College Football Polls 2013: Analyzing Week 10 AP and Coaches Polls
If Week 8 was a hurricane that ravaged the college football landscape, Week 9 brought us a mild Sunday afternoon storm with a few blocks of power outages and nothing more.
The two biggest "upsets" on Saturday were Missouri getting knocked off by South Carolina and Texas Tech dropping its game at Oklahoma. The powerhouses at the top of the polls flexed their muscles, and no one is quite sure what to make of the teams between No. 10 and No. 25.
We'll attempt to make sense of the madness here by analyzing the latest rankings from the 2013 college football season.
A trio of Big Ten teams highlight spots 21-25 in both polls, as Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State each jockey for position.
The Badgers pass the eye test more so than the other two, but they also have an extra loss on their record. The Spartans and Wolverines will do battle next Saturday, but neither team plays the Badgers this season.
The AP has Arizona State squeaking in at No. 25, while the Coaches Poll has settled on Notre Dame. As easy as it is to hate on the Irish, they are more deserving of the spot considering they beat the Sun Devils in a head-to-head matchup.
But for Notre Dame fans questioning the AP Poll, remember that your team will probably notch a few more easy wins before a trip to Stanford to close out the season, so the chances to impress are out there. As for Arizona State, it should be more concerned with simply winning the Pac-12 South, which will likely come down to a contest between the Sun Devils and UCLA Bruins later on.
The final difference between the two polls is that Northern Illinois sits at No. 21 in the AP and UCF is ranked No. 22 in the Coaches Poll. You can debate all you want about how good Northern Illinois really is, but the Knights outside the Top 20 is a crime that should be punishable by having to attend every Purdue game this season (sorry, Boilermakers, that was an unnecessary cheap shot).
Out of these teams, who will see the biggest jump before season's end? Given the Fighting Irish's schedule, they could sneak into the Top 20 pretty soon. But here's a vote for the Badgers as the best of the bunch.
As we move further up the rankings, you'll notice teams that don't necessarily stand out from the rest. It's an odd year in college football, with the top few teams being very, very good and everyone else being good but not great.
For example, the UCLA Bruins (No. 19 in the AP, No. 17 in the Coaches) just lost by 28 at Oregon. The game was close for three quarters, and Jim Mora's team is certainly deserving of its ranking, but it gives you an idea of the gap between this bunch and those at the very top.
Louisville also resides in this group of teams, which seems about right. What doesn't make sense, however, is that the Coaches Poll has the Cardinals a full five spots better than UCF, a team they lost to at home. AP voters have the Knights one spot higher than Louisville.
Fresno State checks in at No. 16 in the AP and No. 18 in the Coaches, although the Bulldogs, like several other non-BCS teams, are going to have a difficult time moving up without any quality opponents remaining. Saturday's squeaker over San Diego State showed that the Bulldogs certainly have their flaws, but they should hold on to a spot in the Top 20 if they keep winning.
The most notable difference between the two polls here is the ranking of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys check in at No. 18 in the AP, yet are all the way up at No. 12 in the Coaches. So who has it right?
Mike Gundy's team probably belongs in the middle, because No. 12 is way too high for a team that lost at West Virginia, but No. 18 seems a bit low for such a talented group. It'll get a chance to move up next week with a game at Texas Tech.
We now arrive at a group of teams that, for the most part, had high aspirations when the season began.
Of note are Texas A&M and LSU, two teams with a pair of losses on their records and more talent than anybody else in the grouping.
Johnny Manziel and the Aggies are fresh off a pasting of Vanderbilt, while LSU had an easy day at the office, notching a 48-16 win over Furman. The two teams will meet on November 23.
In the AP, Oklahoma checks in at No. 13 after the big win over Texas Tech. This seems much more reasonable than the Coaches Poll, which has the Sooners up at No. 9. No team that gets blistered by Texas in 2013 should be in the Top 10, especially when you consider what Ole Miss and BYU did to the Longhorns back in September.
Staying in the state, Texas Tech checks in at No. 15 in both polls after suffering its first loss of the season, although the Red Raiders will have an opportunity to move back up with games against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas.
The Auburn Tigers are No. 11 in the Coaches, which seems a bit low with just a lone loss to LSU on the resume. Gus Malzahn's team beat Texas A&M on the road, and that in itself merits a Top 10 spot.
The AP voters think highly of South Carolina, putting the Gamecocks at No. 14 despite the team having two losses. Will Steve Spurrier's guys be the ones to emerge from the SEC East jumble?
The only major difference between the two polls in the No. 10-6 slots is that the AP has Auburn at No. 8, and the Coaches has Oklahoma at No. 9.
Aside from those two, which have been discussed, you'll find Missouri, Clemson, Miami and Stanford. One subtle difference here is the Coaches Poll putting Stanford at No. 7 and Miami at No. 6, while the AP has it the other way around.
Regardless, this group is seriously lacking and doesn't look significantly better than anybody else behind it.
Clemson suffered a 37-point loss at home to Florida State, which is ugly regardless of how good the opponent might be. Miami is perhaps the most overrated Top 10 team in recent memory, but where else are you going to put an undefeated team from the ACC at this point in the season?
The Hurricanes' only major win was against Florida, and the Gators have since dropped out of the rankings completely. Here's a thought that Miami probably shouldn't get too comfortable with Florida State up next.
Missouri is having an outstanding season, and wins over Florida and Georgia are great, but neither the Bulldogs nor the Gators are very good this year, at least in their current, injured states.
The last team of note is Stanford, which may very well be an elite program in 2013, but the loss at Utah several weeks ago was bewildering. The Cardinal defense is as good as there is the country, but it figures to be tested by the Oregon Ducks.
The top five looks the exact same in both polls and is as follows: Baylor, Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon and Alabama.
While no one should be disagreeing with the selection of teams, there seems to be two different groups.
In the first group is Baylor and Ohio State. Both teams have had stretches of dominant football this season, and both have also looked fairly average at least once.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes dominated a pretty decent Penn State team, which may cause some to see them as part of the top tier. Still, close wins over Iowa and Northwestern linger, and the Buckeyes probably need a string of convincing wins to impress the voters. As for Baylor, the toughest part of their schedule is up ahead, so they'll sink or swim one way or another.
The top tier in college football, clearly, is Florida State, Oregon and Alabama. You can debate for days over what order the three should be in, but the fact is that all three have looked dominant throughout the season, and each has at least one quality victory over a ranked opponent.
The Ducks probably stood out the most on this particular weekend due to a 42-14 victory over UCLA, but Florida State can still point to a 51-14 victory at Clemson, while Alabama can claim impressive performances against Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
Jimbo Fisher's team probably has the best chance at going undefeated, with Miami coming to town followed by cupcakes throughout November.
Oregon will likely be challenged in games against Stanford and Oregon State, while Alabama will have to get by LSU.