(Logos are posted for teams that are new to the rankings for the year.)
1 Auburn 1
2 Oklahoma 3
3 Florida St. 4
4 Oregon 2
5 Alabama 5
6 TX A&M 6
7 BYU 10
8 Ole Miss 9
9 S Carolina 11
10 Miss. St. —
11 Penn St. 12
12 Notre Dame 8
13 LSU 7
14 E. Carolina 15
15 Georgia 13
16 UCLA 17
17 Ga. Tech —
18 Rutgers —
19 Arkansas —
20 Okie St. 25
21 Washington —
22 Arizona 23
23 Nebraska —
24 NC State —
25 Virginia 19
Out of rankings: (14) Pittsburgh, (16) Boston Coll., (18) Va. Tech, (20) USC, (21) Louisville, (22) Ohio St., (24) Missouri
Explanation and future rankings
I’m putting this at the bottom because it’s probably too boring and technical for many of you, but I do get questions about these things often.
Just to get to the point, what I’m going to do is make next week (and possibly the following week) a transitional period. I will compute and publish my computer rankings, but I won’t use those for my official top 25 right away. I’ll try to ease into that. For instance, if I don’t have a team ranked this week, but they’re #10 in the computer ratings after next week, I will put them between #15 and #20, then maybe if they’re still #10 the following week, it won’t be as dramatic to actually rank them #10. Or maybe they’ll lose, and it won’t be a seesaw from unranked to #10 to #20-something.
I’ve already made some changes in anticipation of what may happen in moving toward that system. I gave very little weight to any preseason preconceptions about given teams or their opponents.
I did my best to do the ratings above fairly, but it has gotten difficult, and that’s why I can no longer use a fully subjective system going forward. I continue to second-guess myself and remain unsatisfied.
There are a lot of conflicting motivations at this point. I’m still moving from “Are you going to be a good team?” to “What have you proven?” At the same time, I don’t want to put a team in the top 25 based on an early-season scheduling quirk and have that team get blown out. It will take some time before the teams that look good in games and teams that look good based on objective measures line up.
There is a team like this every year. In 2011, Stanford didn’t really play anyone until October 22, then they played three of the next four against ranked teams and the fourth game was against Oregon St. on the road (which is rarely an easy win). Then the Cardinal still had to play Notre Dame (who was also ranked at the time) later on in November. This was the year they played in the Fiesta Bowl despite losing big to Oregon.
Anyway, getting back to this year, Florida St. is a good example of some of the difficulties. The Seminoles are not even in the top 10 based on wins and losses that have happened so far this season (a loose description of what my computer rankings consider). They beat Clemson, who I really believe is a good team, and Oklahoma St., who might be a good team also, but that doesn’t do it at this point. Clemson doesn’t look any better than Northwestern because the Tigers are winless against FBS competition (but both Clemson and Northwestern have an FCS win). Florida St. doesn’t get credit for beating an unsuccessful (so far against Division I anyway) FCS team, nor do they get credit for a bye week. So that leaves Oklahoma St. The Cowboys have a somewhat respectable win over UTSA, but beating the team who beat UTSA is hardly something to hang your hat on.
Oddly enough, Florida St. has a good chance to improve its rating by beating North Carolina St., who I do not believe is a good team, but three FBS wins at this point over teams with four combined FBS wins makes them look good for the moment. All three of those teams are probably well below average, but that won’t be clear until later.
There is a preliminary step in the process where I get initial ratings of teams between 0 and about 7. So if right now, North Carolina St. is 6 and Clemson is 1, maybe in a couple weeks, they’ll both be 3.5, and at the end of the season Clemson might be about 5 and North Carolina St. about 2. So Florida St. might get similar credit for the two wins combined for the rest of the season even if neither team ends up anything like what has shown up so far.
It helps Florida St. that Clemson will likely get a wins of some quality by playing North Carolina and North Carolina St. in the next two weeks. Oklahoma St. isn’t playing a great team in Texas Tech, but that will be an opportunity for them to add some substance to their resume.
The other major contenders already rate highly. Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Oregon all rate in the top 7 of the current computer ratings. Florida St. is still in the top 20 though.
So what I’m going to do is release my first computer ratings next week (a week earlier than originally planned), but I’m still going to do subjective ratings for next week and possibly the week after that. They just won’t be purely subjective. Let’s say the winner of Miss. St. and Texas A&M comes out #1. I might move Miss. St. up to #5 or A&M up to #3 or #4, but I wouldn’t rank either #1, at least not for a couple more weeks.
It’s also possible I’ll do another transition week after October 4. In other words, the subjective ratings may overlap with the computer ratings for a couple of weeks, but what I feature here will be the subjective ratings.
Also, sometimes for the first few weeks of the computer rankings, I change the top 5 of what I post here. I always make clear what those changes are, and I never make any subjective changes on my ratings site. I try to keep any subjective preferences off of that site.
Although that Missouri had a good chance to win the SEC for a while in the championship game last year, I’m still glad I didn’t take the leap and make them #1. They should never have been regarded as the top team to beat in the country last year. I also wouldn’t want to take that step early on for A&M, Miss. St., Arizona, N.C. St., or UCLA. On the other hand, if one of those teams is undefeated and rises to the top a month from now or more, I’m not going to alter anything.