Schlabach’s early 25 slaps Big East football

West Virginia cheerleaders, college cheerleader
We’ve reached that lull between spring practices and fall preparation, where we occupy our time with the NBA season’s end, baseball’s beginning, and ESPN’s always exciting coverage of the Scripps Spelling Bee. But in the midst of it all, we have the always reliable sports analysts wetting our college football whistle with their extremely early top 25 polls. I’ve never been a fan of polls, to begin with, and I have even more resentment for those published before a single game is played. But as always, I become a victim of my own curiosity, unable to resist the temptation to take a peek at some of the early predictions and make sense of them.

Matt Schlabach of ESPN has produced three of these premature rankings, and it’s the latter of the group that grabs my attention. It was no surprise to see USC ranked among his top 5, despite the loss of a quarterback and several standout defenders. But it was somewhat surprising to see numerous Mountain West programs, after voters were unwilling to give the conference much credit a year ago. And it’s even more surprising to see an entire BCS conference omitted from the list, when each of the power leagues is always represented in the end of season polls.

Having full faith in the Trojans’ ability to reload, Schlabach ranks USC fourth, trailing Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. What the three leaders have in common is that each returns Heisman front running quarterbacks from a year ago, with Oklahoma’s Bradford winning the award. Based on starters returning, and offering an unbiased opinion, my alignment would likely be the same.

The Big 12 and SEC dominate his top 25, which is no different than last year’s rankings by any source. TCU, BYU, and Utah represent the Mountain West conference, with not a single program penciled in for the Big East. The 2008 season already proved that a team from the MWC, undefeated and with a great body of work, cannot work their way into the BCS championship game. A program from the Big East, coming from the lowest of the Power six, and obviously ranked lower than the MWC, can.

If this is Schlabach’s prediction of strength, we would have to conclude that this is his projected order of finish, barring injuries and what-not. So, according to him, a lousy Big East team, plowing through lousy Big East opponents, has at least a slim chance to play for a national championship. Yet a formidable Mountain West program (as ranked by him), bowling over conference pins rated stronger than Big East membership, will have no opportunity to play in Pasadena this January…Got it?

The BCS era of college football has shown nothing but polling praise for the Big 12 and SEC, disrespect for the Big East and Pac 10, with the Big 10 and ACC stuck somewhere in between. It also displays the irrelevancy of mid-major programs and conferences, as the system is successful in one aspect of its original intent, which is to avoid a repeat of BYU in 1984. In a situation involving one-loss teams, the Big 12 and SEC would have the best odds of playing in the championship game. The Big East and Pac 10 would have the worst. And this is easily supported, by counting the number of BCS championship appearances by those conferences.

It all starts here, before you ever get there. It’s in these warm summer months that poll positions are pieced together, and bias originates. In late August, the single elimination tournament begins, for most. But for the often disrespected Pac and Big East, it’s another “win them all or gain nothing” campaign.

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~ by Anthony on May 27, 2009.

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