College Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from the Week 10 Polls
Yep, college football got weird on Halloween night. How appropriate.
Michigan survived an emotional rally against Minnesota on a goal-line stand. The Miami Hurricanes needed a kickoff return for the ages—which, as we now know, shouldn't have counted to begin with according to the ACC (via CoachingSearch.com)—against Duke. Stanford needed a #collegekickers moment to escape against an upset-minded Washington State.
With five Top 10 teams on a bye in Week 9 and few losses among Top 20 teams, the rankings didn't change all that much. Still, resumes are being built (or dismantled). With the College Football Playoff selection committee to release its first Top 25 poll this week, we're getting close to the critical point in the year.
Where did pollsters get it right? Where did they swing and miss? We give our two cents in the following slides based not only on the past week's action, but also on what has transpired so far this season.
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 23 (previously No. 22)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 23 (previously No. 21)
Not that you need to be told, but we'll say it anyway: Temple has nothing—nothing—to be ashamed of. The Owls are a good team, but they gave Notre Dame everything the Irish could handle in a 24-20 loss on Saturday. It was the biggest game for the Temple program in ages, and head coach Matt Rhule's team proved it's Top 25-worthy.
These aren't some pandering remarks, either. Voters recognized what Temple did and kept the Owls in the Top 25, as they should have.
If for no other reason, Temple's defense is Top 25-worthy. If the Owls were going to have a shot at beating Notre Dame, they needed to hold their opponent to 20-25 points. Sure enough, for 57 minutes and 51 seconds, Temple kept Notre Dame under 20 points.
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: NR (previously No. 18)
Associated Press Top 25: NR (previously No. 22)
We know now that Miami's miracle kick return against Duke on Saturday shouldn't have counted on multiple fronts, according to the ACC front office. The officials in the game and the replay booth failed miserably in determining this, and now Duke is 6-2 instead of 7-1.
No one here is asking the ACC to give Duke the win. To do so would be setting an unwelcome precedence and ignoring myriad other calls that molded the game's outcome (even if less dramatically so). However, voters could have given Duke a bit of a pass by keeping them in the Top 25 instead of dropping them out over an obviously controversial call.
Technically, Duke did stop Miami on its kickoff return for a touchdown because a Hurricanes player's knee was down. To drop the Blue Devils at least seven spots for this, as the coaches poll did, seems too harsh.
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 2 (previously No. 2)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 2 (previously No. 2)
Baylor didn't play in Week 9 and is undefeated. So what's the deal with the Bears? It revolves solely around Seth Russell's season-ending neck injury and true freshman Jarrett Stidham taking over the offense with three tough games remaining on the schedule: vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at TCU.
Stidham hasn't started a game yet, so there's no way to know for sure how he'll respond. However, how pollsters view Baylor brings to mind the conundrum with Ohio State last year after J.T. Barrett went down with a fractured ankle against Michigan, paving the way for Cardale Jones to start.
Do you vote for a team based on what it's previously accomplished? Or, could a key injury affect where voters view a team in the national landscape? After all, it's not the same team without a star player. For now, it looks like voters are in a wait-and-see mode with Baylor, keeping it at the No. 2 spot. For now, this is the right move.
The good news is Baylor has several weeks to prove itself, with or without Russell.
Miss: Oklahoma State
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 10 (previously No. 10)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 12 (previously No. 12)
Somehow, some way, Oklahoma State keeps finding ways to win. Among the heart-attack-inducing ways the Pokes have won: two go-ahead, and essentially game-winning, field goals against Texas and Kansas State, overtime against West Virginia and a wild shootout against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
The problem? It's two-fold. For one, only the Red Raiders have a winning record from that group. Secondly, winning by the skin of your teeth isn't exactly the most sustainable model. That doesn't mean Oklahoma State won't win more games. It just means it feels like it will catch up to the Cowboys at some point, barring a turnaround.
Oklahoma State remained in the same spot as Week 9 in both polls, but you could argue Iowa and Utah have done more to date and done it (generally) less dramatically.
Hit: North Carolina
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 21 (previously NR)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 21 (previously NR)
Quietly, North Carolina is having an excellent year. The season-opening loss to South Carolina looks more perplexing now, but the Tar Heels have nevertheless rattled off seven straight wins, with the latest coming on the road at Pitt.
Yet, only now is North Carolina entering the Top 25 polls. It's been a while in the making, but here's betting Larry Fedora's team will take the recognition all the same. More importantly, North Carolina is atop the ACC Coastal with a 4-0 conference record.
The Coastal has been a revolving door of favorites over the years, but with a month left to go, can the Tar Heels hold on to claim the division? A win over Duke next Saturday will go a long way in giving North Carolina a nice buffer in that divisional race.
Hit: Notre Dame
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 9 (previously No. 9)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 8 (previously No. 9)
As previously noted, there was little movement in each poll's Top 10 because so many teams were on a bye. However, Notre Dame did leapfrog Stanford in the AP poll (from No. 9 to No. 8).
In the long run, one spot is hardly that important. The two will play each other in Palo Alto on Nov. 28 anyway, so that's the game that matters (presuming both teams maintain their one-loss status).
If Week 9 is going to be weighted more heavily, though, swapping the Irish and Cardinal makes sense. Notre Dame beat a better opponent—though Washington State is far more improved from where it was at the beginning of the year—and has the better loss overall (to Clemson).
Both teams have quality wins across the board and have beaten USC. It's close, but Notre Dame has the edge. Even more impressive, not that it should matter in the polls, but the Irish have been banged-up all season long.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.