Blog Entry

Is it time to overhaul the Coaches Poll?

Posted on: October 13, 2010 12:57 am

Posted by Adam Jacobi

One of the most odious aspects of the BCS -- and let's be clear, there are very many -- is the fact that the Coaches Poll constitutes one-third of the voting for the standings. If the poll's involvement weren't already accepted as normal, it would sound absurd: the selected coaches (or their selected assistant who actually fills these things out without attribution), given about 20 hours after the conclusion of their games, are tasked with ranking 25 out of the 120 teams in the FBS. The coach will never gameplan for, or have anything more than a cursory opinion about, the vast majority of these teams. The more time the coaches spend researching the poll, the less time they have to do their job (which isn't one with a great deal of spare time to begin with).

Thus, we get the same win-go-up, lose-go-down lazy polling that we can very well get from the AP already. What's the point? Does adding yet another hastily arranged Top 25 to the BCS add any merit? Moreover, isn't it a waste of what the coaches bring to the table for the BCS? Coaches do have exemplary abilities when it comes to evaluating other teams, after all, but that skill is primarily used in the daily rigmarole of their job, which is to say, on teams that they're actually going to play at some point.

So let's embrace that: have every single coach participate in the new coaches poll by ranking only their 12 opponents. As with traditional polls, a no. 1 gets the highest value (in this case 12), a no. 2 gets 11, and so on down the line. You know, like a normal poll. Now, since this is necessarily grading only FBS play (unless fans really want to see Montana come in at no. 8 in the poll or something similar), the teams with an FCS opponent are only going to be ranked by 11 opponents, so the rankings will be by average value instead of total.

Does this unfairly reward good teams in weak conferences (see: Boise State)? Well, maybe when it comes to their rankings relative to their conference pals. But look at who Boise's opponents are playing. Oregon State also plays TCU and Oregon. Wyoming got Boise, TCU, Utah, and Texas for this season (yes, Texas tanked, but that's an anomaly). Lowly San Jose State? The Spartans see Boise State, Utah, Wisconsin, and Alabama. Boise State may have some control over their schedule, but they certainly have little control over who their opponents play, and that's going to matter in this poll. Meanwhile, Ohio State may play in a tougher conference, but does anyone seriously think any of the Big Ten's coaches would rank another conference member over OSU as long as the Buckeyes stay undefeated? Would anybody have put Alabama second in the SEC before South Carolina pulled the upset?

Also, once the season starts to get into its late stages, coaches will be able to rank these teams based on what they saw first-hand in actual gameplay. Will this result in some coaches ranking teams based largely on how they performed against that coach's team? Sure. That's called rewarding wins and punishing losses. In other words, it's the entire point of polling. And if a coach seriously thinks a team that's, say, 19th in the AP played his team better than the 11th-ranked team, well, that's information that absolutely deserves to be integrated into the poll -- and it's much easier to justify making that adjustment in this format instead of the win-go-up/lose-go-down cookie cutter Top 25s. 

Is this a perfect poll? No, of course not. There's still some value in a straight Top 25 poll, and the computer rankings have their merit. But if we're including coaches in the BCS process -- and we should! -- we should play to their strengths, not make them play pollster. This is how to do it.


Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: October 13, 2010 12:20 pm

Is it time to overhaul the Coaches Poll?

Get rid of the BCS and all of the polls first. Then take the 12 conference winners and add four wild cards from the second place teams by drawing for high card and there is your 16 team playoff system! It is as simple as that!

Since: Oct 13, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2010 10:46 am

Is it time to overhaul the Coaches Poll?

You still need a way to determine who gets into the playoff.  There's a lot of ways to do this, which largely copy how the BCS works now. There's a bunch of AQ teams and then some at-large spots.  You could keep this system and just declare that the Big 10, Pac 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and I guess the Big East champs are automatically invited with 2 more spots for an at-large team (Notre Dame, Boise, TCU, etc) selected by the BCS.  Each of the "Bowl Games" is one of the playoff games.  Rose Bowl = Big 10 vs. Pac 10Orange Bowl = ACC vs. At LargeSugar Bowl = SEC vs. At LargeFiesta Bowl = Big 12 vs. At Large
Throw the Big East into one of these.  The winners of these games then go on to two semi-final games, which will of course be dubbed some new bowl game and pick up sponsors, and the winners of those two games go on to the championship game.
But ultimately, you need a way to fill these 8 spots (or 16, if you want to go hogwild) in a playoff system and there'll still be some element of polling involved, and some annoying special rules to accommodate Notre Dame.  I'd rather see them simply declare that teams not in a conference are automatically disqualified from participating and let Notre Dame figure out where it wants to go from there.
Another option is to simply keep the current system, and the top 8 teams in the BCS rankings automatically go into the playoff system and are seeded in more conventional playoff fashion (then each of the "Bowls" can fight it out over which game they want to host/sponsor).  You could expand it to 12 teams with "bye" weeks like the NFL has, too.
Anyway.  You get the point, polling will always be involved, it's just the nature of the game.

Since: Oct 13, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2010 9:23 am

Is it time to overhaul the Coaches Poll?

Solid idea, and one I haven't seen before.  It'd be better than the current format, plus you'd have to wait until at least halfway through the season to release it - even better!

Since: Oct 11, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2010 1:01 am

Is it time to overhaul the Coaches Poll?

Solution:  A Playoff

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