NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 9 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 9 Polls

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    During some weeks, there is massive movement in the polls, as we saw last week when four Top 10 teams went down. And then there's this past weekend, where college football was almost completely devoid of upsets or losses by ranked teams.

    Only two ranked squads were knocked off in Week 8, and those came against ranked opponents. That made for a relatively quiet week in terms of shuffling in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls.

    But don't fret, we were still able to find a handful of notable things in those polls, both good and bad. Scroll down to see where the voters got things right and where they were lacking.

Hit: Notre Dame Is Week's Biggest Riser, for Good Reason

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    In a week with such little turmoil, it takes something special to be able to make any significant movement in the polls. Like posting a 35-point victory against a highly ranked intersectional rival.

    Notre Dame parlayed its 49-14 win over USC into a jump into the Top 10 in both rankings. The Fighting Irish rose four spots to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll and six places to 10th in the Amway Coaches Poll.

    It's Notre Dame's highest AP ranking since 2015, when it was eighth in the final regular-season poll before losing to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

    The Irish (6-1) are in prime position to make a push for the playoffs, with their only loss to unbeaten Georgia—which remained No. 3 in both polls—and with remaining games against three ranked teams: North Carolina State, Miami and Stanford.

Miss: USC Still Being Ranked Feels Like Face-Saving

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Voters are human; they're going to get things wrong from time to time. This is most prevalent when it comes to their preseason ballots, which are basically blind stabs in the dark at which teams will be the best in the country for the upcoming season.

    Every year we see teams who start out ranked really high end up looking far from worthy of such a ranking, and this year is no different. Florida State was No. 3 back in August but is now 2-4, with a streak of 89 consecutive weeks in the Top 25 followed now by five straight polls without the Seminoles.

    Count USC among the "they're not as good as we thought they'd be" camp, something clinched by its 49-14 loss at Notre Dame. It was the Trojans' second loss in four weeks, knocking them out of College Football Playoff contention in a season in which they began No. 4 in both polls.

    But USC didn't fall completely out of the rankings, sitting 21st in each poll with identical 11-spot drops. Looks like the voters aren't ready to give up on the Trojans just yet, though it's hard to see how anyone could think they looked like the 21st-best team in the country on Saturday.

Hit: Iowa State Storms into AP Poll After Blowing Out Texas Tech

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    The Big 12 has revived its conference championship game this season, placing it in Arlington, Texas. But the road to that title contest looks like it's going to go through Ames, Iowa.

    Iowa State already has a win over Oklahoma and gets to host TCU and Oklahoma State in the next three weeks. The Cyclones will be welcoming TCU as a ranked team for the first time since 2005 after jumping into the Associated Press poll at No. 25.

    That ranking comes after the Cyclones (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) won 31-13 at Texas Tech on Saturday, their second conference road victory along with the 38-31 win at Oklahoma on Oct. 7. Their only losses were by three (in overtime) at rival Iowa and a 17-7 home loss to Texas.

    ISU wasn't able to crack either poll, getting just 32 Amway votes to sit 27th overall. That's because the coaches decided the 25th spot was better off going to a team that lost by 29.

Miss: Amway Voters Kept Michigan Ranked for Some Reason

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    Remember what we said about teams that open the season highly ranked in the polls, only to fail to meet those lofty expectations? Michigan is another example, having started No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the Amway.

    But after losing 42-13 at Penn State, the worst loss of Jim Harbaugh's three-year UM tenure, the AP voters kicked the Wolverines out of the poll. If only the Amway voters had followed suit.

    Instead, enough of them kept Michigan on their ballots to have them land 25th, a drop of only six spots from the previous week. Its 121 vote points were only two better than Memphis, which is No. 24 in the AP poll.

    By keeping Michigan in makes it easy for it to climb back up the Amway rankings simply by beating Rutgers and Minnesota at home the next few weeks. At least the AP voters will make the Wolverines have to work a little more just to get back in the Top 25.

Hit: The American Is All but Assured of a New Year's Six Bowl Bid

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    Derick E. Hingle/Associated Press

    The College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first rankings in a little more than a week, and most of the attention is going to be paid to which teams are in the top four spots as well as who sits just outside that quartet.

    American Athletic Conference officials will be looking a little further down the rankings, specifically to where its top three teams are situated. South Florida, UCF and Memphis are a combined 19-1 and all in the hunt to represent the AAC and all non-power conferences in a major bowl game.

    South Florida (7-0) is the highest ranked of the lot, at No. 14 in the Amway and No. 17 in the AP, oddly falling one spot in each despite winning 34-28 at Tulane. Not far behind is UCF (6-0), which, after winning 31-21 at Navy, rose two spots to 18th in the AP poll and three spots to 17th in the Amway rankings.

    Memphis, which has a loss to UCF, is No. 25 in the AP poll and just outside the Amway rankings. 

    No other Group of Five team is ranked, with non-power teams getting just nine other AP votes and only 15 votes from Amway reps.

Miss: Idle Clemson Inexplicably Leapfrogs Miami in Amway Poll

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Unlike the Associated Press poll, which has 61 media members whose job descriptions include submitting a ballot every week, the Amway poll is a little more fluid. There are 65 coaches who are able to vote each week but quite often a few don't submit a ballot, which can affect the rankings.

    It likely contributed to why Clemson, which did not play in Week 8 and most recently lost at Syracuse, moved up one spot to No. 7 in the Amway poll while Miami fell to eighth despite winning 27-19 against that same Syracuse squad. But a closer look at the total vote points both received indicates there was more to this movement.

    Last week, when 63 coaches voted, Miami had 1,144 points and Clemson earned 1,106. This week's Amway poll had 64 ballots and Clemson is sitting with 1,173 votes, an increase of 67, while Miami (1,172) went up 28.

    The most points a team can receive from one voter is 25, and since that's the amount every one of them gave to unanimous No. 1 Alabama, it means that extra ballot couldn't have accounted for more than 24 points to either Clemson or Miami. So where did the rest of Clemson's vote boost come from?

    It would be one thing if there were losses involving Top 10 teams that created major upheaval, but none of them lost this week. Instead a few coaches decided to completely reassess Clemson despite it not having a new result to alter its resume. 


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