Preseason polls are meaningless

In May, ESPN released its first official preseason FPI (Football Power Index), its attempt to legitimize notoriously unreliable preseason polls by using data “predictive of future performance.” The result, though, is a vague assessment of “team strength”—it doesn’t take schedule into account, and it doesn’t predict win totals for each team. Or even which school has the best shot at being champion. Useful! Only ESPN could take something subjective, apply statistical analysis to it, and somehow make it more arbitrary. Here’s the FPI, complete with equally helpful commentary.

1. Ohio State After evaluating reams of data, they came to the same conclusion as every other poll ever—last year’s champion is the best. ESPN: the loud drunken idiot at every sports bar in the world.

2. Alabama The most talented player on this team is JK Scott, the punter. He’s a very good punter, but nonetheless, he’s still a punter. Also, Lane Kiffin’s presence will cost them two games, guaranteed.

3. TCU In case anyone’s curious about the usefulness of the other polls: only two coaches didn’t vote for OSU as the best team in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll. TCU received one of those votes; TCU coach Gary Patterson is a voter this year.


5. Baylor Coach Art Briles—who’s virtually indistinguishable from Jon Voight in Varsity Blues—is still whining about not being included in the playoff, despite losing to Michigan State in the subsequent bowl game. Consider fifth a blessing, Art.

6. Oregon Nike University has the best intramural squad in the nation again this year.

7. Notre Dame Overvaluing Notre Dame is ESPN’s own cottage industry. Tell the echoes to go back to sleep.

8. Ole Miss Fun fact: Mississippi’s coach is named Hugh Freeze. That will be the only tidbit anyone remembers about the Rebels because they’re entirely forgettable.

9. Georgia Mark Richt and Co. are really looking forward to finding new and surprising ways to disappoint Dawg Nation. Will they crush all their rivals only to lose to Kentucky? Will the team bus stall at Chick-fil-A on the way to Atlanta? Will the entire roster come down with syphilis? Stay tuned.

10. Arkansas Did you know that Arkansas finished dead last in the SEC West in 2014? Yeah, apparently ESPN didn’t either. And every team in the division is in the top 25. So good luck with that.

11. Texas A&M The Aggies mascot is a collie named “Reveille VII.” What the hell?

12. UCLA Puff Daddy assaulted the Bruins’ assistant strength coach over the treatment of his son, a junior defensive back. That’s not the offseason storyline of a team about to win something.

13. USC Remember when Lane Kiffin was fired from this team at an airport at 3 in the morning? Best thing to happen to them since they paid Reggie Bush to play here.

14. Tennessee Speaking of Lane Kiffin—let’s welcome his former, former team back to legitimacy! The Volunteers are actually pretty talented, but they will blow it. Somehow, this too will be Kiffin’s fault.

15. Oklahoma The Sooners lost to every ranked team they played last year. Is there a more ironic nickname in sports than “Big Game Bob” at this point? Even if they somehow won the championship, Bob Stoops would trip, smack his face off the podium, and shatter the trophy.

16. Michigan State Coach Dantonio, aka “Monotone Mark,” is the anti-Harbaugh, which probably makes him a decent human being. It’s almost a shame OSU will have to dismantle his team. Almost.

17. Stanford If Michigan State was in California, they’d be Stanford.

18. Auburn 5-7; 8-5; 14-0; 8-5; 3-9; 12-2; 8-5—those are Auburn’s results over the past seven years. So good luck predicting what this team will do in any given season.

19. Clemson At the start of each home game, the team buses drive in a circle, then the players all touch a magic rock, then a man named Dabo leads them down a hill while a bunch of rednecks scream at them. They’re not the best team in the nation, but they’re easily the most Southern.

20. Arizona State Head coach Todd Graham has the reputation of being a narcissistic opportunist. So they’ll probably do pretty well. And then he’ll leave to coach the Raiders. (Cough, Lane Kiffin, cough.)

21. Florida State Pretty tough to make a championship run when your entire team is in jail.

22. Mississippi State At this year’s Heisman awards ceremony, everyone will ask, “Who’s that?” about QB Dak Prescott. And then he will finish fourth.

23. Georgia Tech The triple option should be banned. It’s like watching soccer. Go away.

24. Missouri I know nothing about this team. I can’t imagine that I will ever need to.

25. Michigan Sure, why not rank this burning landfill of a program in the top 25 after a 5-7 year? Maybe Harbaugh’s sideline jaw-clenching is just that good. We’re waiting, Jim—88 days and counting.