College Football Rankings

Complaining about college football rankings is probably as old as the game itself. I am sure after the first week of games back in 1883, someone complained that Princeton was ranked ahead of Harvard, despite a weak win over a non-conference opponent (no need to correct me on any of the history, it was a joke).

I do not envy the folks who come up with rankings. The AP Poll is exactly what it sounds like: 65 writers/broadcasters list their top 25 and then you compile it and assign points. But come on, do you really think all of those folks have seen all of the teams play? Do you really think they know for sure how good certain teams are compared to others? How many of them probably have no system for how they allow a team to drop after a loss. I honestly do not envy them, I feel like the top ten would probably be somewhat easy (yeah, you may disagree about a certain number–this team is 6th! no, they are 8th!–but for the most part, I am sure the top ten is pretty close for all 65 polls), but the difficulty is the 15-25 spots. So I thought it would be fun to look at some of the oddities of this week’s ranking…

Let us begin with the losers: Oklahoma & Michigan.

Oklahoma came in to Saturday’s game ranked 3rd with a huge win over Ohio State. They lost to Iowa State at home and dropped nine spots to 12th, now behind Ohio State. Michigan lost to Michigan State, but they dropped ten. Neither Iowa St. nor MSU were ranked prior to Saturday’s games. But wait, that is what is weird. Why wasn’t Michigan State ranked? Their only loss was to Notre Dame, whose only loss was to Georgia. I am never a fan of Notre Dame and I think they sometimes get rankings based on reputation, but come on, everyone is super high on Georgia right now and the Irish only lost by one point. And while we are at it, what about Virginia Tech? They lost to Clemson, the defending national champions. And do not get me started on Clemson, how come the defending champs are not number one? It is their ranking to lose, right? Also, they have beat Auburn, VT, and Louisville (who was ranked at the time and has the defending Heisman winner).

Stanford has lost two games: USC and San Diego State. And yet for some reason the win over Utah brings them back into the rankings and only four spots behind SDSU, who is undefeated. Speaking of undefeated, we still have UCF, South Florida, SDSU, and Navy. I realize that those none Power 5 schools will never get the love, but we should probably look at them for a second. South Florida beat Illinois (all while having games postponed and dealing with hurricanes). Central Florida spanked Maryland (who beat Texas, who almost beat USC). What about SDSU? As I mentioned, they beat Stanford, and they defeated Arizona State on the road. I will concede that none of Navy’s wins are impressive, but being undefeated is not easy, so kudos to them.

Finally, on the unbeaten subject, we have Miami. 4-0, with a victory this week over Florida State (okay, so maybe they are not very good this year). But, how come an undefeated Miami is not up there with Washington (seriously, the Huskies toughest game has been Rutgers–probably close because it was at Rutgers). Why is Miami considered better than Oklahoma, but not Ohio State.

And I know what you are probably thinking: “hey Josh, these things will resolve themselves by the end of the year.” That is definitely true. Washington/Washington State will play each other, Miami will play VT and Notre Dame. Central Florida will battle with South Florida (if they are both undefeated, will the loser be dropped from the rankings?). But what about teams who do not play each other? The playoff committee looks at your opponents and how they were ranked when you played them. So Stanford gets back into the rankings by beating #20 Utah. That drops the Utes out of the rankings, but if they beat #13 USC this week, then they would probably get back into the rankings, but USC would drop significantly because they lost to an unranked team. Does that make sense?

Also, that does not even take into consideration how much of these writers are biased towards a Power 5 conference, or how much they want a narrative to emerge. For example, how come Texas Tech was not ranked at all this year, their only loss was to Oklahoma State and it was only by a touchdown. And yet they beat Kansas and all of a sudden are worthy of a Top 25 spot? OR is it because Big 12 writers put them in because they play Oklahoma in three weeks and it will look better if Oklahoma defeats a ranked Texas Tech? You don’t think this happens? Maybe not as intentional as that, the bias may just be more “hey, I see and pay more attention to these teams, so I think they are better.” I am certainly that way towards the Big Ten. I look at Iowa and say “hey, how come they are not ranked?” They barely lost to Penn State and Michigan State, and they at least defeated Iowa State, which is more than Oklahoma can say.

So what is my point? I don’t know. Rankings are difficult. I also have this weird fascination with South Florida and UCF. I think they get a raw deal in the rankings. I want to see those schools rise up and supplant Florida/FSU as the football powers in the state (okay maybe not that extreme, but it would be cool if it was more than just those two dominating every year). Similar to what we see in Texas with the rise of TCU & Baylor over the past decade, which has shifted the dominance of power away from the University of Texas.

Speaking of Texas…here is a weird question. If you play for UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) and decide to transfer to University of Texas, do you still have to sit out a year? What if you are transferring because UTEP does not offer a major you want to take, but UT-Austin does? Does the Texas system allow you to move freely from one campus to the next (like how you can start at PSU-Altoona, but graduate from PSU-Main Campus)?