By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
The biggest poll news this week is the release of the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, which makes up one-third of the BCS formula. Unfortunately, like the Coaches' Poll, there are no public ballots to look at. It's even more unfortunate that public record laws won't apply to most of the Harris voters. So the only way to change how the Harris Poll is run is to get the BCS to require public ballots. There's no easy way to do that, but Pollspeak sponsors a petition asking them nicely.
Until then, we can look at the Harris Poll as a whole and make some generalizations. Not to add fuel to a forest fire, but the two BCS Polls (Coaches' and Harris), both still rank Penn State over Iowa after the Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions last weekend. Whereas the AP Poll (the one with the public ballots) rightfully has Iowa (No. 13) over Penn State (No. 15). Maybe if the BCS required public ballots, more of their voters would start paying better attention.
The Harris voters ranked Ohio State and Penn State higher than any other poll (AP and Coaches) or BCS computer. They also ranked Miami and Georgia Tech lower than any other poll. Without seeing ballots, it's hard to call bias because the Harris Poll actually has a solid method of choosing voters: 10 representatives from each conference plus one for each independent school for a total of 114. That's more objective than the Coaches' or AP selection process and might be what helps teams like BYU earn its highest ranking. Still, it would be great to get a polls-peak under the hood and find out.
As for the ever-transparent AP, Doug Lesmerises continues to be the most extreme voter (again extreme is not the same as bad). He had an opportunity to explain his ballot on ESPN College Gameday last Saturday and seemed to convince fellow voter Kirk Herbstreit, but Craig James could not be swayed. As it is, Lesmerises is becoming less extreme as the weeks go by. Not because he is changing his ways. Instead, the games are playing themselves out and more voters are forced to leave their assumptions behind in place of on-the-field results. Now that there is a larger sample size, they are starting to do what Lesmerises has been doing from week one. Of course, some voters still haven't let on-the-field results impede their decisions:
The most recent examples are the five AP voters that have Penn State ranked over Iowa. That's still a lot better than the Coaches or Harris Interactive voters, but what are those five people thinking? Iowa has played better competition, has a better record and beat Penn State head-to-head in Happy Valley by two scores. What possible reason could there be for Penn State to be ranked higher right now? The worst offender is Jay G. Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser, who has Penn State ranked No. 11, but Iowa only at No. 22.
Previously, some people thought it was funny to rank Houston over Oklahoma State even though the Cougars have a better record and beat the Cowboys by two scores in Stillwater. Now that the Cougars have also beaten Texas Tech, it's become the norm. However, 10 voters still have Oklahoma State ranked higher. Pete DiPrimio is leading that charge, ranking the Cowboys No. 14 but leaving Houston unranked.
Of course there are the situations you can count on, like the 49 of 60 voters that have Oklahoma over BYU, but trying to reverse that would be asking too much. Instead, I'll continue to point out the examples that are so clear cut that if we don't step in, the Division of Forestry will. That bit of logging humor was in honor of Oregon's lopsided victory over Cal last weekend. On that note, nine voters, including Craig James, still ranked the Golden Bears over the Ducks. I hope things change next week. I'm not sure if I have another lumberjack joke in me.