First, a mid-season update on the college football rankings and polls.
Back in May, I attempted to make an "unbiased" preseason poll, hoping to show the media's ability to greatly "overrate" or "underrate" a team before (or during) the season.
Later in August, I looked at the actual preseason polls to compare them to a more objective viewpoint to see how different things were.
So far, the "unbiased" polls weren't extremely accurate, but they did pick up on a few (big) things that the media/coaches/voters didn't in the preseason.
Update on "Overrated" Teams
Some teams I found to be "slightly overrated" have in fact lost games and dropped from their original preseason poll positions. These include Ohio State (who has dropped one spot to #7), Oklahoma State (from #9 to #16), California (from #12 to unranked), Georgia Tech (from #15 to #19), and Florida State (from #18 to unranked.) The only team that I deemed "slightly overrated" that has so far overachieved in ranking is Virginia Tech, who has moved from #7 to #4.
My "very overrated" teams have mostly not proven yet to be so overrated, except for North Carolina, who had a #21 ranking in preseason and now is unranked.
Update on "Underrated Teams"
The biggest discrepancies and problems with the actual polls have been "underrating" teams.
My "slightly underrated" category hasn't proven to be too accurate at the moment, and Georgia, unfortunately, is one team that probably won't prove the "unbiased poll" right.
But the "very underrated" teams are interesting. Pittsburgh wasn't ranked in the preseason, but they are 5-1 and could very easily move up into the rankings soon. The biggest "they dropped the ball" ranking error though, has clearly been Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Problem
In 2008, Cincinnati won 11 games and the Big East conference, losing only to then #4 Oklahoma, then #19 Virginia Tech, and their only really bad loss, at Connecticut. In the 2009 preseason AP poll, not a single Big East team was ranked, and 2 Big East teams got more votes than Cincinnati (Pittsburgh and Rutgers). By the way, Rutgers went 8-5 in 2008 (and also happened to be blown out by Cincinnati in their first game this season).
And now? Cincinnati is undefeated (6-0) and ranked at #8. Although their starting QB Tony Pike was injured in last night's game at South Florida, the rest of the Bearcats' schedule looks pretty easy, especially considering Cincinnati is beating their opponents by an average of 26 points.
So how did the voters mess that one up and leave them out of the preseason rankings?
But it gets worse. I've now heard multiple media sources discussing Cincinnati, and there seems to be a debate about whether they should be allowed to play in the BCS national championship game if they make it through their schedule undefeated. I've heard from some that in order for an undefeated Cincinnati to make the championship game, they have to basically "put on a show" and beat the rest of their opponents convincingly and impressively.
In my opinion, that's not really fair to Cincinnati or to the Big East. I can understand reservations to having a Big East team in the championship game, but is not the Big East one of the 6 BCS conferences that have automatic BCS-bowl tie ins? Sure, an undefeated SEC, Big 12, or ACC champion should have the priority to make it to the national championship game. But usually, undefeated teams from the other BCS conferences are considered as well. So wouldn't you think Cincinnati should be treated similarly to at least the other BCS conferences with no divisional conference championship game (Big 10, Pac-10)?
If any Pac-10 team went undefeated, even with what may be deemed a "weak schedule," they would surely be in the national championship (as long as there weren't two undefeated SEC, Big 12, or ACC teams ahead of them). The same goes for the Big 10, where we almost saw Penn State find their way to the national championship last year (which they likely would have if they had not lost to Iowa in 2008).
Sure, no one necessarily wants to see a lot of "undeserving" teams in the big game, but is it really fair to deny them if they have the credentials?