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Why College Football Rankings Do Not Matter Anymore

Alabama (6-0) is ranked No. 1 in the latest AP Top 25 college football poll. Clemson, last year’s national champion, is also 6-0 and comes in ranked No. 2. The same two teams are 1-2 in the latest Coaches Poll.

Both are deserving and it would be hard to argue that there is another team in America that belongs in one of those two spots. As for the rest of the poll, it really doesn’t matter much anymore.

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There are 13 FBS teams that remain unbeaten through Week 6. Eight of them are ranked in the Top 8 spots in the AP poll and only Nos. 1 through 7 are unbeaten in the Coaches Poll. Miami, which just beat Florida State to go to 4-0, is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll. Why? Bias is the only real answer.

Ohio State comes in at No. 9 in the AP poll. The Buckeyes have just one loss, but that loss was to Oklahoma, which was ranked No. 5 at the time. The Sooners were just upset by Iowa State last week and dropped all the way down to No. 12 in this week’s poll. Yes, Oklahoma beat the Buckeyes by 15 points yet head coach Lincoln Riley’s squad remains ranked three spots below Ohio State.

How about Michigan? The Wolverines dropped 10 spots in the AP poll to No. 17 after losing at home to its rival Michigan State. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are 4-1 with its biggest win over a Florida team that is now 3-2. They beat a 1-4 Air Force team by 16 and a pretty good Purdue squad by 18. Still, the losers of last Saturday’s game are ranked four spots ahead of the team that beat them (Michigan State).

Both Ohio State and Michigan began the season ranked high in both polls. Michigan State entered the season unranked. As a result, the Spartans have to “work” their way up the rankings as the team suffers the bias of not being ranked in the preseason.

For more proof of the bias that exists in the rankings, look no further than No. 6 TCU and No. 7 Washington State. Neither team was ranked heading into this season but both are currently unbeaten and have multiple solid victories. The Horned Frogs beat a then-No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater and just last week beat 23rd-ranked West Virginia at home. Head coach Gary Patterson’s team also went to Fayetteville and destroyed Arkansas by 21 points.

All Washington State has done is beat USC and win on the road at Oregon by 23 points. Their scores and odds put them atop the nation. The Cougars beat a pretty good Boise State team in overtime and have crushed the other opponents that they should have beat handily. In the Coaches Poll, the Cougars are ranked No. 9, two spots below TCU.

In both polls, both the Cougars and the Horned Frogs are ranked behind Washington (AP No. 4, CP No. 5). The Huskies are 6-0 and 3-0 in the Pac-12. Head coach Chris Petersen’s three conference wins are over teams with a combined 0-9 conference record. The Huskies have a win over FCS Montana, another over a 1-4 Rutgers team, and their “big” win came against Fresno State, which is 3-2.

Again, neither TCU nor Washington State came into the season unranked in the Coaches Poll. Now, they fight that bias as they continue to navigate their seasons. The Cougars will get a chance to see how they stack up against Washington in their season-ending rivalry game. TCU still has Oklahoma, now ranked 12th, and newly ranked Texas Tech (No. 24) remaining on the schedule.

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