The first Harris Poll of 2007

I”ll start this with my usual caveat – polls don”t matter this early in the season (and the AP poll doesn”t matter at all). But it”s worth noting that the first Harris Poll of the season looks remarkably like the coaches poll and AP poll. We”re supposed to believe, of course, that the learned Harris voters have spent the first four weeks of the season studying the teams, watching games and evaluating the results of those games to come up with their rankings. That”s the point, of course, of not starting the Harris Poll until now – pre-season bias is supposed to be exorcised from the equation.

So let”s consider the state of the season so far to see which team would most logically be called “No. 1″ right now.

There are 20 teams that are 4-0 and three teams that are 3-0. It”s reasonable to give strong consideration to undefeated teams. Now, a real basic question to get to “who”s the best team right now” is not only “how many games have you lost?”, but also “how many games have you won?”. All things being equal, a team that has won four games is undeniably more accomplished than a team that has won only three.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared this week that one of the 3-0 teams is No. 1.

Another reasonable question would be “who have you played?”. The NCAA publishes a basic “toughest schedules” report that gives you a nice view of the cumulative records of a team”s opponents. That”s a basic view, of course, and digging deeper into opponents” opponents will give a better sense of schedule strength, but I”m sure the Harris voters still have day jobs.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared that the team with the 32nd-toughest schedule so far is No. 1. Not the undefeated team with the 12th-toughest (Oregon), or the 21st (LSU) or also the 21st (Wisconsin), or also the 32nd (Ohio State). And, of course, all of these but Harris” pick for No. 1 have won four games, not three.

Then there is the question of how well have the teams performed.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared that the team with the 23rd-best total offense, 13th-best scoring offense, 25th-best total defense and 27th-best scoring defense (against the 32nd-toughest schedule) so far is No. 1. Not the team with the 3rd-best total offense, 1st-best scoring offense, 5th-best total defense and 8th-best scoring defense (Oklahoma – against the 56th-toughest schedule). Not 26th / 16th / 1st / 1st against the 21st-toughest schedule (LSU). And, once again, it”s the team that”s played three games, not four, that is No. 1.

To recap – 4 out of 5 Harris Poll voters say their No. 1 team:

- Is No. 21 in total wins
- Is No. 32 in strength of schedule
- Is No. 23 in total offense
- Is No. 13 in scoring offense

- Is No. 25 in total defense
- Is No. 27 in scoring defense

What, exactly, about the Harris Poll”s No. 1 team is No. 1?

Among the 23 undefeated team, here are the leaders:

- No. 1 in total wins: 20 teams tied
- No. 1 in strength of schedule: Oregon
- No. 1 in total offense: Oklahoma
- No. 1 in scoring offense: Oklahoma
- No. 1 in total defense: LSU

- No. 1 in scoring defense: LSU

LSU has played a much harder schedule than Oklahoma, but the Sooners have incredible balance in their offensive and defensive rankings. A good case could be made for either team being No. 1 at this point in the season – a much better case than anybody could make for why the supposedly non-preseason-biased Harris Poll would arrive at their choice for No. 1 by a landslide 80 percent vote.

It seems the key resource most Harris Poll voters use in filling out their ballot is the current AP poll rankings. For a poll that was created specifically to avoid pre-season bias, that”s just unforgivable.

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