Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

2015 TipTop 25 Week One

Greetings and welcome to the inaugural TipTop 25, an altogether different approach to ranking the top 25 college football teams, at least early in the season. What makes it so different? Well, for my preseason top 25, I literally drew names out of a hat:

College football team names in a hatCollege football team names in a hat

Why would I do such a thing? Because some people like to gripe about the silliness of preseason college football polls every year, the premise being that no one really knows who will be good or not before the season starts. For example, last year in the preseason AP poll Oklahoma was ranked #4, South Carolina #9, Stanford #11, and LSU #13, and none of those teams finished ranked in the final poll. Meanwhile, in the final poll, TCU finished #3, Georgia Tech #8, Mississippi State #11, and Boise State #16, and none of those teams were ranked in the preseason poll.

Now, I have no problem with preseason polls myself. They're just for fun, and I enjoy looking at them. Yes, teams that are ranked highly in the preseason AP poll may have an "unfair" advantage in later polls, but that's only because many sportswriters aren't very good at rating teams. That's not the fault of the preseason poll. And while some of the preseason rankings will turn out to be wrong, for the most part preseason polls tend to be pretty close: 15 of last year's preseason AP poll top 25 teams finished the season ranked, which is a lot more than you're likely to get by simply picking teams out of a hat (on average, that will get you about 5 correct out of the 25).

Still, I got to thinking: what if we did simply pick teams out of a hat, and then go from there each week? And we could treat all teams with a blank slate, ignoring their histories, performances from last year, returning starters, etc. We would only focus on what each team does this year, with a completely random ranking to start the season. Now, is this what I think people should be doing when they rank teams early in the season? Heck no, this is just for fun.

So I wrote out all the 128 FBS teams on slips of paper, put them in a hat, and then drew 25 of them out one by one. Starting with my preseason #1 team:

Picking Duke out of a hat CFB 2015

That's right, Duke is our #1 team to start the 2015 season! See, isn't this already vastly more fun than the preseason AP poll? Here is the full preseason top 25 as designated by my magic hat (which, by the way, also designated Alabama to Slytherin House):

#1 Duke
#2 Connecticut
#3 Troy
#4 Akron
#5 Ball State
#6 Texas State
#7 Boise State
#8 California
#9 Old Dominion
#10 Nevada
#11 Army
#12 Auburn
#13 Boston College
#14 Louisiana-Monroe
#15 Michigan
#16 Baylor
#17 Utah
#18 Syracuse
#19 Penn State
#20 Notre Dame
#21 Florida State
#22 Arkansas State
#23 Texas Christian
#24 Colorado State
#25 Rutgers

But I didn't stop there. In order to properly rank teams after week one, I also had to know which teams were close to being ranked, so I pulled out another 25 teams to give us a top 50:

#26 San Jose State
#27 Michigan State
#28 Buffalo
#29 Clemson
#30 North Carolina State
#31 Southern Miss
#32 Arizona
#33 Northern Illinois
#34 Louisiana Tech
#35 South Carolina
#36 Rice
#37 Alabama
#38 Stanford
#39 Central Florida
#40 Florida
#41 Hawaii
#42 Wyoming
#43 Georgia
#44 New Mexico State
#45 Charlotte
#46 Miami-Florida
#47 Utah State
#48 Mississippi
#49 Tulsa
#50 Minnesota

Top 25 After Week One Games

So how did the preseason TipTop 25 do in week one? Abysmally, but hey, at least this top 25 provided a lot more "drama" to the week's otherwise yawnworthy results. 7 of the top 25 were upset, including 3 of the top 6! Another 6 teams struggled to win against opponents who were either FCS or not ranked in the top 50. But that's okay, we'll just adjust week-by-week, same as any other ranking. With one week's worth of games now in the books, this week's TipTop 25 is as follows:

TeamRecordLWWeek One Result
#1Duke1-01Won 37-7 at unrated Tulane
#2California1-08Won 73-14 over an FCS team
#3Florida State1-021Won 59-16 over previous #6 Texas State
#4Boston College1-013Won 24-3 over an FCS team
#5North Carolina State1-030Won 49-21 over previous #3 Troy
#6Utah1-017Won 24-17 over previous #15 Michigan (now #8)
#7Baylor1-016Won 56-21 at unrated SMU
#8Michigan0-115Lost 24-17 at previous #17 Utah (now #6)
#9Syracuse1-018Won 47-0 over an FCS team
#10Notre Dame1-020Won 38-3 over unrated Texas
#11Georgia1-043Won 51-14 over previous #14 Louisiana-Monroe
#12Oklahoma1-0URWon 41-3 over previous #4 Akron
#13Southern Cal1-0URWon 55-6 over previous #22 Arkansas State
#14Temple1-0URWon 27-10 over previous #19 Penn State
#15Texas Christian1-023Won 23-17 at previous #50 Minnesota (now #33)
#16Colorado State1-024Won 65-13 over an FCS team
#17Rutgers1-025Won 63-13 over an FCS team
#18San Jose State1-026Won 43-13 over an FCS team
#19Michigan State1-027Won 37-24 at unrated WMU
#20Auburn1-012Won 31-24 over unrated Louisville in Atlanta
#21Buffalo1-028Won 51-14 over an FCS team
#22Clemson1-029Won 49-10 over an FCS team
#23Mississippi State1-0URWon 34-16 at previous #31 Southern Miss
#24Arizona1-032Won 42-32 over unrated Texas-San Antonio
#25Louisiana Tech1-034Won 62-15 over an FCS team

As you can see, 8 of our preseason top 10 teams have already fallen out of the top 25 completely. And in just this first week, we've already gone from 13 major-conference teams (counting Notre Dame) in the top 25 to 20, including the entire top 13. A few notes on how I ranked the teams based on their week one results:

Although I am going into this blind (i.e. I am treating all FBS teams the same, regardless of their history or "name" value), I am assuming that FCS teams are a level below, and therefore it was unacceptable for a top 25 team to struggle with such an opponent, let alone lose. That plus losing to lower-ranked teams by big scores knocked a lot of teams out of our top 25 this week. On the other hand, a team that won big against an FCS team, regardless of how "impressive" the score, was treated the same as though the team had not played a game at all this week, though many of those teams rose in the rankings as other teams fell behind them.

Florida State rose all the way from #21 to #3 after pummeling previous #6 Texas State 59-16. And that was more impressive than the wins by #1 Duke and #2 Cal, so why didn't FSU move to #1? Well, you can't expect #21 to move to #1 after one game, especially since Duke and Cal performed as expected for their ratings. If FSU is deserving of #1, that will be proven over subsequent weeks. All the teams that upset top 25 teams rose dramatically in the rankings, and where they ended up this week mostly had to do with where they were ranked last week.

Michigan is the only team in the top 25 with a loss. That is because they were ranked last week, and they lost a close game at #6 Utah: a good result. Better than doing nothing, which is basically what Syracuse, who is ranked right behind them, did (47-0 over an FCS team means nothing to me).

Close to the Top 25

The following teams are next in line to be ranked:

#26 Rice 1-0
#27 Alabama 1-0
#28 Florida 1-0
#29 Northwestern 1-0
#30 South Carolina 1-0
#31 Miami-Florida 1-0
#32 Mississippi 1-0
#33 Minnesota 0-1

In addition, we're going to keep our eyes on these two groups of teams for next week:

Teams that were ranked highly in the preseason, but fell out of the top 25 due to poor results in week one: Texas State, Akron, Troy, Louisiana-Monroe, Penn State, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Boise State, Old Dominion, and Nevada.

Teams that won big over FBS opponents that were not in the preseason top 50: Oklahoma State, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas, UCLA, Tennessee, Texas A&M, West Virginia, and Ohio State.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

Alas, there isn't a single game between any of our top 25 teams this week. The closest is #33 Minnesota at #16 Colorado State. Still, I expect to see some more "upsets" this week. Join me next week as we continue to hone our picked-out-of-a-hat top 25. Eventually, the fact that we started with a random ranking of teams will mean nothing at all, nor will it matter where teams were ranked intially. Which is how it should be, even if a preseason ranking is not so random as this one.