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Pollsters might need to take notice

Oct 7, 2009, 11:00 AM EST

Reading Bruce Feldman and Andy Staples yesterday, two of my favorite college football writers, I noticed just how similar their comments were about Notre Dame and their exclusion from the Top 25 polls.

Both reacted to Charlie Weis’ comments about the Irish’s exclusion from the polls after rising to 4-1 on the season.

“If you look at some of the other teams that are playing and look at
how their games have gone, tell me where the difference is,” Weis said
Sunday. “I can go right up to the top 10 and work right on down. You
tell me what teams that are in there haven’t had some trouble in their
schedule. I mean, almost everybody has. So you go right down the list.
We’ve had one loss by four points on the road with 11 seconds to go in
the game. So the flip side of it, we’re 11 seconds away from being
undefeated right now.”

Staples had this to say, when explaining why he left Notre Dame outside of his top 25 teams.

Here’s the difference, coach. You lost to the best team on your
schedule so far, and while you are 11 seconds from being undefeated,
you’re also about three plays from being 1-4. You came within a gnat’s
whisker of losing to Michigan State, Purdue and Washington — teams you
should have beaten handily if you fancy yourself a BCS bowl contender.
That’s why Notre Dame sits just outside the top 25 on my ballot.

Meanwhile, Feldman echoed his sentiments:

One big distinction that Weis seems to be overlooking: His team hasn’t
beaten anyone with a winning record. All of its wins came against teams
with losing records. And — fair or unfair — it’s hard to get the
benefit of the doubt, especially when your program has been so bad the
past two seasons. There are a couple of other one-loss teams without
any other credible wins: Penn State (best win is over a 2-2 Temple
team, which I think would lose to probably every team the Irish beat);
Ole Miss (best win at 2-3 Vandy) and Nebraska (best win over 2-2
UL-Lafayette). Are the Irish close to these three teams? I think so,
but we’ll find out if the Irish are in fact deserving of a ranking in
their next game when they host USC. (They have a bye this Saturday.) If
Weis can finally beat the Trojans, then he can talk about where his
team should be ranked. For now, he should just sidestep any of the
questions about his team’s rankings and go with the “We’re only worried
about the next game, not any rankings. That stuff will take care of
itself.”

I tend to side more with Feldman on this one, as I’ve made a similar argument in the past few days. Like he said, this argument is moot after next Saturday.

Yet while people continually harp on the Irish for not beating anyone of any substance, the most recent strength of schedule rankings might be of interest to pollsters. Jeff Sagarin, one of the most respected college football minds out there, computes schedule strength in his weekly rankings. He’s got the Irish ranked outside the top 25 (28th), but has their scheduled ranked 36th — far from the cake walk many assumed it was.

Top 25 teams with softer schedules?

Alabama, Florida, Boise State, Texas, Cincinnati, Auburn, TCU, USF, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, BYU, Kansas, Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Nebraska.

It’s an interesting poll that has of all teams, the Trojans at the top of it. 

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