NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 5 Polls

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2016

NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 5 Polls

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    Week 4 lacked the top-level upsets of previous weeks, and their absence was reflected with a relative lack of movement in the polls.

    But despite the lack of shake-ups at the top, the Week 5 rankings introduced a number of contenders toward the middle and bottom, each of which is setting up to make a move with future upsets.

    In that, this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll and Amway Coaches Poll were sort of like set-up episodes. They won't be sources of conversation at this week's water cooler, but they set the stage for future conversations and arguments.

    Let's comb through and see what they got right and wrong.

Hit: Wisconsin Rises…But Not Too Much

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    Wisconsin scored the biggest win of Week 4, beating then-No. 8 Michigan State on the road, 30-6.

    Because of that, it definitely deserved to rise. And it did. The Badgers went from No. 10 to No. 8 in the coaches poll and No. 11 to No. 8 in the AP poll. Those are both significant jumps.

    They could have risen higher if the pollsters were impulsive—but rightfully, they weren't. Wisconsin has registered quality wins over Michigan State and LSU, but the Spartans' resume looks weaker after Notre Dame dropped to 1-3 against Duke, and the Tigers' resume look weaker after dropping to 2-2 at Auburn.

    Both of those things effect Wisconsin's resume, so we shouldn't get carried away by Saturday's result. The Badgers look like Big Ten title contenders, but they still struggled to get past Georgia State, and teams like Houston, Stanford and Michigan have all played better, on the whole, through four weeks.

    Deservedly, the rankings reflect that.

Miss: Coaches Rank Georgia No. 20

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    Georgia is a big-name program with a prestigious history. It started the year with high expectations, which explains why pollsters are anchored to it.

    But what has it really done through four games?

    • Beat North Carolina, 33-24 (Neutral)
    • Beat Nicholls State, 26-24 (Home)
    • Beat Missouri, 28-27 (Road)
    • Lost to Ole Miss, 45-14 (Road)

    That's one semi-impressive win over North Carolina, two unimpressive wins over Nicholls State and Missouri and one disastrous blowout against Ole Miss.

    Week 4's loss to the Rebels was also worse than it looks at first glance. Georgia trailed 45-0 after 37 minutes and only made the game closer during garbage time. Had Ole Miss tried to win by 50 or 60, it easily could have gotten there.

    Does that sound like the resume of a Top 20 team? Not really. Georgia might be fine with Kirby Smart long-term—it's fair for a first-year head coach with a true freshman quarterback to struggle—but this current team has done little to earn praise.

    The AP poll had Georgia at No. 25, which seems more accurate.

Hit: AP Respects the Mountain West

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    The coaches poll is leery of Group of Five teams—especially the Mountain West co-favorites.

    Both polls have Houston in the Top Seven, but the coaches have San Diego State at No. 24 and Boise State unranked, while the AP has San Diego State No. 19 and Boise State No. 24.

    That's a pretty significant discrepancy. And it's totally undeserved. SDSU and Boise are both proven, both undefeated and have both beaten at least one Pac-12 team. The Aztecs beat Cal 45-40, while the Broncos beat Washington State 31-28 and Oregon State 38-24.

    But instead of skewing negative (as usual) about the coaches poll, let's acknowledge the AP poll for getting things right. Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune called this the Mountain West's "dream scenario," where both teams are ranked by Week 5 and don't play each other, which could set up a 12-0 versus 12-0 conference title game.

    By that point, maybe the coaches poll would take notice?

    (But probably not.)

Miss: West Virginia Unranked

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    West Virginia has quietly started 3-0, making it one of only two undefeated teams in the Big 12 (along with Baylor).

    This week, it held on to beat BYU, 35-32, for its second quality win in three games. It also beat Missouri, 26-11, in the season-opener—a win that looks better in hindsight as the Tigers have found their offense.

    And yet, Dana Holgorsen's team remains unranked and disrespected. The coaches poll has it down at No. 30, between two-loss Oklahoma and LSU, while the AP poll had it down at No. 29, again behind OU.

    "There were a lot of things that happened that put that victory in jeopardy," Holgorsen said after beating BYU, per John Antonik of WVUSports.com. "But due to us playing as a team we figured out a way to win."

    So why is it ranked between teams with multiple losses?

Hit: Troy Receives a Vote!

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    It wasn't a huge week of movement, so let's take a moment to celebrate the little guy.

    Troy received one vote in the coaches poll, appearing for the first time since 2009, per the program's Twitter account. And it's hard to argue against that. Here's what the Trojans have done through four weeks:

    • Beat Austin Peay, 57-17 (Home)
    • Lost to Clemson, 24-30 (Road)
    • Beat Southern Miss, 37-31 (Road)
    • Beat New Mexico State, 52-6 (Home)

    The Clemson game obviously stands out. Especially after the Tigers just dismantled Georgia Tech, Troy's near-upset in Week 2 looks impressive. It also helps that Auburn, which Clemson beat in Week 1, just scored an impressive win over LSU.

    Clemson beat Auburn by six points—same as Troy.

    A road win at Southern Miss is also nothing to take for granted. Head coach Neal Brown came over from Kentucky, which lost to the Golden Eagles in Week 1 and knows full well how good they can be.

    If Mark Stoops doesn't return next year in Lexington, Brown will be floated as a popular candidate to replace him.

    For now, though, he's living the high life at Troy.

Miss: Texas Only Drops One Spot

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    Texas dropped from No. 21 to No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 24 to No. 25 in the coaches poll.

    It should have dropped from both polls entirely.

    And yes, that likely sounds weird considering the Longhorns had a bye in Week 4, but that doesn't mean their resume stood pat.

    Notre Dame, their signature win, lost its second consecutive home game against Duke. The Blue Devils and Michigan State have both beaten Notre Dame in South Bend, and neither needed overtime to get there. Texas, on the contrary, needed extra time to beat Notre Dame at home.

    Elsewhere, the one team that beat Texas, Cal, lost its second game of the season against Arizona State. That's not an unforgivable loss, but when combined with what happened in South Bend, plus Michigan State's loss to Wisconsin, it badly hurts Texas' resume.

    If Notre Dame and Cal are both average—which appears to be the case—then what has Texas done to earn its ranking?

    We'll learn much more about it in Big 12 play.