NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 4 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 4 Polls

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    Defending national champion Clemson sits No. 2 in both polls after its 47-21 win at Louisville.
    Defending national champion Clemson sits No. 2 in both polls after its 47-21 win at Louisville.Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    The first two weeks of the 2017 college football season were relatively boring, at least in terms to the impact they had on the national rankings. The majority of movement came as a result of one ranked team knocking off another, with very few upsets of ranked squads by those outside the Top 25.

    Week 3 helped make up for that dearth of surprises. Six ranked teams were beaten on Saturday—four by unranked opponents—and as a result, we have some significant shake-up in the Associated Press and Amway polls.

    Not at the top, however. Alabama is still the overwhelming No. 1 choice in both polls, though Clemson's strong performance at Louisville did earn it a boost in first-place votes, and the top 10 in each poll remains mostly unchanged. The same can't be said for the remaining 15 spots, though, and that's where most of the inconsistencies exist.

    What did voters get right and what decisions will leave you scratching your head? Check out how we see it.

Hit: Mississippi State Parlays Blowout of LSU into Poll Return

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    It was three seasons ago that Mississippi State was on top of the college football world, at least in terms of rankings. The Bulldogs spent several weeks at No. 1 in both polls in 2014 thanks to a 9-0 start, but since then they've only made a few appearances and none within the Top 20.

    No longer. On the strength of a 37-7 drubbing of LSU, Mississippi State went from unranked to 17th in the Associated Press poll and 19th in the Amway coaches' ranking. It's the first time the Bulldogs have been ranked since Nov. 22, 2015.

    MSU hadn't beat LSU at home since 1999 and the win was its first over a ranked team since October 2014, having fallen short in its previous eight attempts.

Miss: LSU Still Ranked Despite 30-Point Loss

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    It was around this time last season that Florida State went to Louisville and got destroyed, 63-20, and as a result plummeted in the rankings. The Seminoles dropped more than 10 spots in both polls but remained ranked because voters would be hard-pressed to move a team from second overall to unranked just because of one result.

    They would have been more than justified to do that, though, with LSU. But they didn't.

    The Tigers lost 37-7 at Mississippi State in their worst loss in nearly three years. This came after wins over BYU and Chattanooga that apparently didn't give us a real sense of what LSU had to work with.

    Most voters gave LSU the benefit of the doubt, though, as it only fell 13 spots to 25th in the Associated Press poll and 11 spots to 23rd in the Amway ranking.

Hit: Top 5 in Both Polls Match Up for 1st Time Since Preseason

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    With two completely unique sets of voters, it's not uncommon for the Associated Press and Amway polls to be vastly different in terms of the order that teams are ranked. Yet the media members who are part of the AP poll and the coaches who submit ballots for the Amway are in sync when it comes to the top of the rankings.

    Both polls have Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC ranked in order from first to fifth, marking the first time during the regular season in 2017 that there's been symbiosis among the top five teams. It helped that many AP voters boosted Clemson on their ballots after the defending national champs went to Louisville and rolled to a 47-21 victory.

    Clemson was third a week ago and had one first-place AP vote, but 14 more voters put the Tigers first, which enabled them to leapfrog Oklahoma for No. 2. Alabama's relatively unimpressive 41-23 home win over Colorado State must have made it justifiable for many voters to drop the Crimson Tide from No. 1, since their first-place vote total dipped from 58 to 45.

Miss: Did Florida's Hail Mary-Fueled Really Warrant a Poll Boost?

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Through the first three quarters of their SEC clash on Saturday, it was hard to see any reason why either Florida or Tennessee deserved to be ranked. Then the fourth quarter happened and what had previously been a boring game became straight fire.

    The teams combined for 37 points, with Tennessee coming back from down 10 in the final six minutes to tie it, only to see Florida win on a Hail Mary pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland. That play prevented the Gators from starting 0-2 for the first time since 1984.

    It also kept Florida from ending what's now an 18-poll streak of being ranked. Not only did the Gators stay in both polls, they actually moved up, four spots to 20th in the Associated Press poll and three spots to 22nd in the Amway rankings.

    Some of that boost was the result of several ranked teams losing and falling out of the Top 25, but still. It wouldn't have been a travesty to see Florida slip out, too.

Hit: San Diego State Doubles Group of Five's Poll Representation

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    South Florida had to carry the flag for all non-power conference teams for the first few weeks of this season, but now the Bulls have some company in the polls. San Diego State, which beat Stanford 20-17, is back in the rankings.

    The Aztecs are 22nd in the Associated Press poll and ranked 25th by Amway voters. It's their fifth time in the polls in the last two seasons after having been unranked every week from 1996-2015.

    San Diego State has won its last three games against power teams, all from the Pac-12, with victories over Stanford and Arizona State in back-to-back weeks this year and one over California last season.

Miss: Voters Still Not Fully Sold on Vanderbilt

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    One of the best ways to jump into the Top 25 is to take out a ranked opponent. It worked for Mississippi State and San Diego State, whose respective wins over LSU and Stanford had a lot to do with their showing up in the polls for the first time this season.

    Vanderbilt also knocked off a ranked team, beating then-No. 18 Kansas State 14-7 for its first nonconference victory against a ranked foe since 1946. The Commodores are 3-0 for the first time since 2011.

    Alas, the 'Dores will have to do more in order to earn their first Top 25 appearance since 2013. They earned 83 vote points in the Associated Press poll, good enough for 29th-best, and their 92 vote points in the Amway poll ranked them 27th.

    It's pretty safe to say Vandy will be ranked if it wins its next game. It hosts No. 1 Alabama.


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


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