NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 12 Polls

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2017

NCAA Football Rankings 2017: Hits and Misses from Week 12 Polls

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Chaos returned to college football this weekend, taking out four Top 10 teams and completely reshaping the Associated Press and Amway polls. Just like it seems to do around this time every year.

    So much upheaval means the next poll looks nothing like the previous ones, as teams that lost tend to take a tumble while big winners from the weekend end up soaring. But so much change also comes with the opportunity for disagreement among voters.

    Where did they get it right, and where could they have done better? Check out how we see it.

Hit: The U Is Back...Into the Top Tier of the Polls

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    How long has it been since Miami was in the top two in the polls? If you said 13 years, you'd still be a year off.

    The Hurricanes, buoyed by Saturday's 41-8 drubbing of Notre Dame, have jumped to No. 2 in both the Associated Press and Amway polls. That's their highest ranking since 2003, when they spent eight weeks in that spot.

    That's a jump of five spots in the AP and four in the Amway, sprinting past all the one-loss teams that had been ahead of them for weeks.

    At 9-0 with games against Virginia and at Pittsburgh remaining, Miami could basically lock up a playoff spot if it makes it through the regular season unbeaten. The Hurricanes will play Clemson, which is fourth in the AP and third in the Amway, in the ACC title game on Dec. 2 and may still be able to stay in the Top Four with a loss there.

Miss: Jury Is Still Out on Wisconsin

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    Coaches who vote in the Amway Top 25 have been much more bullish on Wisconsin than those from the Associated Press, but both sets of pollsters showed this week that they're still not sure what to make of the unbeaten Badgers.

    A 38-14 home win over Iowa, the first opponent Wisconsin faced this season when ranked, seemed to do nothing to sway voters. The AP clan only moved the Badgers up one spot to fifth, while in the Amway poll they dropped one place to fourth.

    Wisconsin (10-0) appears to be dealing with some of the same issues that Iowa faced two years ago when it kept winning but didn't make much movement in the polls. Iowa went unbeaten through the regular season yet never got higher than third and then missed out on the playoffs when it fell to Michigan State in the final moments of the Big Ten title game.

Hit: Auburn Ranked Ahead of Georgia Team It Just Destroyed

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Far too often there is a scenario where Team A ends up being ranked behind Team B despite owning a head-to-head victory. This is usually a combination of Team B having been so far ahead of Team A in the previous poll that voters couldn't find a way to drop Team B enough to fall behind the rise of Team A.

    For example, Michigan remained ranked ahead of Michigan State while Ohio State was above Oklahoma for several weeks this season despite MSU and Oklahoma having won their matchups.

    Auburn's 40-17 beatdown of Georgia had the potential to lead to the same situation, but for once the voters got it right. Auburn is No. 6 in both the Associated Press and Amway polls, while Georgia is No. 7.

    That means the Tigers are the highest-ranked two-loss team—and deservedly so. They just beat the team that was No. 1 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and their losses are by a combined 12 points to ranked foes Clemson and LSU.

Miss: What Do Voters Have Against UCF?

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    We're down to four unbeaten teams out of 130 at the FBS level, and three of them (Alabama, Miami and Wisconsin) are all ranked incredibly high.

    And then there's UCF. The Knights, sporting a 9-0 record and an average margin of victory of 27.9 points, sit 12th in the Associated Press ranking and 14th in the Amway poll. That's the same place they were in last week, with several teams leapfrogging them.

    UCF doesn't play in a power conference, despite the best efforts of the American Athletic Conference to consider itself as such. But the Knights shouldn't be completely discounted because of their league brethren, especially since one of their wins in AAC play is against No. 18/17 Memphis (as well as Maryland of the Big Ten).

    Maybe things would be different if Hurricane Irma hadn't cut a swath through Florida and wreaking havoc with the early-season schedules of the state's programs. UCF lost a game against Georgia Tech, which could have provided a nice resume boost to push it higher in the polls.

Hit: Stanford Is Biggest Mover in Bottom Half of Polls

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    David Madison/Getty Images

    It may have happened too late for many to watch—or you didn't have Fox Sports 2, where the game began because of late-running truck racing—but the start of this weekend's chaos actually began on Friday night. That's when Stanford (particularly Bryce Love) ran all over Washington and its top-rated defense in a 30-22 win.

    That result effectively ended any thought of the Pac-12 getting a team into the playoffs, as two-loss USC (at 12th in the Associated Press and 10th in the Amway) is now the league's highest-ranked team.

    The win also provided a nice springboard to get Stanford back into the polls, now sitting at 20th in the AP as well as 23rd in the Amway.

Miss: Room Should Be Made for Northwestern

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It was around this time two years ago that Northwestern moved back into the Top 25 and just kept on climbing, finishing 12th in the final regular-season poll with a 10-2 record.

    (We can forget about the 45-6 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl that came after that.)

    Northwestern is on a similar second-half surge, with its 23-13 win over Purdue on Saturday being the Wildcats' fifth straight after a 2-3 start. Included in that run were victories over Iowa and Michigan State.

    Yet they're still on the outside of the rankings, sitting No. 27 in both polls in terms of their poll points. Maybe another week of teams in the 20s losing—like Iowa and Iowa State did on Saturday—while Northwestern wins again (it is home against Minnesota) will change that.


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