NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 5 Polls

Brad ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 5 Polls

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    Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

    With several of the nation's top teams on the road Saturday and a lot of heavy favorites having to do Houdini acts and point-padding late in games to make things look pretty, it was a wacky week in college football. 

    That didn't have too much of an effect among the nation's elite in this week's Associated Press and Amway polls. Teams that experienced close calls such as Clemson, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC didn't see any effect on their rankings.

    Alabama had no such worries, convincingly dispatching Vanderbilt 59-0 to leave no doubt it is the nation's top program right now. While there wasn't much shuffling at the top, there were a couple of big jumpers.

    Georgia dominated upstart Mississippi State after the Starkville version of the Bulldogs yielded some interest in both polls. Meanwhile, TCU heading on the road and handling Oklahoma State knocked the Cowboys from the perch and sent the Frogs flying upward.

    Still, while much of the poll looks right, a closer examination reveals some puzzling things. Let's take a look at what the pollsters got right and what they didn't.

Hit: Georgia Is Legit, and the Pollsters Are Rewarding the Bulldogs

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    After going on the road with a huge contingency of barking faithful and beating Notre Dame earlier this year, it looked like coach Kirby Smart's second year in Athens may be a fun one.

    Saturday's 31-3 beating of Mississippi State started with a flea-flicker touchdown and ended with a flourish, proving the Bulldogs are a dark-horse contender for the College Football Playoff. They were solid in every facet of the game, and the pollsters agreed.

    When sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason went down earlier this year, the Dawgs replaced him with freshman star Jake Fromm, who completed all seven of his first-half passes against MSU as UGA built its lead. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and freshman D'Andre Swift looked great, too.

    All the defense did was shut down dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who'd vaulted into the Heisman Trophy discussion with his performance in a 30-point beatdown of LSU last week.

    For their efforts, the Bulldogs surged four spots in both polls, to seventh in the AP and eighth in the Amway. That's about where they need to be right now, but with their schedule (starting with a winnable game at Tennessee next week) there's a lot of wiggle room in their upward trajectory.

Miss: The Blue Devils Deserve a Little Love

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    Duke's blue-blood reputation on the hardwood has been hard-earned, but it's obvious the gridiron Blue Devils don't get anywhere near the same benefit of the doubt.

    What does coach David Cutcliffe's team need to do to get some love?

    The Blue Devils remain a spotless 4-0 with wins over North Carolina Central, Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina. That isn't the greatest schedule, but it's certainly not a bad one, either. Most importantly, the closest they got to losing was a 27-17 win over the rival Tar Heels on Saturday.

    This team has one of the nation's top defenses, a quality quarterback in Daniel Jones and one of the most underrated head coaches in the country. Nobody is suggesting it should be in the top 10, but to be second in the "others receiving votes" category of both polls is just silly.

    The Blue Devils will get several opportunities to convince everybody they're legit, beginning with next week's home game against fellow unbeaten Miami. Expect that to be a great game between two good teams. Win or lose that one, Duke belongs among the nation's top 25 teams.

Hit: TCU's Road Domination of Oklahoma State Leads to Rankings Surge

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    Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

    The way Oklahoma State had pummeled opponents in the season's first few weeks may have lulled voters to sleep. But TCU woke them up in a hurry and sent the Cowboys back down into the middle of the rankings.

    Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs are the ones getting the love after going to Stillwater and beating Mike Gundy's team in a 44-31 game that really wasn't even that close.

    Quarterback Kenny Hill continued his rebound season, and the running game, led by Darius Anderson, was dominant. Though OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph had time to throw, the TCU secondary was more than up to the challenge. It was a convincing team win, and it proved Gary Patterson's program is back.

    The pollsters believe it, too.

    In the Amway poll, the Horned Frogs catapulted from 15th to 11th, which was a giant leap until you take into consideration what the AP did for them. In that poll, they skyrocketed nine spots from 16th into the Top 10 at No. 9. 

    It's obvious the voters think they've got a legitimate chance to contend with Oklahoma (No. 3 in both polls) for the Big 12, and the polls prove it. They did nothing but boost their resume in Stillwater.

Miss: Florida State's Still Lurking in the Amway Coaches Poll

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    It's understandable that, even with Florida State's loss of quarterback Deondre Francois for the season, voters were reluctant to drop the Seminoles too far after the opening-week 24-7 loss to Alabama.

    They didn't look outmatched in that game, and coach Jimbo Fisher's defense was legit. After Hurricane Irma kept the 'Noles off the field for the past couple of weeks, FSU still lurked in the top half of the polls.

    But it's obvious that after Saturday's loss to North Carolina State, where they suffered too many offensive struggles with freshman signal-caller James Blackman taking over for Francois, they aren't one of the nation's top 25 teams. Not anymore.

    The Associated Press got it right, dropping them all the way out of the Top 25. After all, they're 0-2, and until they prove worthy of being a top team (or at least win a game), that's where they belong. Inexplicably, though, Amway still has them 25th.

    The 'Noles will have opportunities to prove they belong up there. For now, 4-0 Duke, a Central Florida team that beat Maryland on Saturday, the Wolfpack team that just beat them or a Memphis squad that upset UCLA last week would have been a better fit at No. 25.

Hit: Solidarity in the Top 6

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Regardless of the close calls, like Clemson holding just a one-score lead in the fourth quarter against overmatched Boston College or Penn State needing a final-play touchdown to come from behind against Iowa, both polls agree on their top six teams.

    Right now, that's a pretty clear indication of what voters believe the nation's pecking order is.

    Alabama is the overwhelming top team, and the Crimson Tide continue to do nothing but impress. The 59-0 domination of the Commodores looked like the Tide team we're all used to seeing.

    Defending national champion Clemson is second, while an Oklahoma team that had to sweat before beating winless Baylor is third. They are followed by the Nittany Lions, USC and Washington.

    It isn't until the seventh team where there's some shake-up. The Associated Press has Georgia seventh and Michigan eighth, while the Amway flip-flops those teams. Still, the same teams constitute the top eight, and they're in order one through six.

    Of course, there's going to be time for those teams to display their resumes on our television sets across the country. But the top teams are beginning to separate themselves from the others.

Miss: Love for Florida and LSU Is Puzzling

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Like in the Florida State case, sometimes it's good to be a nationally known program when it comes to getting poll votes.

    Florida and LSU are prime examples of that.

    Somehow, the Tigers failed to fall out of the top 25 after a 30-point loss to Mississippi State last week, and though a very late touchdown made a 35-26 home win over a mediocre Syracuse team look a little better, LSU still has a lot of issues.

    The Gators needed a last-second deep post to beat a searching Tennessee team a week ago, and they trailed the whole game in Lexington before a last-minute touchdown gave them a 28-27 win over Kentucky for their 31st consecutive win over their SEC East counterparts.

    In that game, Florida benched quarterback Feleipe Franks, and all-but-forgotten junior Luke Del Rio led the Gators back to a win.

    Both SEC teams have deep-rooted offensive issues, and neither has proved it belongs in the top 25. Still, not only are they still ranked, but they're rising in the rankings with less-than-convincing wins over mediocre teams.

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and cfbstats, and recruiting data courtesy of Scout.

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard.