Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

Comments on the AP College Football Poll: November 27, 2017

1) Clemson 11-1
2) Oklahoma 11-1
3) Wisconsin 12-0
4) Auburn 10-2
5) Alabama 11-1
6) Georgia 11-1
7) Miami (Florida) 10-1
8) Ohio State 10-2
9) Penn State 10-2
10) Texas Christian 10-2
11) Southern Cal 10-2
12) Central Florida 11-0
13) Washington 10-2
14) Stanford 9-3
15) Notre Dame 9-3
16) Memphis 10-1
17) Louisiana State 9-3
18) Oklahoma State 9-3
19) Michigan State 9-3
20) Northwestern 9-3
21) Washington State 9-3
22) Virginia Tech 9-3
23) South Florida 9-2
24) Mississippi State 8-4
25) Fresno State 9-3

Others Receiving Votes
North Carolina State 8-4
San Diego State 10-2
Louisville 8-4
Boise State 9-3
Toledo 10-2
Michigan 8-4
Virginia 6-6
Missouri 8-4
Florida Atlantic 9-3
Iowa State 7-5
Troy 9-2
Kansas State 7-5
If you've been wondering why I haven't been fixing the AP college football poll every week, it's because I don't bother to fix the AP poll's top 25 until after the final edition is released in January. When there are no more games to be played, there is no longer any wiggle room for ignoring head-to-head results and season-long performance. But before that, there can be plenty of room for wiggling.

For example, I think that 9-3 Notre Dame (#15) should be rated ahead of 9-3 Stanford (#14). But if Stanford loses to USC in the PAC title game this week, they will fall behind Notre Dame in the next AP poll anyway. I also think that 10-2 Washington (#13) should be rated behind Stanford. But if Stanford wins the PAC title game, they will move past Washington in the next AP poll anyway. So one of those 2 issues will sort itself out this week. I go into more detail on both issues below.

Obviously, while I will not fix the AP poll until January, it is late enough in the season that I now feel comfortable commenting on the weekly poll. I will go ahead and point out problems with the poll that would be outright errors if the season had ended this last weekend, and no more games were to be played. This can also give voters (in the AP or in any other poll) an idea of potential errors to avoid going forward.

Playoff Committee Rankings

I will also add some comments on the playoff committee rankings to this article after that top 25 comes out on Tuesday, but only if there is anything in those rankings to address that is different than the issues with the AP poll that I am already addressing below. In past years, the differences between the playoff committee rankings and the AP poll's top 25 have been minor. Unfortunately, the committee largely suffers from the same logic problems the AP poll does-- they rely far too much on teams' straight records when ranking them, and they place far too much emphasis on the last game played for each team.

Because the playoff committee will not be ranking teams in a final post-bowl top 25, I will not be fully fixing any of their rankings like I will the final AP poll top 25 in January.

Now let's get to commenting on the problems with the latest AP poll...

Notre Dame, Southern Cal, and Stanford

Obviously 9-3 Notre Dame (#15) and 9-3 Stanford (#14) have the same record, and Stanford just beat Notre Dame 38-20, so it may seem a no-brainer that Stanford should be ranked ahead of Notre Dame. But they should not be. You see, Notre Dame beat 10-2 Southern Cal (#11) 49-14, and USC beat Stanford 42-24, so these 3 teams defeated each other in a circle. To properly rate them, we need to look at their other losses. Notre Dame's other 2 losses came to #6 Georgia and #7 Miami, both rated higher than any of these 3 teams, and so those losses are irrelevant when comparing Notre Dame to USC or Stanford. USC, on the other hand, took an upset loss to #21 Washington State, and Stanford took two upset losses, to Washington State and to unrated San Diego State.

Therefore, Notre Dame should not only be rated ahead of Stanford, but they should also be rated ahead of Southern Cal. This issue will only sort itself out if the winner of the PAC title game loses its bowl game, and Notre Dame wins theirs, or if Notre Dame loses to a lower-rated team in their bowl game.

Stanford vs Washington

I'm not done with 9-3 Stanford yet. While they should be rated behind #15 Notre Dame, they should be rated ahead of #13 Washington. Washington is 10-2 because they played a ridiculously easy schedule. Stanford beat them 30-22, and Washington took an upset loss to unrated Arizona State as well. Stanford took 2 upset losses, but their win over Washington evens things up, with Stanford having the head-to-head edge. In addition, Notre Dame should be rated ahead of both teams, giving Stanford an upset win, and that makes them a slam-dunk to be rated ahead of Washington. Furthermore, if Stanford loses to USC in the PAC title game, they should still be rated ahead of Washington, as USC is rated higher than Washington. It is not the straight record that matters so much as the relevant record.

Mississippi State and Louisiana State

It is just lazy to simply order teams by their straight records, and AP poll voters need to get over this habit. Louisiana State is rated #17 and Mississippi State #24 because LSU is 9-3 and MSU is 8-4. But MSU is 8-4 because they played 11-1 Georgia from the other division, while LSU played 4-7 Florida. The AP poll is really just punishing MSU for playing a tougher schedule.

Here is the only fact that matters: Mississippi State destroyed LSU 37-7. Therefore they should be rated higher. Now, LSU did beat Auburn (who beat Mississippi State), and MSU did take an upset loss to Ole Miss (whom LSU defeated), and that would put LSU ahead of MSU by one game. But the problem is that LSU also took an upset loss, to unrated Troy. That makes these teams even, with MSU holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. And it was a very decisive outcome.

Now, if MSU takes an upset loss in their bowl game, and LSU does not, this issue will work itself out. Otherwise, it will need fixing when the final poll comes out in January.

South Florida

9-2 South Florida is #23, but they should not be ranked at all. Sure, they played a great game this week, falling to #12 Central Florida by only a touchdown. But that is by far their most impressive result of the season: a loss. Guess how many teams with a winning record USF has beaten. I'll give you a hint: it's the same number Pee Wee Herman has beaten this season. Zero. They are 0-2 against winning teams, one of whom is not even close to being rated.

USF has accomplished absolutely nothing this season. They lost to 7-4 Houston at home, and frankly they are lucky to be rated higher than Houston, who has beaten 4 winning teams.

North Carolina State and Louisville

North Carolina State and Louisville are both 8-4, and both are sitting just outside the top 25 (#26 and #28). Another thing they have in common is that both are overrated. These teams are poised to finish ranked if they win their bowl games, but unless those wins come over rated teams, neither team should finish ranked.

8-4 NC State lost to 8-4 South Carolina, and I don't see why they should be rated higher than the Gamecocks. They also lost to Wake Forest, so that makes 2 losses to unrated teams.

8-4 Louisville lost to NC State, so obviously they belong rated behind the Wolfpack. Like NC State, Louisville also lost to Wake Forest, and they took a 3rd loss to an unrated opponent against Boston College. Louisville is not even close to being a legitimate top 25 team.


I'm not saying that 7-5 Iowa should be ranked in the top 25, but they would be a legitimate choice, and a far better choice than NC State and Louisville. Iowa took one upset loss, to Purdue, but they also routed #8 Ohio State 55-24 to make up for it. Their other 4 losses all came to teams that are ranked in the top 20. Iowa also defeated 7-5 Iowa State, who has some poll points (while Iowa does not).

2017 TipTop 25

My little experiment, a top 25 that began with a preseason ranking based entirely on picking teams at random out of a hat, is now retired for the season. You can check out the last top 25 in that experiment here.