NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 4 Polls

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2016

NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 4 Polls

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    Statements were made on Saturday, and movements were made on Sunday.

    But where would the Week 4 college football rankings settle?

    There was no shortage of directions for Associated Press and USA Today Amway Coaches Poll voters to take their ballots in. After yet another wild week of action, which featured among it a Top Five team allowing the most points in program history, there was sure to be movement and lack of consensus throughout.

    Where did the polls get it right, and where did they err?

    Here are some hits and misses from Sunday's polls.

Hit: Big Ten Respect

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    So far, the Big Ten has been the country's best conference. Depth is an issue, but at the top it has more quality teams than any league.

    Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska are all undefeated, and each has beaten at least one major opponent. Four of those wins came this week, with Ohio State beating Oklahoma, Michigan beating Colorado, Michigan State beating Notre Dame and Nebraska beating Oregon. In Week 1, Wisconsin beat LSU.

    The rankings reflect this quality. The coaches poll has Ohio State and Michigan in the Top Five, Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Top 10 and Nebraska in the Top 20. The AP poll agreed with most of that, only with Wisconsin at No. 11.

    "Ohio State's hiring of Urban Meyer raised the bar for other Big Ten teams in the way Nick Saban once raised the stakes in the SEC," wrote Jon Solomon of CBS Sports.

    "Consider this:" he continued, "Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska have a combined 17-10 record against Power Five teams since 2014. Those same five schools went 12-19 vs. the Power Five from 2011-13."

    Things have turned around in a hurry.

Miss: Louisville Behind Clemson in Coaches Poll

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    Plenty of teams have played well this year, but three have stood out above the rest: Alabama, Ohio State and Louisville.

    Other contenders such as Houston, Michigan, Clemson and Stanford are knocking at the door, but each has looked sluggish against inferior competition—Houston for three quarters against Cincinnati, Michigan for two quarters against Colorado, Clemson for three quarters against Troy and Stanford in the second half vs. Kansas State.

    So why does the coaches poll have Clemson at No. 3 and Louisville at No. 4? The Cardinals laid a smackdown on Florida State, leading 63-10 before taking their feet off the gas late. Those 63 points are the most Florida State has allowed in program history.

    Clemson righted the ship against South Carolina State, but elsewhere in Week 3, its quality win over Auburn was devalued. Texas A&M won on the Plains by more points (13) than Clemson did (6) in Week 1.

    The coaches poll is anchored to preseason rankings. It shouldn't be. Based on what we've seen, Louisville is easily part of the top three.

    The AP poll got this correct.

Hit: Texas A&M Reaches AP Top 10

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    Unlike the coaches poll, which buried Texas A&M behind Georgia and Tennessee, the AP poll rewarded the Aggies.

    And rightfully so. Head coach Kevin Sumlin's team has been a pleasant surprise, beating UCLA in Week 1 and winning at Auburn in Week 3. That's 3-0 with two quality wins—something not many teams can boast.

    Yes, A&M has developed a reputation for starting fast and ending slow. It's basically the inverse of Arkansas.

    But something about this team, which for once is led by the defense, feels sustainable. Has Sumlin ever coached a group this balanced?

    "Maybe 3-0 might be different because of who we've played [this year]," Sumlin said on Saturday, per TexAgs. "But we have a lot of football to play."

Miss: No Love for South Florida...Again

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    I listed this as a "miss" last week, after South Florida beat Northern Illinois, 48-17.

    The miss is even harder to stomach this week, after South Florida beat Syracuse, 45-20.

    The Bulls trailed 17-0 after the first quarter but dominated the rest of the way, roaring back with 45 of 48 points. Yes, they gained fewer yards and won the turnover battle 3-0, but how many "Group of Five" teams can perform that type of comeback on ACC turf?

    And before you write this off as "It's just Syracuse," consider how the Orange hung around with Louisville. They only trailed by 14 after three quarters, which looks better in hindsight after watching Louisville embarrass Florida State. The Seminoles trailed by 39 after three quarters—and they were ranked No. 2 in the country.

    We'll see the double transitive property come to life next week, when South Florida hosts, of all teams, Florida State. If the Noles come out as flat as they did in Week 3, USF has the talent to hand them their second straight loss.

    Head coach Willie Taggart's team has won seven straight regular-season games, with six straight by 20 points or more.

    When will the rankings reflect that?

Hit: Notre Dame Drops from Both Polls

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    Of the three major teams with losing records—Ole Miss, Notre Dame and Oklahoma—only the Irish failed to rank in both bolls.

    Ole Miss ranked in both after blowing leads to Florida State and Alabama, and Oklahoma ranked in the AP poll after losses to Houston and Ohio State. The Irish, however, disappeared from both rankings after losing to Texas and Michigan State.

    And that seems fair. No matter how this shook out, it was bound to stoke conversation, but the Irish don't deserve to be ranked. Neither Texas nor Michigan State has impressed much in its other games, with the Longhorns losing at Cal this week and the Spartans having struggled to beat Furman. We don't know for sure that they're good.

    We do know for sure that Ohio State and Houston are good, which helps Oklahoma. And we know that Alabama is good, which helps Ole Miss.

    There are sure to be dissenting opinions here, but I think the polls got this one right.

Miss: Texas Ahead of San Diego State and Cal

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    Why is Texas ranked ahead of San Diego State and Cal?

    The Aztecs are 3-0 and beat Cal in Week 2. The Longhorns are 2-1 and lost to Cal in Week 3. Texas did beat Notre Dame, but the Irish fell out of the rankings after losing at home to Michigan State. Does that still count as such a quality win?

    By that same token, Cal should argue to be ranked ahead of Texas, too. Both teams are 2-1, and according to the coaches poll, which has Texas ranked and Notre Dame unranked, the Bears have a Top 25 win while the Longhorns do not. (Plus, you know, the whole head-to-head thing.)

    The coaches poll ranked neither San Diego State nor Cal. The AP poll did rank San Diego State No. 22, but that was still one spot behind Texas.

    This reeks of lazy polling, big-name bias and anchored logic. The Texas-Cal game ended after 2 a.m. ET, and it's unclear whether everybody watched it.