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August 24, 2009 2:56 PM

BCS rankings hopelessly tainted already

By LES EAST

The first college football game is still more than a week away and already the BCS is off track.

The BCS, of course, is a formula that is supposed to bring together the two most deserving teams to play for the college football national championship at the end of the season.

The BCS-vs.-playoff debate continues to smolder, but there’s no point in rehashing it here because the BCS isn’t going anywhere as long as the current contracts with the bowls and networks are in place (through 2014).

But we can look at a way to improve the system we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.

A major component (one-third) of the BCS rankings consists of the coaches poll. Subjectivity really should have no role to play in which teams get to play for a championship, but since it does, let’s try and deal with it as fairly as we can.

The BCS rankings for the 2009 season, which won’t start being formulated until a month or so into the season, are already irretrievably tainted, thanks to the preseason coaches poll.

Every team in the country already has an inherent advantage or disadvantage based on what some guys, and perhaps gals, think they will do this season.

Go ahead and run the table and see if that’s good enough to overcome preseason thoughts. Ask last year’s Utah team if winning every game you play is sufficient to get you a shot at the title, or the 2004 Auburn team.

Could the Utes, who blasted Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country until the final poll before the bowls, in the Sugar Bowl, have beaten Florida in the BCS championship? I don’t know, and no one will ever know because that game wasn’t played.

The modest preseason expectations that pollsters had for Utah essentially eliminated the Utes from the BCS race while they were conducting preseason practice.

Five years ago, Auburn had the unfortunate circumstance of being one of three undefeated teams from BCS conferences. Were the Tigers (No. 18 in the preseason poll) more deserving of a shot at the title than USC or Oklahoma (Nos. 1 and 2)?

I don’t know. But I do know that they were the odd team out, based at least in part, on the fact that pollsters thought they would be the weaker of those three teams. It turns out their fate was determined in August, not September-December.

Preseason polls are the single biggest flaw in the flawed BCS system. I’ve accepted the fact that we’re stuck with the BCS system and a subjective way of choosing who gets to play for the national championship.

But let’s at least make the best of the flawed system. The BCS rankings don’t start coming out enough games have been played so each team has a body of work of some depth.

But the coaches poll – one-third of those rankings – starting being formulated before anybody played a game. Let’s ditch the preseason polls and not allow anyone to vote on any poll in the BCS until the first set of BCS rankings.

It’ll make a screwed-up system a little less screwed up.

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