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Reasoning ... From a Pollster?

Stewart Mandel finally said what I've been saying all along, that pollsters need to quit treating their preseason predictions like the truth.

Following last week's Power Rankings, which included the unfortunate flaw of having Louisville ahead of a Kentucky team it had just lost to, and my subsequent explanation in the Mailbag about how it happened, many of you suggested by e-mail that I was falling victim to the very syndrome I gripe about in Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls:Too strict an adherence to preseason perception at the expense of actual, on-field results.

When Louisville (and Nebraska, for that matter) went ahead and destroyed all remaining remnants of their preseason perceptions last week, I realized you were probably right. It was time to go ahead and toss out all my preconceived notions once and for all, which meant making one particularly major concession: Admitting that I no longer believe my preseason No. 1 team is the best team in the country.

I realize this isn't exactly a logical week to bump LSU ahead of USC, what, with the Trojans coming off a perfectly thorough butt-whipping of Washington State and the Tigers posting a deceptively "close" 28-16 win over South Carolina. In fact, USC has done nothing wrong. It's not you, it's me. My reasons for finally elevating LSU are threefold.

For one, I'd been leaning the Tigers' way since their eye-opening rout of Virginia Tech on Sept. 8, but I resisted making the move, first because of USC's bye week, then because of the Trojans' impressive blowout of Nebraska. Ball State's 40-point, 600-yard performance against those same Huskers last Saturday eased my mind a bit in that department. Secondly, the Tigers are the only team on my ballot to have beaten two opponents -- the Hokies and Gamecocks -- currently ranked in my top 20. Heck, only two other teams (South Carolina and Georgia) have even beaten one.


At one point, CBS' cameras showed Miles laughing with one of the referees on the sideline like this was the middle of the spring game or something. USC (or Oklahoma, or Florida, or West Virginia) may well be the No. 1 team by the end of the season, but LSU has been the No. 1 team these first four weeks.

I couldn't have said it better myself. The two things I particularly liked about what Mandel wrote. 1) He revisited how much emphasis he put on USC's win over Nebraska, which is clearly not as impressive as it might have seemed a week ago. It's rare to see a pollster use such, dare I say, logic. Nowadays, pollsters just seem to use the most recent performance to justify any moves in the polls. 2) He seemed to understand that he could drop the No. 1 team even though they didn't do anything to deserve dropping. But, it is possible for another team to do something worthy of jumping the No. 1 team (or any other ranking spot). Kudos to Stewart.