December 6, 2010

Inside the polls: What the ballots reveal

After operating in secrecy since the start of the season, the human polls that make up the BCS standings finally are available for inspection.

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Want to examine the ballots yourself? Check the ballots here:
Oregon and Auburn were near-unanimous choices as the top two teams in the country. All but three ballots among the 114 in the Harris poll and all but three among the 59 in the coaches' poll did not contain some combination of the Ducks and Tigers in the top two. That's far more consensus than last season, when Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State finished the regular season undefeated.

Beyond the top two, though, the individual ballots reveal some interesting trends and regional and conference preferences (or biases, depending on your point of view).

Here's a look at some of the trends and peculiarities from the ballots in the coaches' and Harris polls:

From the coaches' poll

Coaches for the top three teams -- Oregon's Chip Kelly, Auburn's Gene Chizik and TCU's Gary Patterson -- did not vote in the coaches' poll this season.

Every Pac-10 coach in the poll (Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Oregon State's Mike Riley, Arizona's Mike Stoops and Washington State's Paul Wulff) voted Oregon No. 1. New Mexico's Mike Locksley, the only other coach in the poll whose team faced Oregon, also voted the Ducks No. 1.

Florida's Urban Meyer was the only SEC coach to break ranks and vote Oregon No. 1. He also was the only SEC coach in the poll who didn't face Auburn this season. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Georgia's Mark Richt, Alabama's Nick Saban and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier put Auburn atop their ballots. Louisiana-Monroe's Todd Berry, whose team also faced Auburn, voted Auburn No. 1.

Oregon was ranked either first or second on every ballot. Idaho's Robb Akey, New Mexico's Locksley and Utah's Kyle Whittingham gave Auburn its lowest ranking, at No. 3.

Akey was the only coach to give TCU a first-place vote. Locksley and Whittingham, both Mountain West coaches, voted the Horned Frogs second. TCU got its lowest ranking from Illinois' Ron Zook, who placed TCU at No. 6.

Michigan State's highest ranking came from coach Mark Dantonio, who had his team ranked fourth, ahead of fellow one-loss Big Ten teams Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Spartans handed Wisconsin its only loss. Only four coaches did not have the top three Big Ten teams ranked in order of Wisconsin-Ohio State-Michigan State. Harbaugh (a former Michigan quarterback), Saban and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian ranked Ohio State ahead of the Badgers and Spartans. Only Saban (a former Michigan State coach) and Dantonio ranked Michigan State ahead of Wisconsin.

Harbaugh, whose team likely would have faced Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl if not for the rule sending TCU to Pasadena, gave the Badgers their lowest ranking, at No. 8. Harbaugh had a pair of two-loss teams (Oklahoma and Virginia Tech) ranked ahead of Wisconsin. Badgers coach Bret Bielema returned the favor; he was one of five coaches who gave Stanford its lowest ranking, at No. 7.

Sixteen teams in the final top 25 had coaches voting in the poll. None voted their teams lower than their final ranking, and 12 voted their teams higher than their final ranking. Nebraska's Bo Pelini gave his team the biggest bump, ranking his three-loss Huskers eighth when the final poll ranked them 16th. Mullen voted his team 16th when the Bulldogs were 22nd in the final ranking. UCF coach George O'Leary ranked his team 19th when the Knights ranked 24th in the final poll.

On the other hand, four coaches whose teams were in the "also receiving votes" category did not vote for their own teams: Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Navy and Arizona received votes, but they were left off their coaches' ballots.

Among the teams on which coaches had the least amount of consensus: No. 20 South Carolina was ranked as high was 14th by Memphis' Larry Porter and Akey, but Mullen, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes and Houston's Kevin Sumlin left the Gamecocks unranked. Five coaches placed No. 15 Nevada at No. 19, but six coaches placed the Wolf Pack in the top 10. San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre gave Nevada its highest ranking, at No. 8. No. 11 Virginia Tech was ranked as low as 15th (ULM's Berry) and as high as sixth (Harbaugh and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly).

From the Harris poll

Only two pollsters did not rank Oregon and Auburn in the top two, and both were journalists from North Carolina. Sammy Batten, a reporter for the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer, ranked Oregon first, TCU second and Auburn third. Larry Keech, a former reporter with the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record, ranked TCU first, Oregon second and Auburn third.

Batten gave Wisconsin its lowest ranking, at No. 7, behind Oregon, TCU, Auburn, Stanford, Ohio State and Michigan State.

No. 4 Ohio State was ranked as high as third by former Cincinnati and USC athletic director Mike McGee and as low as 10th by former Army player Bob Anderson. Anderson also was one of two to give Arkansas its highest ranking, at No. 5.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Wally Hall joined Anderson in putting the Razorbacks in the top five. He ranked Arkansas (10-2) ahead of five one-loss teams, including Stanford.

The only votes Notre Dame (7-5) received in either human poll came from the Irish's radio team. Play-by-play announcer Don Criqui put the Irish at No. 16, and analyst Allen Pinkett, a former Notre Dame player, ranked the Irish 25th.

More home-cooking may have come from former Big 12 director of officials Tim Millis, who put two-loss Oklahoma No. 5 on his ballot, ahead of one-loss teams Stanford, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Former NFL and Virginia offensive lineman Jim Dombrowski gave Iowa (7-5) its only vote, at No 16. He and former NFL and Tulsa quarterback Gus Frerotte also gave Nebraska its highest ranking, at No. 9.

Former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier did not give his alma mater its lowest ranking, but he came close. Frazier, who led Nebraska to the 1995 national championship, ranked Nebraska 22nd. Former UAB radio broadcaster Gary Sanders ranked Nebraska 24th. Sanders also gave Virginia Tech its highest ranking (No. 6) and was one of two to give Texas A&M its highest ranking (No. 11).

Two voters placed No. 16 Alabama in the top 10: Rutgers broadcaster Chris Carlin (seventh) and National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors executive director Michael Cleary (10th).

Former Hawaii coach Bob Wagner may have had the most interesting (and most WAC friendly) top 10: 1. Auburn, 2. TCU, 3. Oregon, 4. Stanford, 5. Nevada, 6. Boise State, 7 Ohio State, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Michigan State, 10. LSU.

Former San Diego State player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila gave Boise State its highest ranking in either poll at No. 4. The Broncos were the highest-ranked one-loss team on his ballot.

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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