Those in charge of ranking FBS teams – and determining a four-team College Football Playoff – are given a lot of undue grief. While the job is not easy, there are indeed some systemic issues with the current polls. Our “true Top 10” shows how the ranked teams might look, if placed in a fair order – unencumbered by politics or media-driven agendas.
Results, Not Talent
If you listened to a lot of ESPN chatter, you would’ve heard members of the CFP committee use terms like “eye test”, “game control”, and “ceiling”. Perhaps, you even heard them talk about forgiving teams that lose due to injuries or difficult circumstances. While each of these concepts has a merit, taken as a whole they enable committee members to favor teams that are bigger, faster, and have more 4 and 5-star recruits at skill positions.
We believe that the only thing that matters is the scoreboard. The “eye test” of perceived talent hurts good teams that do not recruit 5-stars across the board, but instead develop bunches of hard-nosed athletes who can play multiple positions with discipline. Such as the service academies, or Penn State, who missed out on the 2017 CFP after winning the Big Ten.
Let’s Have a Conference
In the current playoff system, there are 5 “power” conferences and 4 playoff spots. Since at least 1 P5 conference winner is left out no matter what, the committee appears to have decided to disregard conference titles in their evaluation. A conference championship game, rather than a chance to prove your team’s mettle, becomes simply a “don’t lose!” scenario that could ruin your post-season.
We believe that there is no better test than the rigor of a conference schedule. Last season, Penn State beat Ohio State head to head and won the Big Ten Championship- while OSU did not even win their division. After the Buckeyes, not the Nittany Lions, received the nod for the CFP, we cried foul.
Down with Preseason Rankings!
In early September, Wisconsin handled LSU 16-14 in a game that wasn’t that close. It was considered a major “upset” for the Badgers to beat the Tigers, since Louisiana State was highly ranked by the Associated Press to begin the year. In the end, Wisconsin won their division, while LSU lost to Auburn, Alabama, and Florida on its way to a 4-loss season, firing long-time head coach Les Miles along the way.
We believe that Wisconsin over LSU was no upset. It merely looked that way to a media stronghold that over-values certain conferences and programs, like the SEC – and the LSU Tigers.
Rationality vs Fairness
Given the nature of college football games as winner-take-all clashes, the trickiest part when ranking teams is how to incorporate good, old-fashioned luck. When you know that a favored team could have beaten the underdog 9 times out of 10, your ranking should not be swayed by an unfortunate upset. However, the CFP committee almost always sinks a higher-ranked team that loses a close game. We are not going to do that, so without further ado, here are our “True Top 10” rankings based on the results of the 2016-17 FBS season.
#10 – Temple Owls (AAC Champions)
#9 – Michigan Wolverines
#8 – Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten Runners-Up)
#7 – USC Trojans
#6 – Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12 Champions)
#5 – Ohio State Buckeyes
#4 – Washington Huskies (PAC-12 Champions)
#3 – Penn State Nittany Lions (Big Ten Champions)
#2 – Clemson Tigers (ACC Champions)
#1 – Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC Champions)