Sportswriters and Coaches Disagree on Nebraska
After this weekend's college football action, the coaches pushed Nebraska up from 19th to 15th nationally. Perhaps seeing a 56-13 outing had something to do with it. Losses by Florida, Texas, and Notre Dame appeared to as well. The Associated Press interpreted things quite differently. Not only did they fail to move Nebraska up based on those events, but they actually dropped a spot behind Baylor and Miami (with Texas dropping out of their rankings entirely). Let's dig into this a bit.
Both polls had the same 14 teams ahead of Nebraska ranked in the top 14. You could quibble about one-loss Georgia and South Carolina teams being ahead of NU, but given how the Huskers fared in their last two meetings with the schools, it doesn't feel criminally wrong.
UCLA is a 4 and a half point underdog heading into their game against the Big Red. Given their win in Pasadena a year ago, you could see where people might push the Bruins slightly ahead of the Huskers. So the two polls differing there seems fair. Sportswriters like Northwestern better than Nebraska which is a little harder to defend. Nebraska beat the Wildcats head to head in Evanston a year ago and were the offseason favorite for the matchup in Lincoln this year. Giving Wisconsin the nod over Nebraska (as the sportswriters did) is defensible given both how the two teams looked in their last meeting but also the two strong games by the Badgers so far this year.
Putting Miami above NU (as the sportswriters did) is arguably OK since a win over Florida is inarguably more impressive than a win over Southern Miss or Wyoming. Florida being above the Huskers is a lot harder to defend. Not only do they have the loss to the Hurricanes but their 24-6 win over Toledo was hardly one to puff their chests out about. The AP gave Washington a push above Nebraska after their lone win over Boise State, which might be defensible on the grounds that the Broncos are better than the Golden Eagles or Cowboys. Still, NU holds scoreboard over the Huskies in their last meeting.
Like Florida, Notre Dame is another puzzler. The Irish lost to Michigan (a team the Huskers beat in their last meeting) and had a lackluster effort against Temple. They've also benched their would-be starting quarterback for the year. Baylor must be benefitting from some transitive property math. Namely, the Bears pounded Buffalo after Ohio State beat them by *only* three touchdowns. That one hurts since Baylor hasn't come close to beating Nebraska in over 50 years and have lost their last 10 to the Huskers by an average of 4 touchdowns.
While we could rail against the disparities and be critical of the Associated Press for their rankings, the differences really just underscore how absurd it is to release these polls so early in the season. Sure, football fans have an appetite for these rankings. But we really won't be able to come up with a meaningful ranking for 2013 until midseason. If the Huskers win this week, the coaches look smart. If the Bruins do, the press does. Given that UCLA hasn't won in Lincoln in 65 years, I'll give the edge to the Big Red and the coaches. After all, they got it right back in 1997.