Opinion: First AP Top 25 Poll is Out and Nobody Should Care
The first AP Top 25 Rankings were released this afternoon. Penn State came in at No.15. Here are where other teams in the Big Ten landed: No. 5 Ohio State, No.7 Michigan, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 19 Wisconsin, No. 20 Iowa, and No. 24 Nebraska.
The worst thing about college football is the preseason rankings. It’s a funny concept to have writers across the country vote on the best teams in the country before a game has even been played. Then, as teams begin to beat each other, these same voters continue to use these initial rankings for justification when comparing teams. For example, on Saturday if No.8 Florida loses to unranked Miami people will applaud Miami for beating a top ten team and will move them up drastically in the rankings. Then, when it comes time to choosing teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, people will count the Miami win over Florida as a win against a top ten opponent regardless of how Florida does the rest of the season. Even if Florida should have never been ranked No.8 to start the season in this hypothetical situation.
This also creates conference bias because when you have a highly ranked Team A losing to an in conference Team B, Team B replaces Team A in the rankings. Then, when Team B loses to Team C, Team C replaced Team B in the rankings. All of a sudden the conference is earning praise for being super competitive because of that initial preseason ranking when actually they are all just average teams beating each other up.
Therefore, these preseason rankings create a early ranking bias and a strength of schedule imbalance that carries throughout the season. If we wanted to do it the right way, there would be no rankings until the College Football Playoff committee comes out with their rankings on November 5th. This allows writers and committee members alike to learn who the best teams in the country really are.
Take last year as an example where 54 different schools were ranked in the AP Top 25. Additionally, 14 schools weren’t even ranked until at least half thru the season. This means there is a certain level of parity between the above average teams in college football. Instead of trying to guess who is the best at the beginning of the season and creating bias for the rest of the season, we should hold off on the rankings until we actually know something about them.