Every single week around noon on Sunday college football fans wait with baited breath to see the latest additions to the “AP/Coaches Poll Top 25″ rankings. It’s almost a badge of honor if your team is lucky enough to be selected among the nation’s 25 best. Problem is, it really doesn’t mean much and is confusing to the casual fan. Does anyone think the Rutgers Scarlet Knights or the Texas A&M Aggies have a chance to get to the national championship game? Didn’t think so. Even if you say the rankings help clear up the BCS picture in general, in which they play a rather large role, you are still stretching my hypothetical argument. For me, the polls were always a barometer of the teams with the best chance to win it all. That’s why we need to tweak the way the rankings are set.
Personally I’d leave the polls themselves because they do have a set tradition in college football but I would cut them both back to 16 teams. I can already hear the argument that really only four or five teams can win the big prize and that’s true. However, if you shrink the list to the top 16 squads you bring the larger BCS role into play.
Since the rules were set in 1998, you can only qualify for a BCS at-large spot if you are in the top 14 of those rankings. With the AP and coaches polls each equaling a third of the BCS rankings, the spots in the top 14 would even be more valuable and clear to the casual fan. Also, this would allow the system to function as a de facto playoff seeding system if we ever get to my team 16 team, four week dream playoff scenario. Once we see the crazy response to the four team playoff coming in two years this will be an easy ending spot for all involved.
The coaches poll has been a major point of controversy since it was revealed that most of the coaches don’t even vote themselves. They are too preoccupied with their teams and decide to let their school’s SID (student information director) take care of the weekly chore. If you shrink their responsibilities to just the top 16, instead of teams “on the fringe” of the national picture, they might just take back this important task.
Let’s be honest. Coaches across the nation don’t give a damn about the Washington Huskies and Northwestern Wildcats of the world. They want to look at the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans. Give them what they want! Obviously, if Northwestern and/or Washington start 7-0 or 8-0 they’ll get the respect regardless but you shouldn’t feel like you need to rank them just because you need to occupy 25 slots on a sheet of paper.
And finally my revamp would help those most important in this entire process, the fans. Most college football fans don’t have the ability to sit around on fall Saturdays like the nerds among us do. They need to “plan” around the biggest games of the weekend. If you cut the polls to the top 16 they’ll know for certain that a game between two ranked teams will actually have an impact one way or the other on the bigger picture. It won’t just be a battle to see who’s heading to the Alamo or Gator bowls.
College football is a great sport with a lot of flaws. This is a simple fix. Let’s make it happen.