See, boys. That wasn't so hard after all, was it?
The final coaches' votes in the USA Today football poll were released Monday morning, and several amazing things happened.
For one, nobody died, or lost their jobs, or got put on probation, or lost a punting recruit. For two, no angry e-mails from psychologically arrested fans. For three, nothing much else.
The thing the coaches had always resisted -- public scrutiny in the way their SIDs, video coordinators and sandwich guys vote -– was finally introduced, and the thing we learned is that their opinions pretty much square with everyone else's. When everyone else is looking, anyway.
In other words, there was no visible fraud, like there was last year. In fact, there seems to have been almost none at all, which shows us that in the light of day, people don't need ski masks.
There were, however, some kinky twists in the ballots that may help us understand what it is the coaches want from their delegated voters (or in the case of coaches from mid-level Division 1-A schools, either themselves or their oldest kids).
For one, most every one of the 62 coaches liked USC, which only figures, and the seven who didn't like them quite so much liked them right after Texas. Dick Tomey of San Jose State, who worked for Mack Brown last year, voted Texas. So did Randy Walker of Northwestern, who didn't. The other five were either Big 12 or Texas coaches, most notably Gary Barnett of Colorado, who damned well better have voted for Texas after what he has been through.
As for Mack and Watson, the Brown Brothers, they both voted for USC, so as not to look, well, small.
But that's not where the fun is. Anyone who didn't vote for USC or Texas should have had his desk confiscated, and nobody was that loopy. In fact, nearly every coach agreed that Penn State should be third, with the only odd choice -- Auburn –- coming from Arkansas' Houston Nutt.
So all the usual suspects ended up about where they should. You can, however, dig a little and find other hidden patterns in this example of string theory with a dry erase board.
For instance, most of the other BCS-quality coaches in the poll found solace in voting themselves fourth. Tommy Tuberville (Auburn), Larry Coker (Miami), Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) all found fourth to be accurate assessments of their own teams' relative worth. Third would have been showy, but fourth ... yeah, they could get away with that one.
But that was as close as things got to out-and-out we-earned-it-damnit partiality, unless you want to count the sole vote for Rutgers, which came from Greg Schiano (Rutgers).
While Auburn fourth was probably a stretch, Tuberville is probably still cranky about last year's nationally sanctioned backhand.
Bobby Bowden put Florida State 23rd, two places higher than his son Tommy, and five places below Frank Beamer, who put his own Virginia Tech team 11th. In fact, most of the coaches were extraordinarily generous with the Seminoles, given that they are a BCS school; Tyrone Willingham (Washington) had them 15th, which is pretty much a huge oversell based on the way Florida State backed into the ACC title game.
On the other hand, Florida State was also the only BCS school to be left off not just one ballot but six – -Mack Brown, Walker, Bob Stoops, Bill Doba (Washington State), John L. Smith (Michigan State unless Steve Mariucci rekindles a hankering for the college game) and Joe Tiller (Purdue).
Then again, Willingham was pretty generous throughout. He voted Notre Dame ninth, which was downright milk-of-human-kindness stuff considering what happened to him last year. He even saw fit to spend a 23rd-place vote on Fresno State, which is more than Pat Hill (Fresno State) could do.
In fact, there were lots of examples of this sort of magnanimity. Cal was a borderline high 20s team, but not according to Jeff Tedford. Barnett didn't vote for Colorado, Chuck Amato didn't vote for North Carolina State, Jeff Bower didn't vote for Southern Mississippi, and Sonny Lubick didn't vote for Colorado State. All of them are going to bowl games.
None of the five MAC coaches voted for any of the 30 or so MAC teams. Even votes that seemed like partiality (Dan Hawkins had Boise State 25th, as did Dan McCarney with Iowa State) had other voters voting them in as well.
Not one bit of unmitigated nonsense, in all. Sort of sucks the fun out of the whole exercise. I mean, why make them show their cards if they're all going to turn over ace-king?
And that includes Bobby Wallace of Temple, whose team went 0-11 and who is being replaced. He took his ballot just as seriously as either of the Bowdens, when he could have just gotten all bitter and liquored up and turned in a ballot with his own BCS –- the Bottom Clubs Society. You know, something like this:
2. New Mexico State
5. Kent State
13. Mississippi State
15. Utah State
16. San Jose State
17. Washington State
19. Wake Forest
20. Oklahoma State
I mean, what were they going to do, fire him?