Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

Ranking the Top 25 Teams for the 2017 Season

January 1, 2018

AP poll voters' top 25 ballots will be due right after the National Championship game between #4 Alabama and #3 Georgia, but hopefully they have already started working on their final rankings. With a full week to go before the final game, AP voters have plenty of time to look carefully at all the relevant teams and to put together a solid final top 25. To help in that regard, I offer some advice on how certain teams should be ranked (below), but first let's look at the final regular-season AP poll, along with the teams' subsequent bowl results thus far:

1) Clemson 12-2 Lost to #4 Alabama 24-6
2) Oklahoma 12-2 Lost to #3 Georgia 54-48 OT
3) Georgia 13-1 Defeated #2 Oklahoma 54-48 OT
4) Alabama 12-1 Defeated #1 Clemson 24-6
5) Ohio State  12-2 Defeated #8 Southern Cal 24-7
6) Wisconsin 13-1 Defeated #11 Miami (Florida) 34-24
7) Auburn 10-4 Lost to #10 Central Florida 34-27
8) Southern Cal 11-3 Lost to #5 Ohio State 24-7
9) Penn State 11-2 Defeated #12 Washington 35-28
10) Central Florida 13-0 Defeated #7 Auburn 34-27
11) Miami (Florida) 10-3 Lost to #6 Wisconsin 34-24
12) Washington 10-3 Lost to #9 Penn State 35-28
13) Texas Christian 11-3 Defeated #15 Stanford 39-37
14) Notre Dame 10-3 Defeated #16 Louisiana State 21-17
15) Stanford 9-5 Lost to #13 Texas Christian 39-37
16) Louisiana State 9-4 Lost to #14 Notre Dame 21-17
17) Oklahoma State 10-3 Defeated #22 Virginia Tech 30-21
18) Michigan State 10-3 Defeated #21 Washington State 42-17
19) Memphis 10-3 Lost to 8-5 Iowa State 21-20
20) Northwestern 10-3 Defeated 7-6 Kentucky 24-23
21) Washington State 9-4 Lost to #18 Michigan State 42-17
22) Virginia Tech 9-4 Lost to #17 Oklahoma State 30-21
23) South Florida 10-2 Defeated 6-7 Texas Tech 38-34
24) Mississippi State 9-4 Defeated 8-5 Louisville 31-27
25) Boise State 11-3 Defeated 7-6 Oregon 38-28

Others Receiving Votes (in order from most poll points to least)

North Carolina State 9-4 Defeated 7-6 Arizona State 52-31
San Diego State 10-3 Lost to 10-3 Army 42-35
Toledo 11-3 Lost to 9-4 Appalachian State 34-0
Louisville 8-5 Lost to #24 Mississippi State 31-27
Michigan 8-5 Lost to 9-4 South Carolina 26-19
Florida Atlantic 11-3 Defeated 7-7 Akron 50-3
Fresno State 10-4 Defeated 7-5 Houston 33-27
Missouri 7-6 Lost to 7-6 Texas 33-16
Kansas State 8-5 Defeated 6-7 UCLA 35-17
Troy 11-2 Defeated 9-5 North Texas 50-30

Miami (Florida) > Notre Dame > Southern Cal

This is an issue I have previously addressed. 10-3 Miami defeated 10-3 Notre Dame 41-8, and Notre Dame defeated 11-3 Southern Cal 49-14, and that is the order these 3 teams should be ranked relative to one another. I mean, those scores leave little room for doubt. All 3 teams have taken an upset loss to a lower-ranked team, so they are equal in that regard.

Stanford > Washington

Also previously addressed. I'll just basically repeat what I wrote before: 9-5 Stanford (#15) should be rated ahead of 10-3 Washington (#12). Washington is 10-3 because they played a ridiculously easy schedule. Stanford has 2 more losses because they played #8 Southern Cal twice, and Washington did not play them at all.

Stanford beat Washington 30-22, and Washington took an upset loss to unrated Arizona State as well. Stanford took 2 upset losses, so the teams have the same relevant record, but Stanford owns the head-to-head edge and should therefore be rated higher. For the same reason, Stanford won the division and Washington did not.

Mississippi State > Louisiana State

Also previously addressed. 9-4 Mississippi State (#24) defeated 9-4 Louisiana State (#16) 37-7, a rather decisive outcome, and they should therefore be rated higher. Hopefully, MSU will pass LSU up in the final AP poll, but if not, I'll just have to take care of this issue when I fix that poll next week.

South Carolina > North Carolina State

Also previously addressed. 9-4 South Carolina defeated 9-4 North Carolina State in their season opener, and they should therefore be ranked higher.

Washington State > Boise State

#21 Washington State (9-4) lost their bowl game (to #18 Michigan State), while #25 Boise State (11-3) won theirs (over 7-5 Oregon), so Boise State is likely to be rated higher than WSU in the final AP poll. However, WSU has already beaten Boise State, and they should therefore remain ranked ahead of BSU. Clearly the teams were playing very different opponents in their bowl games, so dropping WSU behind BSU based on those results would be unfair and irrational. After all, Boise State's 10-point win over Oregon in their bowl game isn't anything WSU hasn't already accomplished-- they already won at Oregon by 23 points! So if anything, the bowl results actually corroborate the notion that WSU > Boise State.

Both teams have taken a pair of upset losses to unranked teams, but WSU made up for their upsets with a pair of wins over higher-rated opponents (Stanford and Southern Cal). So this issue is not even close.

Memphis > South Florida

#19 Memphis (10-3) lost their bowl game (to 8-5 Iowa State), while #23 South Florida (10-2) won theirs (over 6-7 Texas Tech), so South Florida is likely to be rated higher than Memphis in the final AP poll. However, Memphis should remain ranked higher. These 2 AAC teams have played 6 common opponents, and Memphis did better than USF did against all six. However, neither of these teams should be ranked at all. I have been complaining about South Florida for weeks now. They have a nice-looking 10-2 record, but they have not beaten a single team with a winning record. Not one. And they have taken a loss to an unrated team.

So who should be rated in their place? Well, Iowa State just beat Memphis in their bowl game. Unfortunately, Iowa State has taken too many losses to unranked teams. But a terrific option would be the following team that has beaten Iowa State...


8-5 Iowa should definitely be ranked. They have taken one upset loss (to 7-5 Purdue), but they made up for it with a huge 55-24 upset win over #5 Ohio State. Their other losses all came to teams that will be highly rated in the final AP poll. They beat a pretty impressive 5 bowl-qualifying teams, including 8-5 Iowa State, who of course just beat #19 Memphis. I have no doubt that I will be moving Iowa up quite far when I fix the final AP poll next week.

Florida Atlantic and Army

It need hardly be said that 11-3 Florida Atlantic and 10-3 Army should not be rated in the final AP poll. But I've seen the AP poll pull dumber moves, so I'm saying it. These teams played weak schedules, each of them took 2 losses to unranked teams, and neither defeated a team that will be close to ranked.