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Athlon examined the coaches' and Harris polls ballot by ballot
As the saying goes, no one really wants to know how the sausage is made.
The same could be said of the polls that make up the BCS. The mishmash of 59 coaches, 115 Harris voters and six computer rankings spits out the BCS standings to determine the title game, eligibility for the BCS games and perhaps some bragging rights.
For the last several years, the final ballots have been open to inspection. Sifting through the ballots can be a fascinating and perhaps infuriating exercise, revealing coaches voting in their best interests, regional and conference favoritism and inexplicable decisions.
Here’s a look at some of the most interesting notes for the individual ballots:
Related: Final BCS analysis | Ranking the bowl games | Week 14 recap
THE COACHES’ POLL
From USA Today: Final poll | Graphic of each ballot
|Vanderbilt coach James Franklin|
Notre Dame not a unanimous No. 1
Three of the 59 coaches did not vote undefeated Notre Dame No. 1. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Middle Tennessee’s Rick Stockstill and Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville voted SEC champion Alabama No. 1. Stockstill and Tuberville voted Notre Dame No. 2, which brings us to the most interesting coaches’ ballot...
James Franklin’s SEC-friendly votes
The Commodores coach loves his conference, that’s certain. Franklin’s ballot began with: 1. Alabama, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. Notre Dame, 5. LSU. Altogether, he included eight SEC teams on his ballot including No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 16 Vanderbilt and No. 21 Mississippi State. The final coaches’ poll included six SEC teams in the top 25 despite Franklin's endorsement of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
Coaches love their own teams
Franklin wasn’t alone in giving his team a boost -- 23 coaches voted for their own schools in the poll. Twenty of those coaches voted their teams higher than they appeared in the final poll. The biggest offenders were Gus Malzahn (Arkansas State received 20 points, 10 from his No. 16 ranking), Todd Graham (he was one of two coaches to vote for Arizona State, placing the Sun Devils at No. 20. The other coach voting for ASU was his former offensive coordinator, Malzahn), and Rocky Long (San Diego State finished 32nd in the voting, Long ranked his team No. 20). Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes was the only coach who ranked his team lower than how it appeared in the polls, and even that comes with an asterisk: Louisiana Tech appeared on only one ballot at No. 24 from North Texas’ Dan McCarney.
The Big 12 coaches got the memo on Northern Illinois
The Huskies’ No. 16 ranking in the coaches’ poll helped Northern Illinois achieve a No. 15 ranking overall, clinching an automatic BCS bid, likely at Oklahoma’s expense. Of the five Big 12 coaches voting in the poll, four voted Northern Illinois outside of the top 16 threshold needed for BCS inclusion. The Sooners’ Bob Stoops and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen voted Northern Illinois at No. 24, but neither were the lowest votes for NIU. That honor belonged to Michigan’s Brady Hoke, who placed NIU at No. 25. The MAC coaches, however, weren’t in lockstep in boosting Northern Illinois’ ranking. Toledo’s Matt Campbell, Ohio’s Frank Solich and NIU’s Dave Doeren all put the Huskies in the top 15. Kent State’s Darrell Hazell and Ball State’s Pete Lembo did not.
Alabama not unanimous in the top two
Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter and Oregon State’s Mike Riley were the only coaches who did not have Alabama in the top two. They both turned in ballots with Notre Dame first, Oregon second and the Crimson Tide third. Interestingly, Riley put a rival (Oregon) ahead of his alma mater (Alabama).
USC’s stunning fall
USC was ranked third in the preseason coaches’ poll, but received only two points in the final poll -- both from Michigan’s Brady Hoke ranking USC at No. 24. Hoke also gave Texas one of its highest rankings at No. 16. The Longhorns finished 25th.
The poll included five coaches who have lost their jobs: Auburn’s Gene Chizik, USF’s Skip Holtz, Southern Miss’ Ellis Johnson, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Cal’s Jeff Tedford. USC coach Lane Kiffin was originally on the panel but relinquished his vote in August after he claimed he did not vote his team No. 1 when in fact the Trojans were in the top spot on his ballot.
Related: Five reasons why: Notre Dame will win the title, Alabama will win the title
THE HARRIS POLL
From Harris Interactive: Final top 25 (.pdf) | Every ballot (.pdf)
From Athlon: Who votes in the Harris poll?
|Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly|
No surprise: Notre Dame an overwhelming No. 1
Only nine of the 115 voters had Alabama in the top spot ahead of the Irish. As in the coaches’ poll, Alabama was not a consensus top two team. Four voters ranked the Tide third behind Notre Dame and Oregon: former Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson, former Ball State player Terry Schmidt, Washington Times reporter Patrick Stevens and former Hawaii coach Bob Wagner.
Northern Illinois runs the gamut
The Huskies finished 16th in the Harris poll, helping them to the No. 15 BCS ranking overall. Northern Illinois’ highest ranks were at No. 9 for former Iowa State and Washington State coach Jim Walden and No. 12 for Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reporter Tom Luicci. The Huskies were unranked in one ballot belonging to former Connecticut athletic director John Toner. Joe Novak Northern Illinois’ coach from 1996-2007, ranked the Huskies 15th.
A handful of Harris voters seemed at a loss with what to do with Georgia, a team that took Alabama to the wire in the SEC Championship Game yet lost by 28 to South Carolina and defeated only one ranked team (Florida). The Bulldogs were ranked third on a handful of ballots, but ranked outside of the top 10 for three voters: former Stanford player Todd Husak, former Notre Dame player Derrick Mayes and former SMU player Lance McIlhenny.
The 8-5 Badgers entered the poll after demolishing Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten title game. That win must have made an impression on former Army player Bob Anderson (No. 14) and former Sports Illustrated and The Daily writer John Walters (No. 15) who both voted Wisconsin in the top 15. Nebraska ranked 18th after the rout but did not appear on 10 ballots. The Cornhuskers were ranked as high as 12th on one ballot belonging to former Georgia Tech player Pat Swilling.
Friendly to the Big 12
Orangebloods.com reporter Chip Brown was friendly to the Big 12 at the end of his ballot as one of the few who ranked TCU (No. 16), Baylor (No. 18), Oklahoma State (No. 19) and West Virginia (No. 24). He also ranked Kansas State sixth, Oklahoma 10th and Texas 17th.
A USC sighting
The Trojans’ 7-5 season did nothing to deter former USC and Cincinnati athletic director and Duke coach Mike McGee. He ranked the Trojans 15th, nine spots ahead of UCLA (who defeated USC 38-28). He was one of three voters to rank USC. McGee also ranked Mississippi State 19th. Former Minnesota player Darrell Thompson also placed both Mississippi State and USC in his top 20.