USA Today unveiled college football's preseason coaches poll Thursday, and on this I think we can agree: While a fine source of lively debate and occasional amusement, such rankings — from coaches and media alike — have no business determining, in part, which teams play for the national championship.
Neither coaches nor reporters have the time to evaluate teams, and both groups, especially coaches, have far too many conflicts of interest.
The Associated Press removed its media poll from the Bowl Championship Series calculation after the 2004 season, but USA Today's rankings remain. So for the next two seasons, until a committee takes over to select the four semifinalists in a new playoff system, the coaches poll will wield far too much influence.
My favorite outrage came in 2007 when then-Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger voted 11-2 Oklahoma No. 7 on his end-of-regular-season ballot, three spots below an 11-2 Missouri squad the Sooners beat TWICE, including by THREE touchdowns in the Big 12 title game.
Think Schnellenberger's ballot had anything to do with the unpleasant end of his OU coaching tenure 12 years earlier? Nah.
The poll's consensus, by the way, was Oklahoma No. 3 and Missouri No. 7, further exposing Schnellenberger.
Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer is a long-time voter, and his end-of-regular-season ballot last year was beyond fair, even to the Hokies' potential detriment.
For example, Beamer had Clemson No. 10 and Virginia Tech No. 13 after the Tigers defeated the Hokies for the second time, in the ACC championship game. A majority of his colleagues voted otherwise as Tech was No. 11, Clemson No. 14.
Also, Beamer ranked Texas Christian 16th. Had the Horned Frogs finished among the top 16 in the BCS standings, they would have earned an automatic bid to a BCS game, effectively knocking Virginia Tech out of the Sugar Bowl. But TCU landed 18th in the standings, freeing the Sugar to choose the Hokies.
The only ballot the coaches make public is the one cast after the league title games in December, so we don't know where Beamer voted his squad in this year's preseason poll. Virginia Tech is 20th, three spots below its finish last season. Michigan, which the Hokies should have beaten in the Sugar Bowl, is No. 8, highest of any Big Ten team.
Tech fans should not fret over the Hokies' lowest preseason coaches ranking since 2004. As Clemson showed last year, winning takes care of everything.
The Tigers began the season unranked but after an 8-0 start were fifth in the BCS standings, sixth in the coaches poll.
So take any and all preseason polls for what they are: table scraps to tide us over until the meal (read: season) is served.
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