Alabama is eighth.
South Carolina is 12th.
There is something wrong with this picture.
Alabama is actually not where they should be; at best Alabama probably should be eleventh and behind Utah, Michigan State and LSU…at worst, they should be 12th. Certainly they should be behind the team they just lost to — South Carolina!!!
Think about this — Virginia Tech was a two-point underdog to Boise State and lost by three points. After the loss the Hokies dropped seven spots — number six to number 13. Alabama, a 6.5-point favorite loses by 14 points to South Carolina. Alabama drops seven spots — number one to number eight. So, is a loss worth seven spots?
The quick answer is no. It is unlikely that all pollsters follow some sort of formula where if a team loses to a ranked foe then the loser drops x-number of spots. One would hope that the context of the loss plays more of a role than the simple loss.
But the context of the loss(es) and the relationship of games and teams should play a great role in how teams are slotted. Yet, that does not appear to be the case. Alabama, a team privileged by their preseason number one ranking, remains ahead of a team they just lost badly to — seven sacks, one lost fumble, 36 net rushing yards and a freshman (Marcus Lattimore) outgained both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. And the Alabama secondary, a question mark coming into this season, had no answer for South Carolina receiver Alshon Jefferies (7 catches for 127 yards and two TDs).
This season should matter; not last season or the seasons before. Yet, Alabama remains ahead of South Carolina based on what happened last year, not what has happened this year.
I made the claim last week that Alabama was by far the best team in the country. But maybe that is not the case. Alabama has beaten mediocre opponents (San Jose State, Penn State, Duke), squeaked by Arkansas on the road, and dominated Florida. And even in the Florida game, the offense for Alabama was okay but still outgained by the Gators. Florida also struggled in the red zone, turning the ball over twice and losing it on fourth down another time. Credit Alabama’s defense for stepping up, but it was a bend-don’t-break defense that finally broke against the Gamecocks, who went five-for-five in the red zone.
So maybe Alabama was a trick. Maybe Alabama is not as good as they had appeared in their first five games. Maybe the Florida game was an anomaly. After all, it is easy to get up for certain teams (as anti-Boise State people like to claim).
But if Alabama’s loss does not carry the impact of a loss to LSU, then what is the point of counting a loss? Florida — a 6.5-point favorite at home — lost to LSU by four points. Now yes, losing at home is typically looked at less “favorably” than a road loss, but then again odds makers usually give home teams some benefit. Therefore, Alabama was getting a lot more love with their 6.5-point spread than Florida was at home. Yet, even though both favored teams lost, Alabama only fell seven while Florida falls ten.
Yeah, I know…back to back losses by Florida. I get that. But where is the consistency? At least when Iowa lost to Arizona the Hawkeyes fell below the Wildcats. But even there, Iowa falls eight while Arizona only rises two. So losses have more of an impact than wins that force that loss?
The polls are illogical. And the polls are useless if they are going to continue to lack fluidity. I thought that there were signs of fluidity when struggling teams like Florida slid down the polls even after winning. But apparently it is selective in its fluidity.
If a loss does not have an impact that pushes teams down while others rise up, then what is the point of making losses matter? Alabama and South Carolina both have one loss. South Carolina’s loss came to an undefeated Auburn team; Alabama’s loss came to South Carolina. Logic would tell you that all things being equal, South Carolina should be ranked ahead of Alabama. But because of the silly perception poll (i.e. preseason poll), Alabama is still ahead of USC.
If the regular season in FBS college football is like a “playoff,” then there is no reason a one-loss team should ever be ranked ahead of an undefeated team…ever! A two-loss team should never be ranked ahead of a one-loss team…ever!
But, the regular season is not a playoff. And when differentiating between teams, especially those with similar records, the context of opponents does matter. No one can make a legitimate argument that Nevada or Missouri is better than Ohio State, Oregon or even Boise State. But it is also difficult to argue that the Wolf Pack or Tigers are better than a one-loss Alabama team based on opponents faced.
But if context matters there, then why can it not also matter when differentiating between Alabama and the team that they lost to (South Carolina)?
Sure, Alabama might be more talented than South Carolina “on paper.” But as the cliche goes, games are not played on paper. And on the field, the Gamecocks beat Alabama. Shouldn’t the polls reflect that rather than “paper victories”?
Otherwise, abolish the polls and develop a new system.
Or chose the teams with the prettiest uniforms. It seems no different because as of right now, name carries more weight than the actual product.