USA Today, Harris, Computers...Which Is the Most Reliable College Football Poll?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 1, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 27:  Robert Lester #37 of the Alabama Crimson Tide recovers a punt that bounced off the back of Deontae Skinner #51 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If you've followed me from the offseason until now, then you know how I feel about polls. I hate them. They are all flawed and biased and need to be fixed if they are to be relied upon to determine the college-football champion.

I hate the Harris because of the lack of transparency, accountability and instruction where voting is concerned. The voters don't have any time to actually watch the games, and when they're rushing to cast their votes, they can't possibly accurately evaluate teams.

Speaking of time, that's why I hate the Coaches' Poll. They don't have time. No time to vote. No time to watch teams. No time to be bothered by the abilities of teams that they will likely never play, outside of a chance bowl meeting. It just cannot be trusted to give an accurate representation.

Last, but not least, the computers. Six different machines programmed with various weighted criteria that crunch results and spits out answers. Some say they're impartial. I say that if you don't watch the teams play and evaluate off of their performance, then how much are you really worth?

Yet, I've been tasked with naming one of these means as the most reliable. It's certainly not an easy task, given how I feel about the flawed nature of each. Think of it more like the lesser of three evils. Or, which of the trio is the "least terrible" in all of this.

So, here goes: I'll take the Harris Poll.

Unlike the computers and the coaches, at least in theory, the media who vote in the Harris Poll can watch more than one game in a day and draw some conclusions based upon their viewing. The Coaches' Poll is more whimsical with losses by teams that don't carry big-name clout and quite slow to move teams that do have household-name appeal. The computers are nameless, faceless algorithms that think Florida State is the 21st-best team in America. 

In other words, when all else fails, let the Harris Poll meet you in the middle. The little deviance it has from the Coaches' Poll is a positive thing. Teams like Texas Tech and Stanford get a little boost, while a team like Texas A&M gets to stay closer to earth, where it belongs.

None of these things are perfect, folks. The Harris Poll is the same apparatus that saw some voters pushing their own Oklahoma State agenda a season ago in an effort to avoid the rematch. Each of them has their own flaws and those must be noted.

Personally, I'd scrap the Coaches' Poll and change the Harris Poll in an effort to make the poll more reliable. As for the computers, if a printout is what you want, there's no need to watch the games, right?

Go with the Harris Poll. Remember, in 2010, it had the Auburn Tigers sitting at No. 1, while the Coaches' had the Oregon Ducks taking the top spot. That worked out alright for the voters in that respect.