Wolverines Are #15, 'Nuts Are #1. I'm shocked, not at the lowest pre-season ranking (#15) for the Wolverines since the pre-season unranked 1985 Wolverines, but at the fact that the USA Today Coaches' Poll is already out. Does it always come out this early? Before players report to practice? As has been discussed ad-nauseum, there is obviously little rhyme or reason behind these polls before games are played, and "grain of salt" does not adequately describe how much weight you should lend to them when making your bowl travel plans. Simply put, about 25% of the roster of every college football team disappears every year and is replaced with 17-18 year-olds that the voters have only seen in pre-pubescent video clips taken by their dads from the stands.
That being said, I love the polls once the season starts. It is a source for debate, and debate must be the thing that keeps us going back. There are 119 teams, we can't all play each other, so we only have the polls to show us where we stand. Sure, the system sucks. No other sport has a set of voted-upon subjective standings that go unresolved nearly every year. It's amazing. Applying it to baseball, imagine your anger when the coaches voted to send the White Sox from the AL instead of your Detroit Tigers to play the Mets in the World Series, just on reputation...or as a going away present if their manager was retiring.
Polls=More Fun: The numbers create interest for the casual fan that is channel surfing and runs into Mississippi State vs. Fresno St on ESPN2. And the polls createmanufacture upsets. For example, Michigan at Michigan State 2006 featured a Wolverine team favored in Vegas by 3-points. Michigan wins 34-31 in overtime, the bettors push, no upset. But add in the polls and you have the unranked Michigan Wolverines knocking off the #11 Michigan State Spartans dramatically in overtime. And that is way more fun to say.
I even enjoy the illegitimacy of the numbers, and how they always seem to magically move up the week before a previously scheduled nationally televised event. Tell me you don't notice how (fill in your Big Ten middle-of-the-pack-er here) always seems to just creep into that top 25 the week of their game with Michigan... it's like clockwork.
Anyway, if we had playoffs, I'd love the playoffs. In fact, I'd be going ape shit every December-January. But we don't, so I like the polls. Probably because I'm inept at the X's and O's of the game itself and I'm a horrible evaluator of talent. I need someone else's opinion so I can make it my own. And probably because there's not much else to talk about.
The Wolverines come in at #15. Everyone is going to be talking about how well Michigan does when they are ranked low to start the season (see 1997 National Championship), how they come to play when their backs are against a wall, and how this team has the obligatory "something to prove". Great. But it's not what I'm looking for. Vandy and Central are a waste of my time and yours, and it should take more preparation than motivation to knock off the grossly overrated Irish, who despite being Catholic are the biggest media whores since Darva. It's after that game in South Bend, when we've "upset" the #3 team in the country, when the world's eyes turn to Ann Arbor, and everybody starts breaking their arms patting us on the back. It's then that we must show up. Because this season will not be won in South Bend or Columbus. It's in between Notre Dame and Ohio State: the Badgers, the Hawkeyes, the Wilcats, the Spartans...that will determine our BCS destiny.