LSU should be #1.
You read that right. I believe completely and fervently that LSU should currently occupy the top spot of the polls instead of Georgia. This is not because I believe LSU is going to finish the season #1. It’s not even because I believe LSU is better than Georgia (if I’m making a preseason national title pick – UGa is my team). It’s because of one simple reason: inertia.
The biggest influence on where a team is ranked is not who they have beaten or who they have lost to. It’s not how a team looks any given week or over the course of the season. No, the biggest influence on a team’s ranking is where they started. A team ranked lower usually has to wait for the teams ahead of it to lose before they can move up. It’s not fair or even logical. But that’s the system we have.
And it’s not like every other sport in which we can say “the polls don’t matter”. The polls DO matter in college football. It’s how teams get to play for the national title. The BCS formula is designed to create the illusion of mathematical objectivity to match up the top two teams in the polls against one another. It’s a farce and we all know it.
Because the polls matter in college football, I believe that the defending champion has the right to the top spot until someone beats them. A team that is the defending champ has earned the benefit of the doubt, and the advantage of poll position. A team is the champ until someone proves otherwise. That’s why it’s a title defense.
Do I believe LSU will win the national title this year? Not really. But it’s all guesswork right now anyway. We’re #1 until proven otherwise. And I’d say the same thing no matter who the defending champ.