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Conspiracy theories abound after strange rankings

CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

How can Alabama be ahead of South Carolina? Are voters messing with Oregon State to hurt Boise State? And why the love for Florida?

October 10, 2010|Chris Dufresne

The dress rehearsal for next weekend's first release of the first Bowl Championship Series standings did not go well.

Several bit players forgot their lines, a background set featuring the Stanford Tree fell down and a boom microphone broke loose and clipped the trombone player in the orchestra pit.

Thank goodness it wasn't opening night.

For the first time this year, all three major polls took the stage with Sunday's unveiling of the Harris Interactive, the index that in 2005 replaced the Associated Press in the BCS formula.

The Harris and USA Today coaches' polls are used in the BCS along with a computer component. The AP, crowning champions since 1936, is on its own.

You talk about deer in the headlights.

All three major polls had Ohio State, Oregon and Boise State as their top three. That was not a surprise considering No. 1 Alabama lost Saturday to No. 19 South Carolina.

The surprise was everyone keeping Alabama ahead of South Carolina.

Alabama is No. 8 to South Carolina's No. 10 in the AP, No. 8 to South Carolina's No. 12 in the coaches' poll and No. 8 to South Carolina's 11 in Harris' rankings.

Wait a minute — did anyone watch the game?

You can't blame this on time-zone issues because the game was played in broad daylight on CBS.

South Carolina did not win on a fluke, either, as Louisiana State had done the week before against Tennessee. Curiously, LSU finds itself today ranked No. 9 in all three polls.

South Carolina did not even win on a last-second field goal. South Carolina defeated No. 1 Alabama by two touchdowns, yet people who have been entrusted with voting privileges did not see the wisdom to bump the winning team ahead of the team it beat.

Both schools now have one defeat. South Carolina lost to undefeated Auburn, which is rightly ranked ahead of Alabama and South Carolina.

People who hate on the BCS and want it blown up have misguided their anger at the conference commissioners, who work at the behest of their school presidents.

People like to castigate the goofy components that go into the six computers used in the formula.

The real threat to the system, though, is the human taint.

It's made worse by the fact Harris and the USA Today voters don't make public their weekly votes, holding out to a final reveal in December. The coaches even tried to weasel out of that last year, commissioning a poll to tell them keeping their ballots secret was a much a better idea.

That news release didn't pass the stink test, and the coaches relented.

At least you know where AP voters stand every week. Of course, the most credible poll is no longer part of the BCS process.

This veil of secrecy only raises suspicions and strains credulity as it threatens credibility.

It makes the Oliver Stone in you wonder why Alabama would stay ranked ahead of South Carolina. Is it a backlash against Gamecocks Coach Steve Spurrier, who has long rankled many of his fellow coaches?

It gets worse, though, almost comically worse.

The AP is the only major poll this week that has Oregon State, No. 24 this week, ranked in the top 25.

You read that right.

The yearslong joke called the USA Today poll unveiled a list and two-loss Oregon State wasn't on it.

But two-loss Florida was?

Oregon State improved to 3-2 with a victory at No. 9 Arizona. The Beavers' losses this year have come against the coaches' current No. 3, Boise State, and No. 5, Texas Christian. Oregon State's strength of schedule is ranked No. 1 in the latest Sagarin ratings, which has the Beavers at No. 6 for BCS-rankings purposes.

So while No. 1 Ohio State plays its second game outside Columbus next week at Wisconsin, and coaches' No. 11 Michigan State won't play a game outside the state until Oct. 23 at Northwestern, Oregon State has already played TCU in Texas, at Boise State and Arizona in Tucson.

Beavers are used to mud, but not when it's thrown in their faces.

Oregon State had the ball and a chance to win against TCU until a turnover foiled those plans, and the Beavers were in the game at Boise until the fourth quarter.

Yet, Oregon State can't crack the top 25?

Either the coaches aren't paying attention or, worse, they are.

The conspiracy theorists — and there are plenty out there — might suggest the coaches are holding Oregon State out to hurt Boise State.

That might be a stretch, even though the coaches' poll is over-bloated with whistle-blowers from power conferences who might not want to see WAC-y Boise State snatch a BCS title spot.

Not ranking Oregon State at least raises that suspicion, but it doesn't explain why the Harris voters don't have Oregon State ranked either.

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