There's been a lot of buzz on the internet about Lou Holtz's prediction that Notre Dame will play in the BCS Championship Game this season. An example of the video is here (fastforward to around the 1:30 mark). Holtz is getting a ton of attention on the internet for this because it's an example of his epic homer-ism. Notre Dame stinks!... or so people argue. Honestly, I don't care either way: I don't analyze college football games or match-ups on this blog. What I'm amazed at is that the most ridiculous thing that Holtz said in this clip didn't get a single mention on any sports blog I visited:
I've talked many, many, many times about how the Top 25 polls don't rank the 25 best teams. Pollsters follow an arcane formula where teams that win move up and teams that lose move down. Rarely is a thought ever given to whether a team is better or worse than another team. And yet these polls are used as a proxy for team rankings - we rate "upsets" by how high a team was ranked, and we pick favorites and expectations based on these polls. We saw this in college basketball last season when North Carolina spent much of the second half of the year out of the #1 ranking position, despite the fact that absolutely everybody who knew anything about the game knew that they were the best team in the land. I never dropped them from the #1 spot in the BP65 all season because it was obvious to me. I especially enjoyed watching the guys on the ESPN College Gameday say things like "North Carolina is definitely the best team in the nation... but they lost, so they can't be #1".
And so Lou Holtz repeats that here: he even clearly states that he doesn't think Notre Dame is or will be the second best team in the nation. But he argues that they have a horrendously easy schedule and they'll beat all of these bad teams, and so they'll keep moving up the polls each week as they win and teams above them lose, and eventually they'll end up at the #2 spot even though they won't be the second best team in the nation.
Why does this not upset people? Why does nobody notice how silly this is?
The people that we should be upset at are the pollsters: by allowing this to be the case, and by allowing coaches and administrators to understand that this is the case, they encourage easy schedules. Why shouldn't Notre Dame line up a whole bunch of joke opponents when the pollsters will reward them by continuing to move them up in the polls? This is why I've argued for a more computer-based BCS system, to wean college football fans, analysts and pollsters off of the idea that teams should be rewarded for easy schedules. Teams should have to schedule tough teams - and beat them - to prove that they're one of the top two teams in the nation, and not just the two teams that did the best job of beating the flawed system.