NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 11 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 11 Polls

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    The debut of the College Football Playoff rankings this past week has turned much of the attention on which teams are in position to vie for a national championship. These standings also tend to render the traditional polls as less important since they have no bearing on the playoff picture.

    Or do they?

    The initial playoff rankings closely mirrored how the Associated Press and Amway polls from last week looked, with a few exceptions. In some ways, these polls served as a template for the playoff selection committee to use and then build from.

    Will that committee do the same this week? We'll find out Tuesday, but for now we can still break down how the AP's media voters and coaches in the Amway poll did with their rankings.

Hit: Sparty Soars After Michigan State Beats Penn State

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    The Big Ten's playoff outlook took a major hit Saturday with Ohio State and Penn State both losing on the road. Michigan State is to thank—or blame—for the takedown of PSU after beating the Nittany Lions 27-24 on a field goal at the buzzer.

    And the pollsters rewarded MSU for that victory, jumping them 11 spots to No. 13 in the Associated Press rankings and into the Amway poll at No. 16. No other team rose more than seven places in either poll.

    Had MSU not lost at Northwestern in triple overtime the week before, we might be discussing Sparty as a legitimate playoff contender since its only other loss is to Notre Dame. Instead, the Spartans are tied with Ohio State for first in the East Division and now go to Columbus on Saturday with a potential spot in the Big Ten title game on the line.

Miss: Is Wisconsin of AP Voter Revisionist History?

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    Wisconsin is one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the country and the only one from a Big Ten Conference that no longer has any one-loss teams. The Badgers' latest win, 45-17 at Indiana, makes them a virtual lock to be the league's West Division representative in the conference title game.

    So why did Associated Press voters drop them from fourth to sixth despite their most dominant conference victory of the season? Just look to the first playoff rankings, which had Wisconsin at No. 9.

    The selection committee wasn't impressed with Wisconsin's body of work, which doesn't include a win over a ranked team, and now it looks like many AP voters have decided that's how they should evaluate the Badgers instead of how they'd previously made their assessments.

    The Amway coaches voters weren't as influenced by the playoff committee, as they moved Wisconsin up one spot to No. 3.

Hit: Miami Starting to Get More Media Love

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    The knocks against Wisconsin are justified because two of the three teams it has beaten who have winning records (Utah State and Florida Atlantic) are from non-power leagues. With Miami, the issue to this point hadn't been who it had defeated but how the Hurricanes had done so.

    In other words, Associated Press voters didn't think they were passing the eye test in narrow wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and lowly North Carolina by a combined 18 points.

    It looks like the Hurricanes' 28-10 win over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech on Saturday changed the tune of some voters. They moved up two spots to No. 7, while the Amway coaches kept them at No. 6.

    Miami is still behind a trio of one-loss teams in the AP poll and two teams with blemishes in the Amway poll. Good thing it will have the chance to do something about that in the near future.

    The Hurricanes host Notre Dame, which is No. 3 in the AP and No. 5 in the Amway, on Saturday. And assuming they reach the ACC title game they'll get to take on No. 4 Clemson as well.

Miss: Should UCF Be Ranked Higher?

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    There's always going to be a bias toward power-conference teams in the polls, and don't expect that to change anytime soon. But with only five unbeaten teams remaining in the country, doesn't it stand to reason that the fifth member of that group should be getting a little more respect regardless of what league they come from?

    UCF won 31-24 at SMU on Saturday to improve to 8-0, a record that includes victories over Maryland and a ranked Memphis team. The Knights are winning by an average of 28.2 points per game.

    Associated Press voters have decided that's still only good enough to put UCF at No. 14, just one spot higher than a week ago, and in the Amway poll, it is up two places to No. 12.

    The Knights were leapfrogged by Auburn and Michigan State in the AP poll and by Auburn in the Amway rankings.

    We're not suggesting UCF should be high enough to be a playoff contender, but maybe Top 10? Perhaps this will change in a few weeks after it plays No. 22/21 South Florida in the regular-season finale and possibly No. 20/19 Memphis again in the American Athletic Conference championship.

Hit: Iowa Breaks Through Cracks One Poll

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    Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City has been a house of horrors for the Big Ten East Division's top teams, with Michigan losing there last season and Penn State narrowly escaping earlier this fall. Ohio State joined the list of big names to head home shaking its head, getting blown out 55-24 by Iowa on Saturday.

    The Associated Press voters felt that monster performance, which included the most points ever scored against an Urban Meyer-coached team, was enough to put the three-loss Hawkeyes into the poll at No. 25. The Amway coaches weren't as impressed, giving Iowa only enough votes to be No. 27 overall.

    Iowa is ranked for the first time since the final regular-season poll in 2016, when it was No. 21. This year's team is 6-3 with its losses (to 7-2 Penn State, at 7-2 Michigan State and at 6-3 Northwestern) by 16 points.

Miss: Ranking 3-Loss Teams Isn't Necessary

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    Well, at least we made it into November without giving a Top 25 spot to a team that had lost three times. It was a good run.

    Voters apparently decided they could hold off no longer, as collectively they put five three-loss squads into the Associated Press and Amway polls. Iowa State, at No. 24 in the AP and No. 23 in the Amway, is a double entrant. The AP has West Virginia (which just beat ISU) at No. 23 and Iowa at No. 25, and the Amway poll includes North Carolina State at No. 24 and LSU at No. 25.

    Arizona and Stanford fell out of the polls after getting their third losses, so it could have been worse.

    Or it could have been much better because there are several teams with two or fewer losses who could have been ranked. First and foremost is Toledo, which is 8-1 with its loss coming at unbeaten Miami, yet the Rockets are unofficially 28th and 29th in the polls based on the number of votes they earned.

    Two-loss teams that remain unranked include Arkansas State, Army, Boise State, Florida International, Ohio, San Diego State and Troy. That group, all from outside the Power Five, has combined to beat four power teams but garnered only 48 votes on AP ballots and 85 on Amway ballots.


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