Football fans want to know where their team stands from week to week. Every Sunday afternoon the Associated Press Top 25 poll comes out, as does the USA Today Poll. ESPN also has its power rankings. What purpose do the polls serve this early in the season?
The BCS got one thing right: It started its rankings at Week 9. By then, teams have proven — or not proven — themselves enough to justify their rankings. Upsets are still going to happen that late in the season, like the Iron Bowl last season between Auburn and Alabama which saw Auburn kick Alabama 34-28, respectively.
Most teams play all non-conference teams for the first three or four weeks of the season. Many FBS teams play teams from the FCS in hopes of boosting their record while bringing in cash. Most of the time, it’s a guaranteed win against the FCS teams. Upsets do happen, like Appalachian State at Michigan in 2007, but more often than not, it’s chalked up as an “easy win.”
With high-profile teams playing lesser profile teams early in the season, how should they expect to be ranked higher than a Wisconsin team losing to LSU? They shouldn’t, but in this system, they are. Thankfully, many teams are starting to move away from this practice. There’s always an argument over strength of schedule versus end of the season record. Take Boise State in 2006, that didn’t advance into the national championship game despite its 13-0 season record.
Just three weeks into the season, 16 different teams have, if only momentarily, held a Top 10 spot of the AP Top 25. Out of the teams that were ranked in the Top 10 during Week 1, six are still ranked that high. The other four teams have shifted up or down throughout the following weeks. South Carolina was ranked No. 9 during Week 1. By week three, it had fallen to No. 24, almost off the charts, because of a loss to Texas A&M in week one.
Last season, two of the final Top 10 teams of the season weren’t ranked at the beginning of the season. Missouri finished No. 5 and the University of Central Florida finished at No. 10. Neither team even received votes during the first week of the 2014 season. Out of the Top 25 from Week 1 to after the National Championship Game, only 15 teams were still ranked from the beginning of the season.
Even though the rankings are out there — and probably always will be — remember they’re fluid, especially early in the season. A number by a team’s name isn’t definite. It’s a number people put next to a team, gauged on basic inflated statistics.
— Edited by Rob Pyatt