Analyzing the final coaches, Harris poll votes

Filling out ballots for the final rankings was easy – until voters reached No. 2.

LSU was a unanimous No. 1 in both the USA Today coaches’ poll and the Harris Interactive top 25, the human polls used to determine the BCS standings.

During the season, the individual ballots remain secret unless the voters choose to release them to the public, as one coach (Air Force’s Troy Calhoun) and a handful of Harris voters do.

But when the final BCS standings are released, all 174 individual ballots are open for examination.

Here are our observations on the ballots from the two polls. (You can examine the Coaches ballots and Harris ballots, as well as read a description of every Harris voter.)

Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Both sets of pollsters tilted heavily to a rematch in the national title game, as 42 of the 59 coaches ranked Alabama second; Oklahoma State was second on the other 17 ballots. In the Harris poll, 70 of 115 pollsters voted Alabama No. 2.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was very happy with the final BCS standings.
(Getty Images)

No coach had Alabama ranked lower than third, but six coaches had Oklahoma State fourth or worse. The most notable? Alabama coach Nick Saban had the Cowboys fourth. Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, whose team is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, ranked Alabama ahead of Oklahoma State. Stanford’s David Shaw ranked his own team ahead of Oklahoma State; actually, all six coaches who had Oklahoma State fourth or worse had the Cowboys behind Stanford.

Air Force’s Calhoun gave Oklahoma State its lowest ranking at No. 5, behind Stanford at No. 3 and Arkansas at No. 4.

Other than Pinkel, coaches voted along conference lines. Auburn’s Gene Chizik, LSU’s Les Miles, Georgia’s Mark Richt, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Saban had Alabama second, while Baylor’s Art Briles, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads and Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville had Oklahoma State second.

In the Harris poll, only one voter, former Stanford quarterback Todd Husak, voted Alabama lower than No. 3. He had Oklahoma State ranked second and his alma mater ranked third, with the Tide fourth.

Seven Harris voters ranked Oklahoma State lower than fourth. Former Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson, former Cal quarterback Craig Morton, former Kentucky center Jeff Van Note and Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal reporter Rick Wright had the Cowboys ranked fifth. Former Notre Dame wide receiver Derrick Mayes, former Hawaii coach Bob Wagner and former Iowa sports information director George Wine ranked Oklahoma State sixth.

Clemson is 2-0 vs. Virginia Tech – and ranked lower in both polls

Although Clemson (10-3) defeated Virginia Tech (11-2) twice, by a combined 61-13, only 24 of 60 coaches ranked Clemson ahead of Virginia Tech. That’s how Virginia Tech ended up ranked 11th and Clemson ranked 14th.

[Related: Clemson turns it around, storms into Orange Bowl]

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora had the biggest discrepancy between the two, ranking the Hokies ninth and Clemson 22nd. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer ranked Clemson 10th and his own team 13th. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier also ranked the Tigers, his archrival, ahead of Virginia Tech.

In the Harris poll, 49 of 115 voters ranked Virginia Tech ahead of Clemson. Two had Virginia Tech 12 spots higher: former SMU player Lance McIlhenny and former Troy player Eric Mizell. Four others had Virginia Tech 11 spots higher.

Remember Week 1?

No. 15 TCU (10-2) finished one spot ahead of Baylor (9-3) despite Baylor’s 50-48 win in the opener. Half of the coaches ranked TCU ahead of Baylor, and Colorado coach Jon Embree went so far as to rank TCU 15th and didn’t rank Baylor. Fresno State coach Pat Hill gave TCU its highest rank at No. 9 (he had Baylor 14th). Only he and San Diego State coach Rocky Long, who once had TCU coach Gary Patterson on his staff, ranked the Horned Frogs higher than 12th.

Two coaches ranked Georgia (10-3) ahead of Boise State (11-1) despite the Broncos’ 35-21 win in the first week of the season in Atlanta. North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien ranked Georgia seventh and Boise State ninth; Vanderbilt’s James Franklin ranked Georgia 10th and Boise State 11th. Georgia finished in the top 10 in ballots for O’Brien and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre (ninth). Conversely, the Bulldogs were unranked on BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s ballot.

Non-Big Six watch

Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry gave Boise State its lowest ranking in either poll, at No. 13. Five other coaches ranked Boise State outside the top 10, all at No. 11. Dothan (Ala.) Eagle reporter Drew Champlin was the only Harris voter to leave Boise State out of the top 10; he had the Broncos 11th. The Broncos were ranked as high as fourth on two coaches’ ballots and eight Harris ballots. Boise State finished sixth in both polls. Worth noting: Boise State’s Chris Petersen ranked his team fifth and had TCU, which beat the Broncos in Boise, at No. 18. He had Georgia 14th.

Houston took a tumble in both polls after its loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game, dropping from No. 6 to 17 in both. Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes gave Houston its highest vote in the coaches’ poll, at No. 9; the Cougars beat his team by one in September. Four coaches voted Houston as low as No. 23. In the Harris poll, former Iowa SID George Wine ranked Houston fifth, the highest of any voter, and Van Note ranked Houston 25th.

Other coaches’ poll observations

Beamer was the only coach of the 35 possible to rank his team lower than where it appeared in the final coaches’ poll. Miles, Richt and Saban ranked their teams exactly where they appeared in the final poll. On average, coaches ranked their teams 2.4 spots higher than they appeared in the final poll. Virginia’s Mike London voted his team 23rd and Louisiana Tech’s Dykes voted his team 25th. Neither was in the final poll.

Georgia coach Mark Richt had four SEC teams in his final seven.
(US Presswire)

Richt had four SEC teams in his top seven: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Arkansas and No. 7 South Carolina. He also gave Oregon its lowest ranking, at No. 8 (the Ducks were ranked fifth in the final poll).

Baylor’s Art Briles gave Big Ten champion Wisconsin its lowest ranking, at No. 16 (the Badgers were eighth in the final poll). Michigan was his highest-ranked Big Ten team, at No. 11.

Fresno State’s Hill, Boise State’s Petersen and Buffalo’s Jeff Quinn gave Stanford its lowest ranking, at No. 6.

Kansas State, which finished 10th, was ranked as high as No. 6 (Briles) and as low as 17th (Miles).

Rice’s David Bailiff gave Texas (7-5) its only top-25 vote. Boise State’s Petersen gave Rutgers (8-4) its only top-25 vote.

The final coaches’ poll included six coaches who already have been dismissed: Fresno State’s Pat Hill, Akron’s Rob Ianello, Memphis’ Larry Porter, Tulane’s Bob Toledo, Washington State’s Paul Wulff and Illinois’ Ron Zook.

Other Harris poll observations

In addition to voting Oklahoma State sixth, Derrick Mayes may have had the most curious ballot. He was one of two to give Clemson its highest ranking, at No. 8. He gave five-loss Auburn its only top-20 ranking, at No. 18. He ranked three Big East teams: No. 20 West Virginia, No. 22 Louisville (which also has five losses) and No. 23 Rutgers (but did not rank Big East tri-champ Cincinnati). He did not rank Georgia. Mayes valued some head-to-head wins, including Michigan State over Michigan, Clemson over Virginia Tech, Baylor over TCU and Oklahoma over Kansas State. One of the head-to-head wins Mayes ignored, though, was Georgia’s 45-7 victory over Auburn.

Gary Sanders, a former radio broadcaster for UAB, ranked TCU (10-2) fifth. On his ballot, TCU was ranked ahead of, among others, Boise State, Wisconsin, Kansas State, South Carolina, Michigan, Oregon, Arkansas, Nebraska and Baylor.

Former Oregon and Kentucky coach Rich Brooks gave South Carolina its highest ranking at No. 5, one spot ahead of the Ducks.

Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, who helped design the BCS, had five SEC teams in his top 13: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 11 Georgia and No. 13 South Carolina.

Nebraska may be in the Big Ten, but former Huskers quarterback Tommie Frazier seems to have a soft spot for the Big 12. He ranked Oklahoma State second, Kansas State fourth (the Wildcats’ highest ranking by four spots) and Baylor 11th. He also ranked Oklahoma 22nd, three spots lower than where the Sooners appeared in the final poll.

Former Clemson player Brentson Buckner gave Baylor its highest ranking, at No. 8. He also was the only voter to leave No. 20 Nebraska off his ballot.

Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was one of eight Harris voters to give the Wolverines a top-10 ranking, at No. 9 (Michigan finished 12th). Three voters ranked Michigan higher than ninth, including Morton and former Auburn and Washington athletic director Mike Lude; both ranked Michigan seventh.

Former Army player Bob Anderson gave Wisconsin its lowest ranking, at No. 17, five spots lower than anyone else in the Harris poll. Van Note gave the Badgers their highest ranking, at No. 3. In addition to giving Wisconsin its highest ranking, Van Note was the most Big Ten-friendly voter, with three teams from the league in his top 10, with Michigan State at No. 6 and Michigan at No. 10.

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David Fox is a college football staff writer for Follow him on Twitter.
Updated Monday, Dec 5, 2011