Monday, November 14, 2011

Re-Thinking the AP Top 25

Ever find yourself perplexed by the national polls that come out each Sunday afternoon? Ever gaze in wonder as Team A is ranked above Team B thanks almost solely to the fact that they have fewer losses regardless of the quality of their opponents? Have you ever questioned why a team must drop in the polls just because they lost (or rise just because those above them lost)? I certainly have. I think a better way to rank teams would be to borrow a method the NCAA selection committee uses to pick teams for its postseason basketball tournament. Take a look at a team's resume. Who did you beat, where did you beat them, and to a certain extent, how bad did you beat them? Below I have listed the resumes for each team that I believe has at least a quasi-legitimate argument to be ranked in the most recent Associated Press Poll. I have grouped their wins and losses as either being 'Good', 'Decent', 'Bad', or coming against a IAA school. Some wins or losses I see as good, you may see as only decent and vice-versa and ditto with decent and bad, but I think this is a much more pragmatic and logical way to rank teams. Enjoy,

Clemson AP#7
Hate on the ACC all you want, but the Tigers have a pair of wins almost as good as anyone in the country, at home versus Florida State and on the road against Virginia Tech. Their number 7 ranking seems about right.

Florida State AP#23
The Seminoles won't live up to their preseason hype, but look at the losses. Two have come to top-10 teams and the other came on the road to a solid Wake Forest team. They don't have any great wins, but they dominated their opponents since losing to Wake. This is a top-20 team, and potentially top-10 depending on how they finish the regular season.

Georgia Tech AP NR
Outside of the Clemson upset, their other wins are only decent. No bad losses, but all three have come in their last four games. This is a fringe top-25 team.

Virginia AP NR
The Cavaliers don't have the scalps to be in the top-25 with three losses, but they have certainly exceeded preseason expectations.

Virginia Tech AP#9
No great wins, but a host of solid ones and their only loss came to a team in the top-10. Deserving of their spot in the top-10.

Big East
None. Outside of South Florida (a team that is currently 1-4 in the conference), no team accomplished anything of note outside the league.

Big 10
Michigan AP#20
Outside of Notre Dame, their best win is probably at Northwestern. No bad losses, but just 2-2 on the road. A little underrated at 20.

Michigan State AP#12
No bad losses, and a pair of great scalps (Michigan and Wisconsin). The Spartans should probably be in the top-10.

Nebraska AP#17
The Northwestern loss at home, and the margin of the Wisconsin loss should probably keep them out of the top-15 despite their wins over Michigan State and Penn State.

Penn State AP#21
No marquee wins, but their two losses have come to very good teams. Should probably still be in the top-20 based on resume alone. The AP Poll should not be a ranking system that also attempts to examine a team's psyche.

Wisconsin AP#15
They have dominated the schedule, but six of their eight wins have come against bad or IAA teams. If not for the Ohio State loss, I'd have them in the top-10.

Big 12
Baylor AP#25
The TCU win is looking better and better, but I think their weekend escape against Kansas is more indicative of how good they actually are. Should be receiving votes, but not top-25 worthy.

Kansas State AP#16
Five of their eight wins have come against solid teams. Both their losses came to top-10 teams. A top-15 team, statistics be damned.

Oklahoma AP#5
That Texas Tech loss is looking worse and worse everyday. A lot of decent wins and a major scalp on the road at Florida State. Definitely top-10, but behind Oregon and Alabama in the one-loss pecking order. If they win at Oklahoma State, that could change.

Oklahoma State AP#2
No marquee wins, but eight, count 'em, eight solid wins. If they beat Oklahoma in Bedlam, there should be no argument for an Alabama/LSU rematch.

Texas AP#NR
That Missouri loss has rightfully exiled them from the top-25.

Oregon AP#4
They do have a lot of 'bad' wins, but that loss on a neutral site to LSU is as forgivable as they come.

Southern Cal AP#18
No horrible losses, and plenty of solid to above-average wins. Top-20 material.

Stanford AP#8
Look at that 'bad' column. Perhaps the Cardinal were overrated heading into the Oregon game.

Alabama AP#3
Probably a little overrated thanks to the relative weakness of the middle of the SEC. Only loss was by three points in OT to one of two remaining undefeated teams. Top-5 for sure.

Arkansas AP#6
Before they beat South Carolina, the Hogs had no business being in the top-10. I'm still not sure they should be as high as they are.

Georgia AP#13
The 'Dawgs have ridden a soft (by SEC standards) schedule to a near certain SEC East title. No bad losses, but no great wins either. Probably top-15, but I would be hesitant to rank them higher.

Easily the best resume of any team in the country.

South Carolina AP#14
A plethora of solid wins, but outside of Georgia, no wins to turn your head. Probably ranked about right.

Notre Dame AP#24
Their losses are all excusable, and their schedule has been harder than most casual observers would have thought. Its about time they returned to the top-25. For once, the Irish are underrated by the national media.

A wise man once said: "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." He was speaking of a different kind of talent, but you get the idea. With Boise's loss, this is probably true for the mid-majors this season. There is still a shot one can make a BCS game, but it has become much less likely.

Conference USA
Houston AP#11
There is not a lot of beef in that schedule. Outside of the 'hey they're undefeated' argument, no reason this team should be in the top-10. Their undefeated season may come to an end at the hands of one of the other CUSA teams on this list.

Southern Miss AP#22
Even with the loss to Marshall, the Golden Eagles could conceivably grab a BCS bid. If they win the Conference USA Championship Game and stand 12-1, as long as they are ranked above the Big East champion, Conference USA could have their first BCS buster.

Tulsa AP NR
Here's an outside the box top-25 team for you. Tulsa has lost three games, but each came to a team currently ranked in the top-10. Believe it or not, the Golden Hurricane control their own destiny in the Conference USA race. If they win their last two, at UTEP, and then home versus Houston, they would play in the Conference USA Championship Game. Think about this, if Houston had played this schedule, is there any way they wouldn't have three losses? This team is criminally underrated.

None. Temple and Toledo did some good work, and had some near misses in the non-conference, but every MAC team has at least three losses.

Mountain West
Boise State AP#10
The loss to TCU nixed any dreams of a BCS bid, but these Broncos are still a top-10 team. The wins at Toledo (ask Ohio State) and versus Tulsa are better than the general public knows.

The Horned Frogs have won five in a row and their win at Boise is the Broncos first regular season home loss since 2001. Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore has now lost three games in his illustrious career. Two of them have come against TCU.

Sun Belt
Arkansas State AP NR
Sure this is a reach, but this team should probably at least be receiving votes. They were somewhat competitive in non-conference games against Virginia Tech and Illinois and are two wins away from the first ever 10-win regular season for a Sun Belt school. If they take them both and win their bowl and have a few breaks come their way in the form of other schools losing, they could become the first ever Sun Belt team to enter the AP Poll.

None. Nevada has had a decent season, but they have almost no wins of note. Louisiana Tech missed great opportunities against Southern Miss (two-point loss), Houston (one-point loss) and Mississippi State (OT loss) to nab a quality win. If Utah State could hold a lead (led in the 4th quarter against quality foes Auburn and BYU), they would have a top-25 argument.

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