This weekend (or this week), American college football kicks off its season. My alma mater, and hometown team, the Memphis Tigers, got routed on Thursday by #20 ranked Mississippi State (my brother-in-law’s team). The score: 59-14. Ouch! I hope we can pull off a better season than last year’s 1-11 record.
I must admit, I love college sports, mainly the two big ones of football and basketball. There is not too much like it in the sporting world (at least the American sporting world). And I miss it dearly living in Belgium, though there are other good trade in’s for it. Still I miss it greatly.
One could wake on a Saturday, make the coffee, eat a bowl of cereal, shower, do a few things around the house, and then sit down at 11.00am (central standard time) and watch college football all day, game after game, on multiple channels, until 10.00pm. Yeah, that’s almost 12 hours of pure football bliss. I never really did that, at least as I can remember. But it was always a thought.
I would say college basketball, along with the famous March Madness, ranks above college football. But still, I enjoy watching football games on Saturdays, especially games between top teams.
But here is the one thing I don’t like about college sports, and expect it to take place this opening Labor Day weekend. The polls. I might describe the polls as a young emotional and insecure teenager. Why?…
Well, they are ever-changing following each and every weekend of play. Especially in the first weeks of the season. And when two ranked teams play, with of course one team losing, the team which lost will probably drop quite significantly in the rankings. It happens all the time.
Let me give you an example that is bound and determined to happen this very weekend.
The big game for this Saturday, and one of the big one’s for the seasons, is that of #3 Oregon vs #4 LSU. You don’t always get two top-5 teams battling it out the first week of the season. But whoever loses will be most likely be punished severely, meaning they will most likely fall out of the top 10 ranked teams. #3 plays #4, one loses, and one suffers. You see, as long as every other top 15 team wins this weekend, then, whoever loses between Oregon and LSU, I predict they will fall out of the top 10, and maybe even somewhere close to #15.
Of course, if one team gets blistered, like my Tigers did against Mississippi State, then I would expect them to suffer in the polls. But a blistering is highly unlikely. Maybe the winner will take it by a couple of touchdowns at the most. Who knows? But especially if it is a 10-point or 7-point or 3-point win for one team, I don’t think the losing team should fall, maybe not even fall at all.
Yes, the hype and expectations could have been too high for one team and, thus, that team is brought back down to earth, showing their football mortality. But to lose by 3, 7 or 10 points does not prove that the hype is way off.
Now, the benefit of playing such a big game in the first week is that it doesn’t necessarily mean your season is over. Even after a season-opening loss, you could go on to win the next 11 games, finish 11-1, play in and win your conference championship, and still make it to a BCS bowl (good final football game) or even the national championship. So that is the plus of playing and losing to such a high-ranked opponent this early on.
But still, a loss should not shake the team’s ranking, unless they lose by 30+.
I suppose one solution could be that they don’t rank teams the first 5 weeks. Let’s just see how things go, see how things unfold for a few weeks before we start ranking teams. Then we will have a better idea what the teams are like (kind of what they do with the BCS rankings, which actually determine if you play in one of those coveted BCS bowls, even the national championship). But I guess if you don’t rank teams from the beginning, then you don’t really know where to start from and how to compare them with other good teams.
So, I guess the rankings are a necessary evil in the first few weeks. But we all know they don’t mean too much at that point. Rankings in basketball mean even less when it comes to the NCAA tournament. I just wish that we wouldn’t see as much shifting and shaking up in the polls over these first few weeks.
I will miss the college football season, though I will stay up with things on ESPN’s or CBS’s websites. And maybe I can catch a game or two on the Eurosport channel or through the sling box connected to my parent’s tv in America. Also, I will probably shake my head on Monday seeing either Oregon or LSU fall somewhat drastically in the polls. Still, in all, I hail the beginning of not just the college football season, but the two great college sports, which includes basketball.