Scooter Hobbs column: August means poll party time
Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Contrary to popular rumor, preseason football polls, particularly those not clearly marked “way too early,” serve a vital role in our nation’s democracy.
One could say the two major ones, The Associated Press writers’ poll and USA Today coaches poll, go together like stars and stripes.
They get a bad rap, of course, because they are worthless this time of year — and don’t mean squat even in November.
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The College Football Playoff rankings get all the glory then, and rightfully so. They don’t even call it a poll. They distance themselves from the riffraff with the more formal “rankings.”
But in August, they are still lurking somewhere way beyond the football rainbow.
By November the CFP rankings have had the huge advantage, some would say unfair edge, of seeing teams play and thus basing it on something more than what happened last year and number of returning starters.
And if the CFP rankings want to lay low in September and October, fine. Probably better that way.
But would it kill them to just humor us and gather at some swanky resort to do a preseason playoff ranking for August? It could be a warm-up.
It wouldn’t be binding and they could even go back into hibernation until November.
But this is August, the season is so close (yet so far away), and the citizenry needs something to argue and taunt and whine about.
The NFL, for instance, has no preseason polls to speak of, and that league instead tortures you with exhibition games, which aren’t even football.
The preseason polls don’t mean anything either — everybody knows that.
But they are what you would call … harmless.
The coaches poll came out last weekend. The AP poll will follow this weekend.
Good job. That’s convenient scheduling for comparison’s sake. A worthless story two weekends in a row that everybody will overreact to.
But enjoy them, bicker about them, raise the roof about them.
The coaches poll, for instance, had some interesting omissions, including LSU. The Tigers are unranked in the coaches top 25 poll, relegated to Also Receiving Votes purgatory where, if you do the math, they’d check in at No. 30.
That’s the first time since August of 2000 — the eve of Nick Saban’s first season — that LSU has not been ranked in a preseason poll.
There are other unranked big names to keep them company — Penn State, Tennessee (a preseason heartthrob it seemed), Auburn (right behind LSU) both Florida and LSU’s opening opponent, Florida State.
Couldn’t those alone be August conversations starters to tide fans over?
Otherwise it’s pretty mundane stuff with Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson as the top four.
The main talking point, however, seems to be that Texas got a first-place vote yet is ranked No. 18, which is no small trick.
A similar thus-far unsolved mystery occurred at SEC Media Days when Vanderbilt received a media vote to win the conference.
The conference did not disband on the spot.
But my favorite poll story happened many years ago in one of the years when I was entrusted with an AP vote (there’s no background check apparently).
Understand, this was back before technology had been invented.
So there I stood on a lazy Sunday morning at a payphone in a convenience store parking lot just outside of Starkville, Mississippi, calling the AP office in New York to relay my weekly rankings to a desk staffer.
You millennials might need to ask your grandparents what a payphone was, but suffice it to say this was before cellphones, even e-mail, let alone Twitter and TikTok.
It was sometimes quite a chore back in those prehistoric times to get in touch with the AP office in New York to pass on your weekly wisdom, particularly if you’d covered a game the night before in some remote zip code.
So, anyhow, I was finishing my call to AP New York as this lady walked up to wait to use the phone after me.
She waited patiently, but I was I was winding up my list, something like “22 Oregon, 23 Fresno State, 24 Purdue, 25 Iowa … OK, talk to you next week.”
I hung up and stepped aside for her, and the nice lady smiled and gave me a all-knowing look as she said:
“Hope you win all your bets.”
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com