College Football is only a few weeks away and fans will start seeing preseason All-American lists, award lists and polls. One thing I would change as commissioner of college football is preseason polls which is why they are the subject of today’s 99 Things. Both AP and Coaches will have preseason polls coming out around the beginning of August. Naturally many fans will overreact to where teams are ranked and who should be ranked higher or lower. Preseason polls should be eliminated from college football but they help generate early season revenue and storylines so we can have top 10 matchups in week one when both teams are 0-0.
Without failure, one of the top 10 teams is likely to finish the season unranked. Last season Iowa State ranked 7th in the AP preseason poll and they went on to finish 7-6. North Carolina was ranked 10th in the same poll. The Tar Heels would finish the season 6-7. Both teams were ranked high because of projections and how they finished the 2020 season. Iowa State and North Carolina were expected to compete for conference championships but instead they were barely bowl eligible. The teams were clearly not top 10 teams and eliminating preseason polls helps remove the perception of how good the teams are and puts an emphasis on performance.
On the flip side of this conversation we have teams who started the season unranked but finished in the top 10. Michigan, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Michigan State all started the 2021 season unranked. All four programs finished the season with at least 11 wins while Michigan made the College Football Playoffs. Preseason polls hurt teams who start the season unranked. Some teams are able to enter the rankings quickly but other teams are forced into a similar path as Baylor last season. Baylor did not enter the AP poll until week seven when they were 6-1. One week prior, Texas was 4-2 and still ranked ahead of Baylor at 25th.
Preseason rankings are a great talking point when hanging out a bar with friends. The internet will always love to debate which schools are ranked too high and which ones are too low. In reality, preseason polls are not necessary and hurt teams in the long run. Networks enjoy having preseason rankings because they want the games to feel important. Does anyone remember in 2016 when unranked Texas beat number 10 Notre Dame? Texas would jump into the rankings up to number 11 in week 2. They would finish the season 5-7 including a loss to Kansas. Notre Dame would finish the season at 4-8 proving both teams were not worthy of being ranked in the top 25.
Here is my proposal, no rankings should be released until after the completion of the fourth week of the season. This allows voters enough data points to figure out who they believe are the 25 best teams in the country. Voters are also less likely to hold onto weekly bias with moving teams up and down because they are starting with a blank slate later in the year. This is my official petition to remove preseason polls. They likely will not go away but one can dream.