Even With Playoffs Coming, the Same Old Ranking Problems Are Alive and Well in College Football

Saturday has come and gone, and the first week of college football is in the books. So, we now have our first legitimate ranking of America’s Top 25 teams. And it’s been done like it’s always done, link half-a-hundred Plinko chips falling, tumbling, and ricocheting to their fates.

There is, of course, some logic behind all of it – most of that logic not decided from the first week, but from before the first week. Last Saturday’s results only confirmed what everyone already wanted to think on their own. It confirmed their very blind assumptions about what’s true and what’s definite, like a Republican and Democrat watching the same debate and both thinking their guy won.

At the top we have Florida State. That’s fair. The Seminoles won last year’s national championship in explosive fashion, coming from behind to down upstart Auburn. Jameis Winston is the second freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy – the second straight, behind Johnny Manziel – which means he won’t win it this year. It’s not that he won’t deserve it, but every voter is waiting for him to fail. We do it every year with whatever NFL team is the last to lose a game, throwing back to the ’72 Dolphins like college folks throw back to Archie Griffin – a guy they never saw or know anything about, other than that he’s the only person to win the Heisman twice.

In second is Alabama. Because, Hell, it’s Alabama. Why not, right?

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Polls: Florida State remains No. 1, Georgia jumps into the Top 10 (CBS Sports)

 

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Oklahoma is third, Ohio State seventh, and Stanford 10th. All three of those squads annually occupy the Russell Wilson-ish status of being overrated when everyone’s talking about you, and then somehow underrated when nobody’s paying attention. Ohio State was the only undefeated team in the country in 2012 and they didn’t even get a shot in that year’s national championship. And then, in 2013, everyone had their cameras on them… until they lost to Michigan State and Clemson in their final two games.

Oregon is fourth. Oregon is always given the least leeway of any team because their division – the PAC-12 – is mistaken as an easy route to an unblemished record. Oregon’s the only team that can win 62-13 – like it did over South Dakote on Saturday – and their critics will ask, “How’d you give up 13 points?” Every year, Oregon runs full-speed over the first half of the schedule, they lose one tight shootout to a legitimate threat, and then everyone in Alabama and Texas and Florida goes, “Phew, I’m glad that’s over.”

Also in the Top 10 are Michigan State, fresh off their Rose Bowl from January 1 and their 45-7 throttling of Jacksonville State last weekend. It’s not like Jacksonville State belongs on the same field as MSU, but keeping their ranking gives the Spartans and Ducks a pretty heavy billing heading into Week 2, when Michigan State will play Oregon in Eugene. It’s easily the biggest game of the season, which sort of sucks when you realize that one Top 10 team will drop off the radar before mid-September.

(Personally, I hate that. I hated it when LSU played Oregon in Week 1 in 2011, and I hated seeing No. 18 Wisconsin lose 28-24 to No. 12 LSU just this past weekend. Sure, it keeps the fight consistent from the season’s start to its finish, but you’re throwing a Top 20 team under the bus before they can even find their feet. And besides, Wisconsin lost by four. They didn’t get blown out like Clemson or South Carolina just were. They actually earned a win they would have had if they were playing the saps Florida State, Oregon, Michigan State, and Stanford did. Currently, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Clemson are the only 0-1 teams in the Top 25 – not because they’ve necessarily earned those rankings but because they were given them a month ago.)

Filling out America’s Top 10 – as voted on by a few coaches, I should mention – were Georgia at No. 8 and Baylor at No. 9. Both teams came away from Week 1 with arguably the early season’s most impressive victories, with the Bulldogs beating down Clemson 45-21 and the Bears shutting out SMU 45-0.

Curiously though, Georgia actually dropped from sixth to eighth.

And Texas A&M – which throttled South Carolina with 511 passing yards and 52 points – somehow dropped from ninth to No. 12.

Thankfully, we’ll have the playoffs this year. Because without them, these rankings would be as conspicuous in four months as they are now.

Then again, even the playoffs now have their own pre-rankings… so what’s changed, really?