Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A look inside the AP Poll: Final rankings

With the season over, the final poll doesn't really affect anything, other than the possibility of a split national championship. But the higher you are at the end of the season, it could help your preseason ranking next season.

MSU finished at No.11 in the AP Poll and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll. Around MSU, Wisconsin finished at No. 10 and Michigan at No. 12. It makes sense that those three teams are around each other, and you could argue that any one should be ranked highest.

But let's take a look at some individual ballots (click on voter's name to see ballot).

MSU was ranked as high as No. 8 and as low as No. 19. The highest vote came from John Niyo of The Detroit News. Niyo has Wisconsin at No. 11, Michigan at No. 13 and has Oregon at its highest spot at No. 4.

Of the three voters who put MSU at No. 9, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had three teams in "extreme rankings" and two near extreme. Fittipaldo put Wisconsin one spot ahead of MSU and Georgia one spot behind them. He also has Boise State at No. 17. Prior to the bowls, Fittipaldo had Georgia at No. 8 and MSU at No. 10, both at their highest spots among voters.

As for the low voters, only two had MSU lower than No. 14: Ray Ratto of Comcast Sports Bay Area and John Shinn of The Norman Transcript.

Ratto put MSU at No. 16. He also has FCS North Dakota State at No. 25, so that tells you all you need to know. Yes, the Bison beat Minnesota, but they would not have a chance against a good FBS team. Aside from that, he has six teams near extreme rankings. Ratto might be a Big 12 fan, because he has one Big Ten team in the top 15, while he has four Big 12 teams — plus Houston and TCU — ahead of MSU.

Shinn put MSU at No. 19, but when you look at the ballot, it's like he forgot about MSU and had to slide them in there late or something. He only has two teams near extreme rankings. He put the hometown Sooners at No. 13, and he put Georgia at No. 14. Yes, he has the team that MSU beat in its bowl game five spots ahead of the Spartans. His ballot really is strange, in the sense that it's not strange. There is nothing really that questionable other than MSU randomly near the bottom.

The other local voter, Jeremy Sampson of WLIX-TV, put MSU at No. 11.

One voter doesn't drastically change a team's position, but it's always interesting to see what is going through the minds of AP voters. The AP Poll is no longer a part of the BCS standings, and that's a shame. As flawed as a sportswriters poll may be, it's not as flawed as the "Coaches" Poll, whose ballots often aren't filled by the coaches and each school tries to help itself in the final poll. That poll should have transparency throughout the entire season. And don't even get me started on the Harris Poll.

This is the first season I've taken advantage of Pollspeak, a great watchdog website that organizes all the AP ballots. It really has been interesting seeing how voters have changed their opinions from week to week.

As for next season, MSU probably will be a few spots lower in the preseason poll. And don't think that preseason poll doesn't mean anything. Just think back to what happened to MSU in 2010.

Until then, someone needs to make sure this guy never becomes an AP voter.

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