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Why I'm Right About the Vegas Poll

At the risk of completely slamming this thing into the ground, let me revisit this once more.

First of all, to those who've been complaining that Vegas is merely trying to get action, and that the poll is thus biased in favor/against certain teams, let me state again that Las Vegas Sports Consultants--which produces the eminently agreeable Oddsmakers Top 25--is not an actual sports book, merely the advisor to the books, and that their advice is not based on which teams will get action but on which teams should be favored and by how much, all things being equal. The books then mold that advice to suit their own business interests. LVSC has no interest other than accuracy.

Second, the wiser-than-the-wise-guys Brian at the unstoppable mgoblog has come out squarely against my brilliance, in the process calling me an "absolute despot" in my Vegas-Rules universe, which he dubs "Steinbergland." (Note that the preeminent Texas blogger supports my brilliance, probably because Vegas loves the Longhorns.)

But to briefly answer Brian's arguments.....He claims something like this Oddsmakers Top 25 sends us down the frilly path toward style-is-everything figure skating, in which judges subjectively view various teams and decide which outfits look better, regardless of the bottom line of wins and losses. Which is why, according to the oddsmakers, two-loss LSU is ranked ahead of no-loss Southern Cal, for example, or why Cal is ranked ahead of Tennessee after losing to the Vols (albeit in Knoxville, which is a crucial point). The oddsmakers, Brian says, are communism, and the BCS is fascism, and neither is right.

(Btw, I would disagree about his choice of ideologies. Frankly, the oddsmakers should be dubbed the fascists, since they're ruthlessly opposed to any notion of giving the underdogs their due, and since they're married to the principle of promotion of the fittest, and the inherent superiority of certain races (Big Ten) over others (Big East). And the BCS is parliamentary democracy, where we try to give everyone a vote, from Harrisites to Coaches to Writers to Computer Nerds, and where the ruling regime seems to change every six months, based on the latest popular whims. And his bloggers are some leftwing workers rights collective, screaming about power to the people and slipping flowers into the BCS's guns.)

But that's beside the point. The point is I was trying to help out the readers who complain that the AP voters and coaches all have regional biases and aren't truly objective. I was trying to think who is objective in this crazy mixed-up world. And I could think of no one better than the analytical arm of Las Vegas sports books, who are paid to tell the world whether Southern Cal is better than Louisville, and by exactly how much. (The alternative to having polls is to leave everything in the hands of computers, which is also no good. A playoff, for our purposes, is obviously off the table.)

Brian might say the bloggers should rule, pointing to his beautiful, Hands-Across-America, We-Are-The-World blogpoll. So surely such a poll, in which super-smart and flawlessly honest voters are encouraged to dramatically alter their weekly votes based on actual reality and not past polls, would never fall into any of the traps Brian faults in the Oddsmakers Top 25.

But wait, in last week's poll, one-loss Auburn was well ahead of one-loss Arkansas, a team which beat Auburn. What gives, Bri? The bloggers had a busy week and couldn't really focus? And zero-loss Missouri was behind 10 teams with at least one loss. And don't even mention poor undefeated Rutgers. Is it really possible that some of his voters, or the AP voters, or the Harrisites, were looking at Rutgers and subjectively deciding (gasp) that the pride of New Jersey wasn't really quite as good as its record? But, but, but that's..."style-point madness."

The fact is, every human poll uses the subjective, style-heavy, figure-skating criteria that Bri-Bri so hates, even the vaunted bloggers poll. How else could you justify undefeated Rutgers being buried so far behind undefeated West Virginia? Humans look at the two teams, and judge which one is better. My only point is that we should choose as our voters serious men (and women) whose livelihood is based on getting that decision right, rather than the sort of fur-coat wearing, poodle-carrying, Camembert-consuming, Consumption-stricken French judges who rule the figure-skating world. And if an occasional consequence of that choice is that two-loss LSU is determined to be better than no-loss Louisville, or even better than an Auburn team that LSU lost to by one point on the road, well, so be it.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 17, 2006; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  College Football  
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