Preseason polls are kind of like Bill Simmons’ annual trade value column. A hell of a lot of fun to read and study and argue about but in the end mostly not that meaningful.
Well, not meaningful in the sense that they don’t really hold much weight as to who’s good and who’s not good (Auburn was #22 this time last year).
Unfortunately for the college football fan, since the NCAA is stuck somewhere between the late 70s and Doug Flutie’s BC career in terms of progressiveness, polls actually do mean something when it comes to who plays for the national title.
And that actually turns out to be a good thing for #8 (in the coaches poll) Oklahoma State this year since they only need to win twelve straight sixty minute college football games and have six teams in front of them lose once and we’ll all be dancing on Bourbon street in five months.
See the problem for OSU (and really the problem with preseason polls in general) has always been that if you don’t start high enough it’s nearly impossible to crack the top 10 or top 15 which would earn you hype and a national following which means you go to a bowl that pays a lot of money and…well you get the point.
In college negotiations classes they teach you that you need to set a base (or an “anchor”) from which to negotiate. Once you set the anchor it’s harder for me to pull you away from that spot in our arguments. The same is true for preseason polls. It’s why you have undeserving big-name teams sitting in the top 15 at the end of the season after a lackluster year – because it’s harder to move up or down no matter what you do once you’re anchored by the weight of that preseason ranking. Even though the initial ranking is based on what you did nine to ten months ago. The whole thing makes my head hurt.
Last year OSU started outside the top 25 and proceeded to outscore its opponents 297-173 in the first six games. They “rose” to #14 but still had four 1-loss teams ahead of them. If that same scenario takes place this year I can bet you whatever amount of money Dez Bryant has on him in jewelry right now OSU will not have four teams ahead of them in the polls. It’s simple math really: jumping over a large amount of teams in a poll voted on by humans is harder than jumping over a small amount of teams.
Last year they could have run the table and Mike Holder could have given Mark Emmert a lap dance and there’s a 0% chance they would have been playing for crystal in Tempe. This year though? If you go undefeated you’re absolutely playing for the title unless a.) two teams ahead of you don’t lose or b.) a team from the SEC behind you doesn’t lose.