed.

Let’s start with the basics. I get it that it’s important to rank teams based on how good they are at the moment, but after just two weeks, it’s all about what has happened on the field. There hasn’t been an A beat C, C beat B, B beat A situation yet to play around with; It’s cut and dried. Houston, we have a problem. (I’m so sorry for that. I’m even more sorry for leaving it in.)

Houston didn’t just beat the No. 5 team in the nation, Oklahoma State; it beat the No. 5 team in the nation on the road. There was nothing fluky about the clean 10-point victory, yet the Cowboys are 12th in the coaches’ poll (the one that matters) and 16th in the AP (the one that doesn’t), while Houston is unranked, UNRANKED, in the coaches’ poll, technically getting the No. 27 slot, and 21st in the AP.

Someone needs to be fired for this. The college football world needs to know who’s doing this and who missed one of the biggest upsets of the day — it was on the news and in all the papers — and voted without actually paying attention to what happened on Saturday. If you think Oklahoma State is a better team than Houston, that’s fine, but you can’t rank the Cowboys ahead of the Cougars right now. I think Oklahoma is better than BYU, but it’s ignoring what happened to rank the Sooners ahead of the Cougars at the moment. Down the road is a different story.

And now comes the theoretical portion of the program. Ohio State loses in a last-minute heartbreaker to a USC team that’s No. 3 in both polls, received three first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and one in the AP, yet dropped to 11th. Why? It’s not as if the Buckeyes lost to Central Michigan or Louisiana-Lafayette, and it’s not as if they laid an Oregon-vs.-Boise State-like egg. If USC is three, then Ohio State, theoretically, might be four, and should at least be hovering around the top five. Eleventh is a knee-jerk, the-team-lost-so-it-needs-to-be-dropped reaction. Meanwhile, Ole Miss looked like total garbage in its opening day game against a Memphis team that got drilled by Middle Tennessee, yet is a firm six in the coaches’ poll and fifth in the AP.

Clemson lost a heartbreaker on the road to Georgia Tech yet got dumped out of the coaches’ poll entirely, failing to receive one vote. Auburn has been unbelievable in the first two weeks against Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State and can’t get a sniff of the top 25. South Carolina beat N.C. State on the road and lost in the final moments at Georgia, and for that it received one vote in the coaches’ poll while Georgia is 20th.

Would you take North Carolina, which needed everything in the bag to get by UConn, yet is ranked 19th in the coaches’ poll, over an unranked Michigan? With the way Notre Dame’s offense is playing, would you take Ole Miss, LSU (a joke at the moment at No. 7), Georgia Tech, Utah (which is not the Utah of last year, for those not paying attention), Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon State or Missouri, all ranked teams, over the unranked Irish? You might, but you’d be wrong on roughly seven of the nine head-to-head matchups.

So to go forward, I demand that all 59 college football head coaches who allegedly vote in the USA Today College Football Poll formally explain why Oklahoma State deserves to be ranked higher than Houston. I want each voter to name the starting quarterback of each of the 25 teams he voted for, I want each voter to be able to discuss what happened in each game involving the top 25 teams, and I demand they be held accountable for this joke of a Week 2 ranking. Here are the coaches who are determining the college football season without actually knowing anything that happens on the college football Saturdays. Demand more of them.

Robb Akey, Idaho; Gary Andersen, Utah State; David Bailiff, Rice; Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; Tim Beckman, Toledo; Bobby Bowden, Florida State; Tim Brewster, Minnesota; J.D. Brookhart, Akron; Rich Brooks, Kentucky; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Neil Callaway, UAB; Dave Christensen, Wyoming; Dave Clawson, Bowling Green; Mario Cristobal, Florida International; David Cutcliffe, Duke; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Butch Davis, North Carolina; Todd Dodge, North Texas; Ron English, Eastern Michigan; Larry Fedora, Southern Miss; Al Golden, Temple; Jim Grobe, Wake Forest; Jim Harbaugh, Stanford; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Brian Kelly, Cincinnati; Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville; Mike Leach, Texas Tech; Jim Leavitt, South Florida; Bill Lynch, Indiana; Les Miles, LSU; Dan Mullen, Mississippi State; Rick Neuheisel, UCLA; Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; Tom O’Brien, N.C. State; Stan Parrish, Ball State; Gary Patterson, TCU; Bo Pelini, Nebraska; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Mark Richt, Georgia; Mike Riley, Oregon State; Rich Rodriguez, Michigan; Nick Saban, Alabama; Mike Sanford, UNLV; Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Mike Sherman, Texas A&M; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Kevin Sumlin, Houston; Jeff Tedford, California; Bob Toledo, Tulane; Jim Tressel, Ohio State; DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State; Charlie Weatherbie, ULM; Charlie Weis, Notre Dame; Tommy West, Memphis; Paul Wulff, Washington State; Ron Zook, Illinois.

— Pete Fiutak

A fresh, new wave

What Tate Forcier and Matt Barkley did as true freshmen on Saturday, leading Michigan and USC, respectively, to game-winning drives in the waning moments was miraculous. It was also a sign of things to come.

Today’s rookie is nothing like when you grew up. Remember when you were an athlete, 10 years or maybe a generation ago? There were no personal trainers or position coaches. Heck, you felt fortunate if you had a bench press and some weights in the garage. Traveling teams? That was when your buddies from a neighboring town called a pick-up game. Things have changed dramatically over time for gifted young athletes. Today’s blue-chip high school players are far better prepared for success than even college players from 20 or 25 years ago. At a young age, they’ve got access to trainers, incredible facilities, position coaches, and camps, such as Football University or SPARQ Training, which help kids reach their potential at younger and younger stages. Progress? For the athlete, you bet. For the cash- and time-strapped parent, naturally, you might get a different response.

What you witnessed out of Forcier and Barkley over the weekend was a sign of the times. Yes, they’re only teenagers, but their poise under pressure and physical maturity is no Herschel Walker-like anomaly that occurs once in a lifetime. It’s by design, a long and well-orchestrated process that allows 18- and 19-year olds to perform like seasoned veterans, even in the face of daunting surroundings. Get used to it. Somewhere in America, there are 12- and 13-year olds who watched Forcier and Barkley, knowing that their opportunity to defy the laws of maturity is not as far off as it used to be.

— Richard Cirminiello

3. Ohio State deserves a break

Let’s look at truly bad and embarrassing losses from this past Saturday; the kinds of losses that really make a program look foolish and grossly overrated:

  • Oklahoma State vs. Houston
  • Michigan State vs. Central Michigan
  • UAB vs. Southern Methodist — ouch!
  • Tennessee vs. UCLA — AGAIN!
  • Florida State vs. Jacksonville State — Oh, the Noles won? It only felt like a loss, then. Sorry. (Sort of.)
  • Maryland vs. James Madison — Oh, Maryland won? Sure seemed embarrassing to the Terps, anyway.
  • Colorado @ Toledo (Friday night)
  • Kansas State @ Louisiana-Lafayette — Remember where KSU stood in the college football world five years ago?

    Those are the kinds of losses that make an observer mutter, “Gee, what a fraud!” Those are the kinds of setbacks that suggest five words: “Not. Ready. For. Prime. Time.”

    Notice how Ohio State’s three-point loss to mighty USC isn’t part of that list. Also notice how Florida State, of all the teams who embarrassed themselves this past Saturday, is the only one to win more than one conference championship this decade. Ohio State has won three conference titles in the decade, and more if one counts shared titles in which OSU didn’t receive the official Big Ten BCS bowl bid (settling instead for the technically-designated at-large bid). Florida has won only three SEC titles in the decade, ditto for LSU. Texas, for all the 10-win seasons cranked out in this decade, has only one conference title. One. West Virginia, in the Big East? Two. Michigan? Two. Ohio State is in pretty elite company when it comes to winning conference titles, the truest measure of college football excellence and consistency.

    Maybe, one of these decades or centuries, football fans can appreciate what it truly means to underachieve, squander talent and merit stern criticism. The words “Ohio State” do not belong in the same sentence as those ugly and depressing terms. Sadly, one doubts that such a learning process will manifest itself. You can lead a horse to water …

    — Matt Zemek

    4. Michigan feels the need for speed

    It’s easy to pile on Ohio State for its loss to Southern California Saturday night, and the Buckeyes did cough one up at home against the Trojans, but the fact is OSU and the rest of the Big Ten are not in the class of ‘SC or the SEC, for that matter. The difference is in the athletic ability of the conference’s linemen, who can’ t match up with their more talented rivals.

    Even though Michigan is a long way from being able to compete with the nation’s elite — win over Notre Dame or no win over Notre Dame — Rich Rodriguez has the right idea about what is needed to lift the Wolverines back into the national discussion. There needs to be speed at all positions, not just on the outside offensively and defensively. There must be depth and athletic ability up front, so that better teams can’t outrun the Big Ten teams. Yes, Michigan is extremely light along the defensive line, and ND exploited that, but Rodriguez wants fast players everywhere, and that is the template being followed by the teams in the top five.

    Ohio State has the best talent in the Big Ten, but it couldn’t subdue a Trojans team that isn’t as experienced as its predecessors, particularly on defense, and allowed a freshman QB to launch a huge late drive to win the game — on the road. Ohio State had its chance and couldn’t win. Maybe it gets another one, but don’t count on the Buckeyes’ delivering. Meanwhile, Michigan has an interesting formula that might just pay off big down the road.

    — Michael Bradley

    5. Big East or Mountain West? None of the above?

    Listen up to a novel idea concerning the BCS, as it pertains to the Mountain West and the Big East: When the contract comes up, deny an automatic berth to both conferences.

    I know, fire up the hate mail machine. Honestly, ask yourself whether either of these two leagues deserves to send its champion to one of the marquee postseason games, year after year. Some seasons, it’s obvious, like Utah in 2008 or West Virginia in 2005. In many others, however, it’s not. One of the big stinks from the Mountain West is that it’s every bit as good as the Big East. I get that, but is that the right basis for an argument? The Big East lacks a superpower and is only modestly talented from top to bottom, so trumping it isn’t exactly a convincing selling point.

    I love what the Mountain West is doing already in 2009. BYU, TCU, and Utah are all ranked, with the heads of Oklahoma and Virginia hanging above the fireplace. Yet, two-thirds of the league is still composed of New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State, San Diego State, UNLV and Air Force. Ehhh. That’s just not strong enough to warrant an automatic berth. Rather than giving it to the Mountain West, pull it from the Big East, which would open up a fifth at-large spot. If that happens to get filled by 11-1 BYU or 10-2 Cincinnati, fantastic. You earned it. However, I still need more convincing that the totality of these two leagues warrants the same privileges as the SEC, Big 12, Pac-10, Big Ten, and ACC.

    — Richard Cirminiello