NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 10 Polls
After a Saturday in which seven unbeaten teams played on the road—and four ended up losing—it stands to reason that there was going to be some major movement in the national polls. But that doesn't necessarily mean those rankings will pan out as expected.
The AP Top 25 poll is voted on by 61 media members, and the Amway Coaches Poll is made up of ballots cast by 64 college head coaches. Each voter has his or her own reason for ranking teams the way they do, and when combined, these numbers can lead to some surprising results.
That's where we come in. We've picked out the hits and misses from these polls to highlight what stands out—be it in a good or bad way.
Hit: Symbiosis at the Top
Considering the polarizing atmosphere created in the United States by its upcoming presidential election, it's hard to find things that everyone agrees on. Thankfully, the Associated Press and Amway voters have come through for at least one week.
The top eight spots in both polls are the same, the first time that's happened this season. Alabama is No. 1 in both rankings, getting all but one first-place vote in each, and the Crimson Tide are followed by Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Louisville, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin.
There's great symmetry to that top eight. The first four are all unbeaten, and they are followed by the three one-loss teams perceived as the best in the country. That's succeeded by two-loss Wisconsin, whose defeats are to No. 2 Michigan and No. 6 Ohio State.
The only place where there's any difference in this group is the non-Alabama first-place vote. The lone Associated Press voter chose Michigan, while the contrarian coach in the Amway opted to give that top spot to Clemson.
Miss: Another 3-Loss Team in the Polls Before November
Valuing the competition faced is important when ranking teams, but at some point, you can only give so much credit for losing to nearly every ranked opponent on the schedule.
Florida State pushed unbeaten Clemson to the limit but fell 37-34 at home on Saturday, dropping to 5-3 on the season. That was the fourth top-11 team the Seminoles have faced this season, going 2-2 against those schools. One of those wins was a one-point victory against a Miami (Florida) team that was 4-0 at the time and is now 4-4.
The Seminoles are 19th in both polls, falling seven spots in the AP poll and five in the Amway poll after the Clemson loss. They're the second three-loss team to get ranked this fall, as Ole Miss was 23rd and 22nd, respectively, at 3-3 in the Week 8 poll.
FSU's losses are to Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina.
Hit: Nebraska Falls the Least of First-Loss Teams
With four unbeaten teams getting knocked off on Saturday, how those teams would be treated by pollsters was a major point of interest. In previous weeks, teams that lost for the first time suffered varying levels of drops in the rankings, usually depending on the opponent and how they fared in those games.
In that respect, the voters were understandably nicer to Nebraska than to Baylor, Boise State or West Virginia. The Cornhuskers lost in overtime at Wisconsin—which moved up to eighth in both polls after its fifth game this season against a Top 10 school—and stayed in the Top 10 in each ranking, falling two spots to ninth in the Associated Press poll and four places to 10th in the Amway.
The other formerly perfect schools weren't as fortunate.
Baylor slipped to 13th in both polls after losing 35-34 at Texas, while West Virginia dropped to 14th in the AP and 15th in the Amway after its 37-20 loss at previously unranked Oklahoma State (which is now 22nd in both polls). And Boise took the biggest tumble, going from 13th to 24th in each poll after losing 30-28 at Wyoming.
Miss: LSU Wins Big Without Playing
Eight teams that were ranked in Week 9 ended up losing this weekend, which enabled plenty of other teams to move up in the polls. That included four schools that managed to make some noticeable upward movement from their couches, as they were on byes.
While top-ranked Alabama held pat while resting up for its annual grudge match with LSU, the Tigers found themselves rising in both polls. LSU is 15th in the Associated Press rankings, up four spots from the week before, while the Amway voters moved the Tigers from 19th to 14th.
LSU's bump was as big as any team that actually suited up over the weekend, matching the four-spot rises that No. 11 Auburn and No. 12 Oklahoma had in the AP rankings and the five spots Auburn rose to 12th in the Amway poll.
Other schools on byes didn't gain as much of a boost. Western Michigan (17th in AP, 18th in Amway) and North Carolina (18th and 17th, respectively) moved up three places in each poll, while Colorado went up two spots to 21st in the AP rankings and three to 20th in the Amway poll.
Hit: Ranking Mike Leach's Team Is Good for the Game
The game didn't end until around 2:30 a.m. ET Sunday, but enough voters gleaned enough from Washington State's 35-31 win at Oregon State to deem the Cougars worthy of being ranked in both polls. They enter each at 25th, getting 139 points in the AP poll and 146 in the Amway.
It's the second year in a row that Mike Leach's WSU team has been ranked, getting as high as 20th in 2015. The Cougars haven't been ranked in consecutive seasons since appearing in a combined 42 AP polls from 2001-03, when Leach was still at Texas Tech.
With the eccentric Leach now in charge of a ranked school, we can only hope that means more off-the-wall press conferences and sound bites, such as his rant on Chicago Cubs fans.
WSU has won six consecutive games since losing its first two, including at home to FCS school Eastern Washington. The Cougars' 5-0 start in Pac-12 play is their best since 2002 and keeps them tied with Washington for first in the North Division.
Miss: They Are Voting for the Wrong Trojans
We're down to only five unbeaten schools in the FBS, and just 10 more have a single loss, yet two of those near-perfect schools remain unranked in lieu of 11 two-loss teams and the three-loss Florida State Seminoles. At least San Diego State (which is the equivalent of 28th in both polls) spent two weeks as a ranked team back in September before its loss at South Alabama knocked the Aztecs out, but Troy continues to get overlooked by the vast majority of voters.
The Trojans are 6-1, their only loss coming in a 30-24 setback at Clemson in Week 2. Their wins include Southern Mississippi, which won at Kentucky in Week 1, and South Alabama, the team that handed SDSU its only loss.
Troy received a whopping 20 votes in the AP poll, half as many as the FBS' other Trojans (USC, which is 5-3) received. In the Amway poll, which features plenty of coaches from outside the power conferences, Troy's measly seven votes are one-fourth what USC picked up.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.