The Real Poll

While the AP and coaches’ preseason polls might generate the headlines, Homerism puts much more stock in Las Vegas Sports Consultants’ “Oddsmakers Poll,” the 2008 preseason edition of which was released today.

If you’ve ever visited a Las Vegas sportsbook, you understand why. This is how these guys make their living–which I’m sure is a good one. On top of that, they watch a lot more of the action than your average college football reporter and certainly run a more thorough statistical analysis of teams’ performances than anyone else in the world.
LVSC’s poll ranks teams based on the measures used to determine teams’ relative strengths and establish point spreads. Comparing the Oddsmakers Poll to the major polls, a few differences in opinion become clear:
  • Georgia is far from a consensus preseason number one, and the bookies are even more skeptical, ranking the ‘Dawgs seventh.
  • Vegas’ love for South Carolina is pretty astounding. Although the pollsters put the Gamecocks outside the top 25, LVSC has Steve Spurrier’s crew at 14. Homerism happens to share the enthusiasm, due in part to Spurrier’s savvy and a stout defense.
  • While the media and public continue to fawn all over the SEC, the verdict from the oddsmakers is clear: the Big XII is tops. The Big XII has two teams in LVSC’s top five, four in the top nine and five among the top twelve.
  • Besides South Carolina, other underrated teams in Vegas’ eyes include Penn State (nine spots higher than polls) and TCU (unranked in both polls, receiving five votes from the coaches and zero from the writers).
  • Overrated: Wisconsin (20 in LVSC poll, 12 and 13 in the majors), LSU (eight or nine spots too high) and Auburn.
  • Are the oddsmakers showing their West Coast bias? Seeing as USC finished 2007 on top of LVSC’s rankings and are starting there this year, is it possible the Trojans are getting a little too much respect thanks to Sin City close proximity to Los Angeles?
Vegas’ forecast for OU is sunny with a chance of rain. The fact that the Sooners are ranked third behind two teams that play each other early in the season–USC and Ohio St.– suggests that the oddsmakers see OU getting a chance to right past wrongs against Pete Carroll’s juggernaut on January 8. However, LVSC’s poll indicates a difficult road ahead for the Sooners. OU has regular season games with the teams slotted at eight (Texas), nine (Texas Tech), 12 (Kansas), 25 (Cincinnati) and 28 (Oklahoma St.). If they survive that regular season slate, fourth-ranked Missouri might await the Sooners in a de facto Tigers home game in the Big XII championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
It’s certainly not an impossible undertaking, but it should give pause to fans and pundits arguing that OU has one of the relatively easier roads to the national championship game.
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4 Responses to “The Real Poll”

  1. loogy Says:

    “Are the oddsmakers showing their West Coast bias? Seeing as USC finished 2007 on top of LVSC’s rankings and are starting there this year, is it possible the Trojans are getting a little too much respect thanks to Sin City close proximity to Los Angeles?”

    That quote shows YOUR bias against the west coast. Would you be questioning the #1 spot if it were an SEC or east coast team in there? All USC has done is prove themselves time and time again against opposition, especially OOC opposition.

    I’m not even an ‘SC fan either.

  2. AK Says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t USC lose to Stanford last year… at the Coliseum, no less?

    My quibble would be more with the 2007 ranking. I don’t think USC did enough to prove they deserved the top spot last year over LSU. However, seeing as these are the ratings used to determine point spreads, and not an attempt to crown an actual champion, I’m assuming the oddsmakers’ argument would be that they think USC would beat LSU straight up on a neutral field (which I think is arguable in itself).

    My main point is that ranking USC #1 in 2007 over LSU might suggest a bias toward the Trojans that would undermine their top ranking.

    Personally, I have no problem putting USC at #1. In my opinion, you can put the top four or five teams in a hat and pick one to determine a preseason #1. Just trying to provide a little something to think about.

  3. loogy Says:

    Did Ohio St. not get thrashed in the NC game?

    Did Florida not get beat by Michigan who got beat my App St., in the Big House no less?

    Did Georgia not get blow out by Tennessee who were beat down by Cal, who placed in the lower half of the PAC 10?

    Did LSU not get beat by Kentucky and Arkansas who USC has a recent history of beating by 40 or so points?

    We can do this all day. The point I was trying to make was NOT that USC DESERVED a #1 spot. All I was saying is that they’ve done more than enough so that if Vegas ranks them as preseason #1’s, they deserve not to have some homer out on the other side of country insinuate that it’s because Vegas is closer to southern California. It’s not fair to USC, and it’s not fair to west coast football in general.

  4. AK Says:

    I never meant to insinuate that Vegas definitively DOES have some “West Coast” bias. Like I said, I have no problem putting USC #1. I’m just trying to offer something to think about.

    Think about it like this: What did USC do to show it was the best team in the country last year compared with LSU? The Trojans’ best wins of the year were ASU, Cal and Illinois, with a terrible loss against Stanford and a “good” loss at Oregon. LSU beat Va. Tech, Ohio St., Florida, Auburn and Tennessee, with overtime losses to Kentucky and Arkansas.

    At the end of the year, it’s Vegas’ prerogative to put whomever they want at the top of its power poll. Obviously, it’s subjective to say who would win in a hypothetical matchup. However, given what we saw each team do on the field last year, I’d say there’s more reason to believe LSU would have beaten USC on a neutral field in 2007.

    In that context, I question how the Trojans could be ranked above LSU at the end of last season, but that’s how the oddsmakers called it. Might that suggest a bias toward USC? And, if so, wouldn’t it call Vegas’ preseason evaluation of the Trojans this year into question?

    Personally, I doubt that’s the case. The only bias bookies have is toward their bank account. Like I said, just wanted to offer some food for thought.

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