So CBS' Tim Brando was on Knoxville radio last week to defend the Top 10 poll he had published on the Sporting News web site earlier that week. He was defending his decision to rank Cal ahead of Tennessee, who beat them convincingly 35-18 in the season opener. Here's the poll at issue (and remember that this is last week's):
5. West Virginia
And here's a partial transcript of the edited audio:
A: Yeah, I've got no problem explaining it, I think California right now is playing better football than Tennessee. . . .
To me, Arkansas' win against Auburn was much more impressive on the road than the Tennessee win against a Georgia team that collapsed, that had quarterback issues last week. . . .
The head to head thing only comes into play in my mind as a voter when it's one or two or two or three. If you're trying to determine who's going to play in the championship game, and California or Tennessee are sitting right there at two and three, definitely I'd vote Tennessee two. . . .
[If USC-Cal] were played right now, most pundits would tell you Cal would be a touchdown favorite. They're playing that good right now.
Q: . . . If you base your poll on what's happened recently, for whatever my opinion's worth, I don't think USC's been overly impressive in their last couple of weeks but you've got them No. 3, if you think California's the better team than USC, why would USC be three and California be seven?
A: Well, USC again has done what they needed to do, and they've managed to win all of their games. Okay, every one of their games. Now I have a few one loss teams in that poll that are ahead, for instance, I've got Louisville behind a couple of one loss teams in my top ten so you could also say there's an inconsistency there. . . . The thing that you have to take into consideration with USC and what probably props them up is the fact that they hung a fifty spot on Arkansas, but again remember they did that before Arkansas was Arkansas. . . . Arkansas for me is the Cal of the SEC. They [are] not at all what they were in week one. . . .
I understand Tennessee fans take it personally. All fans take it personally. I don't. Okay? I don't take any of this personally. I'm just [objectively/subjectively] selecting the teams that I believe are playing the best football and deserve to be in a top ten rating.
- Tennessee would be ranked ahead of Cal if they were Nos. 2 and 3.
- They're not, so instead, California is ranked ahead of Tennessee because Cal is playing better football right now.
- Cal is a one touchdown favorite over USC.
- Ergo, USC is No. 3 and Cal is No. 7. [!]
- USC is ranked ahead of Cal because USC has won all of its games.
- Lousiville has won all of its games, but it is behind several one loss teams, including Cal, because . . . well, they're not USC.
Okay, so the standard seems to be who is playing the best football right now (the "Better Team"). Unless they're Nos. 2 and 3, in which case you are permitted to acknowledge the results of the actual head-to-head match up. And unless one team is undefeated and the Better Team has one loss, in which case you rank the undefeated team ahead of the Better Team. But only if the undefeated team is USC and not Louisville.
Disclaimer: I like Tim Brando. This post merely illustrates the hazards of trying to justify your ranking of college football teams, which I've come to learn over the last year and a half of participating in the BlogPoll is not easy.
By the way, the audio is courtesy of SportsAnimal99.com, the Knoxville radio station with the best coverage of the Vols. You can listen online here. The best shows are the Sports Page (with Dave Hooker between 10:00-12:00 on weekday mornings) and Sports Talk (with John Wilkerson and Jimmy Hyams between 3:00-7:00 p.m.) Check 'em out, if you get a chance. Excellent programming.