NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 2 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 2 Polls

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    Florida State's loss to top-ranked Alabama caused it to tumble in both polls.
    Florida State's loss to top-ranked Alabama caused it to tumble in both polls.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    One week doesn't make a season, but in the world of college football it sure does lead to some significant upheaval in the polls.

    Outside of a week when major upsets abound, at no other time will the Associated Press Top 25 poll and Amway Coaches Poll look more different than the week before. This is the result of going from preseason rankings, which are based on speculation as much as anything else, to the first vote that's based on results.

    Very few teams are ranked in the same place as they were entering the season, as voters now have some empirical evidence on which to base their ballots. That makes the first regular-season poll much more representative of college football's power structure, though some rankings are still a little out of whack.

    Follow along as we break down what the voters got right and what still needs tweaking.

Hit: Michigan, Virginia Tech Boosted by Ranked Wins

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 1 saw only three matchups of ranked teams, which minimized the number of schools that would have a built-in opportunity to parlay a win in one of those pairings into a significant poll boost. And with top-ranked Alabama being one of the victors (over then-No. 3 Florida State) that left only two schools whose jumps were directly related to who they beat.

    Michigan rose to eighth in both polls, up from No. 11 in the Associated Press' preseason ranking and ninth in the initial Amway Coaches Poll. The Wolverines handled Florida 33-17 on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, with their defense only yielding three points in the process.

    Virginia Tech outlasted West Virginia 31-24 in Landover, Maryland, on Sunday in a renewal of an old Big East rivalry, a victory that lifted the Hokies to 18th in both polls (from 21st in the AP and 22nd in the Amway).

Miss: Florida State's Tumble Influenced More by Injury Than Result?

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Though meaningless in the grand scheme of things, the Associated Press and Amway polls do serve a purpose: They're meant to give fans an idea of which teams are the best in the country at that point in time. It's not meant to be forward-thinking, yet that's the best way to describe how Florida State was ranked after one week.

    FSU lost 24-7 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in Atlanta, a game that might have been closer had the Seminoles been a little better on special teams. They still hung in there with the nation's best, so then why did they drop from third in both polls to ninth in the Amway and 10th in the AP rankings?

    Two words: Deondre Francois.

    The quarterback was hurt in the fourth quarter, an injury since revealed to be a torn patellar tendon in his left knee that will require season-ending surgery. FSU will be led for the foreseeable future by true freshman James Blackman, and the prospect of that appears to have influenced voters much more than the quality of the Seminoles' other 21 starters.

Hit: No One-Week Wonders Ranked

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    The only preseason ranked team to lose in Week 1 to an unranked opponent was Texas, which christened the Tom Herman era in Austin with an ugly 51-41 home setback to Maryland. Understandably, the Longhorns are no longer ranked, and they're barely registering a blip on the ballot radar, garnering just three votes in the Amway Coaches Poll and none from Associated Press voters.

    For the record: Herman is one of the Amway voters, but coaches' ballots aren't made public.

    Because of the lack of ranked losses there weren't many opportunities for new teams to get into the Top 25, though Notre Dame did move in at No. 24 in the AP and No. 25 in the Amway after its 49-16 home win over Temple. It was somewhat surprising that voters didn't put Maryland into the rankings, but that might be more indicative of how they felt about the quality of the Longhorns team the Terrapins took down than anything.

    Maryland is the equivalent of 30th in the AP and 28th in the Amway poll based on the votes it did get.

    This compares to last year, when big wins by Texas (over Notre Dame) and Wisconsin (over LSU) vaulted them from unranked to high in the polls. Wisconsin stayed there for most of the season, but the Longhorns didn't.

Miss: Florida Stays Ranked Despite Sluggish Effort vs. Michigan

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    With few exceptions, there's really no reason to have a team ranked with an 0-1 record. Florida State is a special case since it was No. 3 in both preseason polls, played No. 1 Alabama and didn't look horrible in doing so.

    The same can't be said for another Sunshine State squad, Florida, which fell 33-17 to Michigan on Saturday in Arlington, Texas. And the game wasn't really that close, not when the Gators managed a mere 192 yards and their only offensive score was a 46-yard field goal on their opening drive.

    The Gators were 17th in the AP poll and 16th in the Amway preseason poll, making it very likely—and justifiable—that they'd be unranked after Week 1 following that loss. Nope, Associated Press voters put them 22nd, and Amway coaches kept them 24th.

    Is this some form of SEC bias, or do those who kept Florida ranked still feel this is a good team despite it showing the same offensive issues that existed much of last season?

Hit: Media Voters More Bullish on Tennessee's Comeback

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The final game of Week 1 was a doozy, with Tennessee rallying from down two scores in the fourth quarter to beat Georgia Tech 42-41 in double overtime Monday night in Atlanta. Since the Volunteers were ranked in both polls heading into the game, it stands to reason that all voters had to hold off until afterward to turn in their Week 2 ballot.

    And based on the vote tallies, it looks like the coaches who participate in the Amway poll put a little more stock in the Vols' comeback.

    Tennessee remained 25th in the Associated Press poll, only going up 10 vote points (from 114 to 124), but in the Amway poll it jumped from 24th to 21st and got a 42-vote boost. 

Miss: California Claims Cross-Country Win; Few Voters Notice

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Not much was expected of California this season, the first under coach Justin Wilcox, with the team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North Division. The Golden Bears were heavy underdogs for their opener at North Carolina, a game that kicked off just after 9 a.m. PT, yet they managed to score an impressive 35-30 victory.

    How did Associated Press and Amway poll voters respond? With the equivalent of crickets.

    Cal got two AP votes and five from Amway voters. There are six Pac-12 coaches who are part of the voting bloc, so the Bears didn't even get love from the entirety of their brethren for giving the conference a quality non-league win.

    This isn't an advocation for having the Bears ranked after upsetting a middle-tier ACC team, but you'd think that result would have registered a little more. Maybe things will be different two weeks from now if Cal takes down Ole Miss at home.


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