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Anatomy of a Resume Ballot

Resume polling is simple in premise, and usually pretty simple in practice. It’s what college football polling should be—results based.

Tyler Arndt's Texas State Bobcats got a vote in this week's BlogPoll.  Purple Wimple explains why.
Tyler Arndt's Texas State Bobcats got a vote in this week's BlogPoll. Purple Wimple explains why.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Resume polling is simple in premise, and usually pretty simple in practice. It’s what college football polling should be—results based. I mean results from this season—not last season, or the accumulation of results from many seasons. Rosters and staffs turn over too quickly in college ball for last season to mean very much in this season. Sure there’re last year’s stats, returning starters, reputation, recruiting ranking, coaching history, team mascots, and status as almighty ESPN’s favorite or not, but I think of all shouldn’t matter in two instances: between the hashmarks and on a voter’s ballot. So I’m a resume balloter, and early in the season the difference between mine and everybody else’s ballot is usually pretty stark, especially early in the season. You’ve noticed.

So let’s dive in to my first resume ballot of 2013, and see what there is to see.

First, I use two rules when ranking college football teams week by week. The rules are these: (1) The winner of a game shall outrank the loser of the same game, for at least one week. (2) Wins over 2-A teams don’t count (but losses against them sure as heck do!). In week one the results of applying Rule #2 is particularly visible.

Here’s how I arrive at my ballot. First, I make a list of each team’s wins and losses, marking road games, close games, and games against 2-A teams so that the data is a little easier to digest. This spreadsheet gets pretty cumbersome as the season progresses, but it’s still factual information. (Whoa! Facts? In college football polling? Hide your women and your children; this is gonna be radical.)

Second, I sort teams by these helpful categories—those who have beaten 1A teams, and those who have not. After just one week this does most of the work for me, because there aren’t many teams that can claim a win over another 1-A team. It’s a surprisingly small list:

Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Florida St., Fresno St., Louisville, LSU, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, North Carolina St., North Texas, Northern Ill., Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Ole Miss, Penn St., South Carolina, Southern Cal, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas St., Troy, UCF, UCLA, Utah, UTSA, Virginia, Washington, Western Ky., Wisconsin.

This is why you don’t see Oregon and Baylor on my week one ballot—they haven’t beaten a 1-A team, and (remember Rule #2) wins over a 2-A team don’t count.

All of that is treating the week one data in college football objectively, which makes for a strange bird compared to the prism of subjectivity through which college football is usually observed. (Favorite anecdote: late in 2005 when the BCS surprised the pundits by ranking Texas over USC, Jimmy Johnson appeared on a panel of experts to digest the rankings, and said, in essence, "This is an absurd result of using computers in a ranking. If Texas and USC met on the field today and played, who’d win? USC." And the other experts nodded in agreement, as if Jimmy Johnson had just observed that the earth was round or the sky darkens at night. Of course USC was the better team; they all knew it. ESPN knew it. Everybody knew it—until the teams met in Pasadena, and the rest is history. Subjectivity said one thing; objectivity revealed another. College football is ruled by Conventional Wisdom until the games are actually played, and then, your humble Wimple has observed, the game usually comes down to more mundane things, like blocking and tackling, about which experts often are frightfully wrong.)

Sadly, after sorting teams into the two categories—beating 1A teams, and not—I have to get subjective. I don’t have a way to sort the winners over 1-A teams without sorting the quality of their beaten opponents, and with just one week’s data, it can’t help but get squishy now. So I do what everybody else does—I make it up. I’m like a leftist judge handling the constitution. I sort the quality of the opponents that those 1-A beaters beat. So I think Georgia is better than Florida Atlantic, and because a beat Clemson beat Georgia and Miami beat Florida Atlantic, I rank Clemson higher than Miami.

Can I prove Georgia is better than Florida Atlantic, based on this year’s data alone? No. But I'm guessing nobody will argue with me. Just for grins, I once just made all the 1-A beaters tie for first in the week 1 poll, but that didn’t satisfy. So I retreated; I guess I’m the Antonin Scalia of college football balloters—he calls himself a "fainthearted originalist" and so I’m a "fainthearted resume balloter."