NCAA Playoff Panel Weekly Poll Will Be Painful
It was announced that beginning in late October, the College Football Playoff selection committee will release a weekly poll of the Top 25 teams in the country. It may allow the committee to avoid making a major mistake when they ultimately choose the four teams they consider most deserving of inclusion in the playoff by getting a read on the public's response and analysis of who the best teams are. It guarantees an increase in the volume of criticism they will receive, which will undermine their credibility.
If they've got only four teams to select, why get into who's #23? It's understandable why they'd go beyond just 4 teams, but 10 or 15 seems like more than enough. Most if not all of these committee members lead busy lives (five are active athletic directors). Do they really have time to scout 25+ teams each week to determine what order they should be ranked in? At best, they'll just crib from the AP and Coaches' polls. Perhaps, they'll even give some respect to an objective computer poll as the basketball committee does with the RPI. At worst, it will be a half-assed, ill-informed weekly demonstration of how poorly the group performs at ranking teams. It was going to be hard to get four teams right, but 25? Darn near impossible.
Over the past decade or so there's been a proliferation of TV and radio shows designed for people to disagree loudly with one another about sports topics. Beginning in late October, this list will provide fodder for this group. The critics won't just stop at picking apart the rankings, you can bet they'll go after the committee. They'll parse every quote and assign motivations (real or otherwise). All of this will assail the credibility of the process from the start. Sure, waiting to share anything prior to bowl selection, has its perils. But don't be fooled, it has it's advantages too.
Given the drawbacks of releasing a weekly Top 25, why do it? Sadly, it screams of marketing. As the World Series comes to a close and with football season well underway, football dominates (though you could argue it does all year anyway). Still, the NCAA competes to some degree with the NFL. This list will draw more discussion and thus more attention to NCAA football. There's no such thing as bad press as they say. Better to be maligned than ignored, the logic would say. Even more cynically, you could argue that criticism is what will ultimately be used as a basis to expand the field to 6, 8, 12, or 16 teams. That's probably inevitable, but you need people screaming about slighted teams to make it happen. The weekly poll will amplify the noise. It also provides a way to hype up games played between top 4 teams and the rest. Saying #3 is playing at #16 means more than just saying #3 is playing a road game.
For a program like Nebraska, which doesn't appear ready to crack the top 4 any time soon, this could perhaps be considered welcome news. It's a way for a program to get some attention even when they aren't contending for a national title. Still, it's hard to look forward to a poorly-crafted but all-important list to start coming out each week.