Jablonski: Ignoring the trolls key to life as an AP top-25 voter

Ohio State-Notre Dame winner could move into top spot next week

I put the target on back every year when I accept an invitation to vote in the Associated Press top-25 poll.

College football fans from across the country love to bash the voters. There are millions of college football fans and only 63 voters. They have us outnumbered and know where we live — in the digital world, at least, where they can bash us with words but not sticks or stones.

Here are a few of the nicer comments about me this week on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.

“David Jablonski appears to be on meth.”

“David Jablonski needs to go on that Aaron Rodgers darkness retreat.”

“Go home, David Jablonski. You’re drunk.”

The trolls want my voting privileges revoked, but I have to ignore them. The poll is better when voters are not influenced by how everyone else is voting and don’t vote because they’re worried about the online attacks.

Some people understand my approach. The Cover 3 podcast, from CBS Sports, talked about my ballot this week in a segment they call “Poll Assassin.”

“I called him out last week for some odd ballots,” one of the hosts, Tom Fornelli said, “but my guy David Jablonski, this is a man who thinks for himself.”

“He is a free thinker,” Chip Patterson said.

They mentioned that my ballot is the second-most different ballot from the actual poll, according to CollegePollTracker.com, where all the individual ballots are listed. Only Matt Baker, of the Tampa Bay Times, had a more extreme ballot, though extreme is a relative term — no one’s putting all 12 Mid-American Conference teams in their poll or voting Ohio State 25th.

Where does my poll differ from others? For one, I have Georgia at No. 4. Everyone else has the Bulldogs in the top three.

It would be easy to vote Georgia No. 1 right now. Fifty seven of the voters did that this week. They’re not wrong — there is no wrong with the polls; they’re all opinions. Georgia is the two-time champion. They’re off to a 3-0 start. Giving Georgia the top spot is fine.

My voting style has changed with experience. I’ve submitted more than 90 polls between the AP football and basketball polls since 2020. I’ve tried to be more fluid with my picks this season, more willing to make major changes every week and not just blindly moving the winning teams up and the losing teams down.

My big change his week was moving Washington from No. 8 to No. 2, rewarding it for routs of Boise State, Tulsa and Michigan State.

I had Georgia No. 1 in the preseason poll out of respect for its accomplishments and a growing reputation for being a consistent winner. You can pencil Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State into the top three every year before the season begins. They’ve earned that stature.

This year, I switched my No. 1 vote from Georgia to Florida State after Week 1 to recognize Florida State’s victory against LSU. I elevated Texas to the top spot after Week 2 when it beat Alabama on the road. That remains the best victory for any team this season, and I kept Texas at No. 1 this week even though it didn’t put away Wyoming until the fourth quarter.

I dropped Georgia to No. 4 — that’s what earned me the most critical and hateful comments this week — not because the Bulldogs are worse than the teams above them but because they have not gotten a chance to prove how good they are. They’ve beaten Tennessee Martin, Ball State and South Carolina and trailed the Gamecocks 14-3 at halftime.

Fornelli took my side in his comments on the podcast.

“Frankly, considering what Georgia has played and how it looked again South Carolina, that’s a perfectly defensible place to put them,” he said. “I know they’re the two-time champ, but they have not looked outstanding.”

In short, I’m voting more on resume than reputation, though reputation is still a factor because most of the teams in the top 10 have not played another top-25 team. Ohio State and Notre Dame get their first chance this week.

My poll is not meant to predict future success. For example. I rewarded Colorado for winning at TCU in Week 1 by moving them from unranked to No. 9. That’s a huge jump. No one else in the poll moved Colorado that high. I dropped Colorado to No. 11 this week after they struggled to beat Colorado State in Boulder.

Having Colorado four spots above Oregon does not mean I think Colorado will win at Oregon this week. It’s just a reflection of Colorado having a better resume than Oregon at this point.

The other thing the angry people who like to get mad online should consider when I make out my poll is I’m not necessarily picking the 25 best teams. My ranking is a mix of the best teams and the teams having the best seasons. I’ll vote for MAC or Sun Belt teams who are piling up victories even if I suspect they wouldn’t have the same success in a higher-ranked conference.

This will be an interesting week for voters. There are six games matching ranked teams.

I could see moving the Ohio State-Notre Dame winner to the top spot. We’ll see what this drunk, meth-fueled voter decides.

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