Early CFB Polls: Our Staff and National Experts Weigh In

Early College Football Polls

Let’s face it, we all know the only ranking that really matters is released by the College Football Playoff selection committee the day after conference champions are crowned.

Why have the AP and Coaches poll if they don’t matter and have no impact on the College Football Playoff? Why are they released even before any games are played?

I know, I know….it’s for good conversation and debate that builds up the hype over early season matchups. On the other hand, we say they really don’t matter because they mean nothing and have no impact on the playoff selections. Why are we all so interested and make a big fuss when they mean nothing?

For me, it’s more about being curious, I look at the various preseason polls to compare and why I think they’re wrong. College football is a beautiful thing because there’s no preseason, unlike the NFL and other major college sports.  It’s not until late October and November until meaningful conference games are played, that we have an idea of their true identity of who will play for conference championships and bowl games. Yes, there are some early non-conference matchups and upsets can prove teams were ranked too high or low. I enjoy, just like everyone else, great non-conference matchups early in the season that can quickly change expectations of a team.

After coming off the biggest opening weekend of college football, filled with story lines and upsets, some wondered how far the losers would fall and how high the winners would rise. ESPN tweeted earlier this week the breakdown of the biggest AP changes. Texas and Wisconsin were not ranked before week one, but now they are in the top 15.

The jump by Wisconsin of 22 spots ties the record after beating LSU by two points. People were only talking about how difficult Wisconsin’s season was, but now we may see them play in Ann Arbor against a highly ranked Michigan.

What Do Others In The Business Think?

I asked a few this week in the college football world to give me their perspective and here’s what they had to say.

Mark Packer, host of Sirius XM 84  College Sports Today (@MarkPacker)

“CFB fans are more sophisticated these days. The smart fans realize the AP & Coaches Preseason Polls serve no purpose…the CFB Playoff Committee will deliver to us the only poll that matters beginning on November 1st. Folks that worry about the rankings in September need to chill out and enjoy the journey of another wild & crazy CFB season.”

Tom Luginbill, National Recruiting Director for ESPN (@TomLuginbill)

“You pretty much have to have them or you wouldn’t have any preseason coverage. There would be no hype to generate the matchups early on in the season. It’s a necessary evil. Whether you have them or not everybody’s going to have a perception of a team based off of the previous year anyway.”

Isaiah Hole, Team Writer for @247Wolverine (@isaiahhole)

Isaiah commented about early polls and the Big Ten Conference by saying, “Well, the preseason poll is a joke, in that where teams are seeded can affect where they end up at the end of the season. For instance, Wisconsin could end up being a top 5 team, and LSU could be as well. But they got penalized hard, because Wisconsin was unranked. We really don’t know anything about these teams until they’ve played a few games. I think Michigan is exactly where they should be. Not a lot of teams behind them that should be ahead of them, if any. Teams ahead of them are the teams that I would likely worry about Michigan’s ability to win against, if they were to play those games. The good thing is, that where Michigan is ranked, if they win out, there’s obviously no doubt that they end up where they want to be. If they do see troubles along the way, or lose to, say Ohio State, it should not put them completely out of the running for a greater purpose of the season.”

Rachel Lenzi, who covers Michigan Football for Landof10.com (@RLenziCMg)

“Preseason polls are not just good fodder, they provide something tangible and subjective for people to weigh when they’re discussing college football. The voters have a pretty good gauge of what they’re voting upon when they submit these.”

Bill King, host of The Bill King Show on WNSR Nashville (@BillisKing)

“I love them. It’s all about the various opinions and robust debate.”

My Thoughts and Idea

While I enjoy early rankings as a college football junkie, I say keep them, but make some minor changes.

The television networks can use their college football analysts to create their own preseason rankings. The staff insight can provide them withsomething to talk about and can be somewhat of a measurement for the next group of polls released. Whichever network is the most accurate can also use that as bragging rights.

The AP and Coaches poll can come out the first Monday in October, based on the seasons body of work up to that week. The College Football Playoff committee releases their first ranking a few weeks later. Once we see what the selection committee initially releases, the other polls are thrown out the window and nobody cares.

What Do Fans Think?

I took my question to Twitter with a poll this week and here are the results. I guess others feel the same way I do on this topic.

Thank you to all the great people who weighed in on this topic sharing their own perspective and opinion.

Follow me on Twitter: @DavidRNoe