Each fall, college football’s preseason polls come out. The AP and the Coaches, which both came out in August, get the most fanfare. Upon their release, each poll is scrutinized, and just about everyone is convinced the media is biased against their team and probably altering the course of the season in sinister ways, though they mostly forget about all this once the Playoff rankings roll around in November.
I’m here to give you the inside scoop on how you should feel if your team is ranked inside or outside a preseason top 25.
What if your team is the preseason No. 1 team in the country?
You’re probably the defending national champion or Alabama or both. Ultimately, no one remembers who was the preseason No. 1, unless you have a bad season and deserve to be made fun of, so just win your damn ball games.
What if your team is ranked No. 2?
Maybe you’re the team that lost to the national champion. You should use that bitter memory as motivation to win your games.
What if your team is ranked No. 3?
Perhaps this spot goes to a team that got knocked out of a semifinal last year. This time, try winning all your games, including one or two more than last year.
What if your team is ranked No. 4?
You should try to win all your games.
What if your team is ranked No. 5?
Those 12 games on your schedule? Win them.
What if your team is ranked No. 6?
Too bad you didn’t make it into the top five. But you know what you can do to change that? Win your games.
What if your team is ranked No. 7?
To a sneaky pick for the Playoff: just win your damn games.
What if your team is ranked No. 8?
If you’re preseason No. 8 in any given year, then you very well might be Michigan. Whether you are Michigan or not, you should try to win games.
What if your team is ranked No. 9?
Congrats, you have a single-digit ranking! Know what that means? Absolutely nothing! Just go win games.
What if your team is ranked No. 10?
You get to describe your team as a “preseason top-10” one! This will be a bittersweet memory unless you win your games.
What if your team is ranked No. 11?
Aw man, you didn’t make it into the top 10, bummer. You know what it can do to change that? Win some games, preferably all of them.
What if your team is the ranked No. 12?
This number 12 doesn’t mean much, but the 12 games on your schedule do (win them).
What if your team is ranked No. 13?
What if your team is ranked No. 14?
Congrats on making the top 15! Now go win your damn games.
What if your team is ranked No. 15?
If you were to start winning all your games and never stop, you might end up winning 15 games.
What if your team is ranked No. 16?
You’re probably Virginia Tech. Now go win your games.
What if your team is ranked No. 17?
Teams have started lower than this and still won the national championship. Their secret? They won their games.
What if your team is ranked No. 18?
If you’re ranked around here, you’re probably last year’s snubbed, undefeated mid-major. You won all your games last year, and didn’t get to go to the title game. Well, try winning all your games again!
What if your team is ranked No. 19?
You’re either ahead of or behind your rival, so you should try to win more games than they do.
What if your team is ranked No. 20?
What if your team is ranked No. 21?
What if your team is ranked 22nd?
To the tune of “Bohemian Rhapsody:” nothing really matters (unless you win your games).
What if your team is ranked No. 23?
You’re probably the constantly overrated blueblood power that’s definitely gonna put it all together this time, finally. It can happen! Just win your games, like we all thought you would last year and the year before.
What if your team is ranked No. 24?
Let it go, let it go! Win games and no one will knowww!
What if your team is ranked No. 25?
Hey, at least you made the rankings! You know how you can climb up? Win some games.
What if your team is Also Receiving Votes?
If you win, your team will receive many more votes.
What if your team got no votes at all?
You get to say “literally no one believed in us,” which will help make your players mad enough to win games.
Want some evidence that preseason polls truly don’t matter?
Looking at College Football Playoff rankings, the committee has consistently dissented with AP polls, showing no real trace of lingering preseason bias:
From the three years we have, I think it’s pretty clear that the Playoff committee does not give a shit about preseason AP rankings.
Maybe a fuller study over a full decade will reveal how newspaper rankings from mid-August alter the thinking of committee members in November, but for now, it seems to be an empty theory.
Understanding how the committee makes its rankings is key here. It tosses out its rankings each week; AP voters don’t have time to do that. AP ballots are due Sunday morning, often shortly after writers are done covering their own teams, so its voters often just review scores and slide teams up and down. The committee takes hours to argue its way through the entire board anew.
Therefore, the preseason AP Poll probably does not skew the season’s results in any meaningful way.
In a nutshell, don’t get worked up by those little numbers next to teams on your TV screen before those Playoff rankings come out in October — that’s when the real rankings matter. Until then, win.