Since college football is all about debate with polls, rankings and such and not in any way shape or form decided decisively on the field (like EVERY OTHER SPORT KNOWN TO MAN), the discussion rages into the offseason long after the last whistle blows. In the case of ESPN, if the debate wanes why not just create your own debate, after all that's what TWWL is all about these days. Enter the Prestige Rankings: ESPN's attempt to rank the prestige of all FBS teams throughout the history of football (ah, to ESPN history starts in 1936 - whatever). The system was devised by Chris Fallica, Nick Loucks and Harold Shelton, the fine men of the "ESPN research" team. Not sure this qualifies as research but, ok, I'll play along. First let's look at what "Prestige" is:
Pronunciation: \pre-stēzh, -stēj\
Usage: often attributive
1: standing or estimation in the eyes of people: weight or credit in general opinion
2: commanding position in people's minds
So from the start this is an exercise in futility because you and I will have a completely different idea of what makes a prestigious team then say someone on the "ESPN research" team but, then again, that's what college football is all about: debate. So let's look at what weighs heavy in the minds of The World Wide Leader.
- National title: 25 points
- Berth in one of the major bowls: 10
Major bowls were defined as every Rose, Orange and Sugar Bowl since '36; every Cotton Bowl from 1940-94 (when it started taking the SWC champ until it was booted from the Bowl Alliance); and every Fiesta Bowl since the '86 season when the historic No. 1 Miami-vs.-No. 2 Penn State game changed the landscape of college football.
- Major bowl win: 10
- Best win/loss record in conference regular season: 10
These points were awarded to every team that had at least a share of the best overall record in a major football conference, regardless of divisional alignment. Independent schools were awarded the bonus if they were ranked ahead of at least three of the big six conference champions in a final regular-season poll that season.
- Final AP top-5 finish: 10
- Heisman winner: 8
- Final AP top 6-10 finish: 6
- Conference title championship-game bonus: 5
- Final AP top 11-25 finish: 4
- Bowl appearance: 3
- Bowl win: 3
- 10-win season: 2
- Week as AP No. 1: 2
- Win over AP No. 1: 1
- Each consensus All-American: 1
- First-round NFL draft pick (since '70): 1
- Losing season: minus-2
- Each year of television ban: minus-1
- Each year of postseason ban: minus-2
- Each year of overall probation: minus-1
- Each year of financial-aid penalty: minus-1
- Each year of recruiting penalties: minus-1
- Each penalty of "show cause action:" minus-2
Side note: I was completely shocked to read that someone working for ESPN would write that a game played by Penn State "changed the landscape of college football" – I'm sure their pink slips are already printed.
So in the minds of ESPN the most important thing in college football is winning a MNC. Ok, I can except that for some that's all that matters *cough SEC* but for some of us getting banned by the NCAA is a little more of a negative than what ESPN thinks. A postseason ban only draws a negative 2?!?! WTF?? Getting banned from postseason play is a tad more important than that! I would most definitely rank that a minus 8 or at least a 5, you've done something pretty bad if you can't even participate in the postseason. In fact they rank that as egregious as getting a "show cause action" which is more of a self-discipline issue and not a total ban. A school that hires a coach or an AD that is tagged with the "show cause" on their record can still participate as long as the coach or AD in question keeps his nose clean.
I believe All-Americans and 1st-round NFL picks are weighted too low and Heisman winners are weighted to high. Getting a Heisman is almost as important as major bowl win or a conference championship? I don't think so, how many Heisman's have been complete busts in bowl games and in the NFL? Independents get screwed in this system because they have to finish with a better record than three of the big six conference champions to get the 10-point bonus and they don't even get a shot at the 5-point bonus for making it to a Conference title championship-game, they aren't in a conference.
All in all though, I would think with the Paterno era Penn State is going to finish pretty high in these rankings, and in fact they've already listed Nos. 21-119 here and Nos. 16-20 here and no PSU yet. Nos. 11-15 are due out today with the top ten coming out Thursday and Friday. Stay tuned.