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The Flow of Information and the AP Poll

Jason Whitlock explains his rationale at voting the Missouri Tiger football squad at number 25 in the nation, upsetting some fans.

My vote is a work in progress until mid-November, when we’ll have much more information about all teams. I don’t believe in a slotting system. The teams I have ranked ahead of Missouri don’t have to lose for me to move the Tigers up in my poll.

I can't say I blame him (or any other voter) for being cautious at this point in the season: memories of past seasons still matter. Tiger teams under head coach Gary Pinkel have several maddening come-from-ahead losses under their belt (up 14-0 at Troy in 2004, lost 24-14; up 17-0 at home against Okie State in 2004, lost 20-17; up 21-0 at KSU, lost 36-28). The whole coaching staff is the same and many of the players from the squad that squandered those leads are still on the squad. Yes, everyone's a little older and a little wiser, but this year's Tigers have shown some cracks in recent weeks.

"Yes, I suspect I have the Tigers ranked too low. But that can be easily corrected once the Tigers play Oklahoma and Nebraska. I can guarantee you this: when the season is over, you will be satisfied with where I’ll rank the Tigers. I’ll make the same promise to the Nebraska fans who are upset the Huskers haven’t cracked my top 25."

Yes, but does that mean that his memories of the past will be completely erased by season's end and Mr. Whitlock's vote will only account for this season's play? That may be the case with him, but as Brian noted here and Rod noted here, that that isn't the case for the average AP voter.

I sometimes think of the polls as some sort of dynamic animal that feeds off of information. At the beginning of the season, all voters have is how the team played in years past (especially last year), who (including coaches) is left over from previous squads, who are the new guys, and a lot of guessing about how the brew will come together. By the end of the season, enough information has been processed to give a more informed poll. But the past still matters.