NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 8 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 8 Polls

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    Defending champion Clemson's loss Friday at Syracuse was just the start of a weekend full of poll-shaking upsets.
    Defending champion Clemson's loss Friday at Syracuse was just the start of a weekend full of poll-shaking upsets.Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Experts told us there would be weeks like this. Too bad none of them said it would be this week.

    College football has a way of keeping fans on their toes by staying unpredictable, and Week 7 was a perfect example of that.

    Despite no matchups between Top 25 teams, we still managed to have seven ranked squads fall, including four that were in top 10 of the Associated Press and Amway coaches polls.

    Not surprisingly, that means quite a bit of change in the latest polls. And with so much change comes the need to break down all that movement to see if it makes sense.

    Scroll down to see where the voters got it right and where they could have done better.

Hit: TCU Moves Closer to Erasing the Past

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    This is the fourth year of the College Football Playoff, and while the selection committee has done an admirable job picking which teams get to battle for a championship, they haven't completely avoided controversy.

    Just ask TCU, which went from being in the playoffs heading into the final week of the 2014 season only to find itself on the outside despite winning its final game.

    The Horned Frogs are doing their best to make sure there's no uncertainty about their playoff chances this season, looking quite impressive in starting 6-0. The Associated Press and Amway voters have responded by continually lifting them up the rankings, from unranked to start 2017 to now fourth in both polls.

    It's TCU's highest ranking since 2015, when it began the year second and were still that high in early October but then started slipping despite winning its first eight games. Once the Frogs lost, in Week 9, they fell out of the top 10 and were effectively eliminated from playoff consideration.

    Don't expect TCU to slide this season if it keeps winning, not when there are only six unbeaten power-conference teams left in the country.

Miss: Different Strokes (Er, Drops) for Different Folks (Losses)

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Four top-10 schools went down on Friday and Saturday, all losing on the road to conference foes. The quartet of Clemson, Washington, Washington State and Auburn were collective 64.5-point favorites, per VegasInsider, yet they lost by a combined 44 points.

    And they dropped a total of 39 spots in the Associated Press poll and 33 places in the Amway coaches poll, though the size of the plummet wasn't uniform. It also wasn't consistent, at least based on the quality of opponent and margin of defeat.

    Auburn had the biggest drop, down 11 spots in the AP and 10 in the Amway to 21st in each poll, after losing 27-23 at LSU. The Tigers blew a 20-0 lead which, along with it being their second loss, apparently warranted getting shoved far down the rankings.

    Washington State probably deserved at least that big of a drop after losing 37-3 at California, one of the worst performances by a top-10 team in recent memory. But the Cougars only slipped seven spots (to 15th) in the AP poll and nine (to 18th) in the Amway poll.

    Clemson had the smallest dip, down five spots to seventh in the AP and six to eighth in the Amway, after losing 27-24 at Syracuse. Washington's 13-7 loss at Arizona State resulted in a drop of seven and eight spots, respectively, to 12th in each poll.

Hit: There's No Confusion About Who Is No. 1

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    In weeks like this, much of the attention is focused on the ranked teams that got knocked off and what it means for their future. And rightfully so, but we can't forget about the teams that took care of business.

    With that in mind, the Associated Press and Amway voters have decided not to mince words anymore. Alabama is No. 1 on every single ballot, all 124 between the two polls.

    This isn't anything new for the Crimson Tide, who were unanimous No. 1 in the final four regular-season AP polls in 2016, but it's been quite a while since this has happened at this point in a season.

    Per College Poll Archive, the last time every AP voter had the same team at the top at this point in the season was 2012...and that was Alabama once again.

    The Tide, which cruised to a 41-9 win over Arkansas to improve to 7-0, was first on 43 of 61 AP ballots last week while 57 of 65 Amway voters had them first.

    Clemson had the other first-place votes, but its loss at Syracuse (as well as the other results of the weekend) convinced them all not to mess around anymore and just stick with 'Bama.

Miss: Amway Voters Still Have Michigan Ahead of Michigan State

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    It wasn't pretty, but Michigan managed to avoid losing a second consecutive game by holding off Indiana 27-20 in overtime. This came a week after falling at home to Michigan State, a result that apparently didn't prompt Associated Press or Amway voters to put the one-loss Spartans ahead of the one-loss Wolverines they had just beaten.

    The AP voters came to their senses this time around, moving MSU up three spots to 18th after winning 30-27 at Minnesota while sliding Michigan down two spots to 19th. The Wolverines were the only team to drop in the rankings despite winning, the sloppiness of their victory resonating with the media.

    Not so much with the Amway coaches, who lifted Michigan up one spot to 15th. That's four places ahead of the Michigan State team it lost to, although the Spartans did rise three spots to 19th.

    Both polls also continue to have Ohio State, which lost at home to Oklahoma, three spots higher than the Sooners at sixth. At least in that case they can justify it with recent results, as OSU has been obliterating its opponents since that loss, while Oklahoma has fallen at home to Iowa State and narrowly beat winless Baylor and unranked Texas.

Hit: South Florida, UCF Lining Up for New Year's Six Bowl Showdown

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    Alex Menendez/Getty Images

    It's not out of the realm of possibility that a non-power conference team could make the College Football Playoff, but it's pretty unlikely based on how the selection committee has ranked such teams in the past.

    Teams from the Group of Five are more focused on being the highest-ranked of their ilk so they can lock up a spot in one of the major bowls, and the list of candidates for that selection got a little thinner this weekend.

    San Diego State's 31-14 home loss to Boise State knocked it out of both the Associated Press and Amway polls and effectively ended its New Year's Six chances. Even with wins over Arizona State and Stanford on their resume, the Aztecs don't have anyone left on their schedule to help them rise enough to get back into the running.

    The same can't be said for South Florida and UCF, the only two unbeaten teams from outside the power leagues. The Bulls moved to 13th in the Amway poll and 16th in the AP after a 33-3 win over Cincinnati, while the Knights are 20th in both polls following their 63-21 win over East Carolina.

    South Florida has a win over Illinois to its credit and UCF has beaten Maryland as well as Memphis, which moved into the AP rankings at No. 25. They meet Nov. 24 in Orlando with not just a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game at stake but also a chance to impress the playoff committee late in the season.

Miss: So We're Cool with Ranking 2-Loss Teams, Huh?

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    When 28 percent of the Top 25 loses on one weekend, and none of those losses are to ranked opponents, there's going to be some turnover in the polls.

    Navy, San Diego State and Texas Tech fell out of the Associated Press rankings, while Navy, SDSU and Utah were dropped from the Amway poll after their respective losses.

    That opened the door for some fresh blood to get into the rankings, to reward teams that haven't gotten much attention for how they've performed to this point in the season. Or we can just recycle some previously ranked teams who have already shown their flaws by losing not once but twice already.

    West Virginia (23rd in both polls) and LSU (24th in AP, 25th in Amway) were ranked earlier this season and voters felt they deserved to climb back in after upsetting Texas Tech and Auburn, respectively. Amway voters also felt Texas A&M warranted the No. 25 spot after winning at Florida.

    What does this trio have in common? They're all two-loss teams. Meanwhile, several one-loss teams remain unranked including Kentucky, Marshall, Toledo and Virginia.

    At least the AP voters decided a one-loss Memphis team was worth putting 25th, while the Amway voters only gave the Tigers a combined 50 vote points, good for 27th overall.

                

    Statistics are provided by CFBStats unless otherwise noted. Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.