Before each college football season, The Associated Press, USA TODAY and countless other media outlets come out with their preseason top 25 rankings. Essentially, it is a way of letting the world know what their predictions are for the upcoming season.
These rankings factor in how teams did the previous year, the players they lost and added to their squads and any potential coaching changes that will affect the program.
And every year, we fall into their trap.
I’ll admit it, ever since I was young I was always excited for the day that AP released its preseason poll because it gave me something to analyze before the season got under way.
But these rankings are flawed and need to be fixed.
Since the beginning of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, there has been only one national champion that started the season ranked outside the top 20 in the preseason AP poll.
That was No. 22 Auburn in 2010-11.
All in all, there have been only eight teams that started the season outside of the AP top 10 and participated in the BCS National Championship, four of which were victorious.
So if a team thinks it has a shot of playing in the BCS National Championship Game or, starting next season, into the College Football Playoff, it has to hope AP thinks so too.
Currently there are five undefeated teams in the AP top 20 who started the season unranked: No. 17 Fresno State (5-0), No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0), No. 14 Missouri (6-0), No. 12 Baylor (5-0) and No. 10 Miami (5-0).
There is zero guarantee that even one of these teams finishes the season unbeaten but if they do, the odds of them jumping over a one loss LSU (6-1) or Texas A&M (5-1), currently ranked sixth and seventh respectively, is slim.
These teams very well could be the best five in the country, but because of the fact that the rankings in the preseason didn’t include them, they could miss out on the opportunity to play for the crystal football.
As much hate as the BCS system gets, the one thing it did get right was when it releases its rankings.
It isn’t until the eighth week of games that the initial BCS rankings become available, a style all polls should adopt.
If AP waited until mid-October to announce its first poll of the season, it might look very different. Instead of discussing whether No. 4 Ohio State should leapfrog No. 3 Clemson or drop below No. 5 Florida State, we may be talking about Baylor or Miami potentially finishing in the top two and making it to the title game.
At the end of the day, the preseason rankings are often closer to correct than incorrect, but that doesn’t mean they should continue.
The last time the eventual national champion was ranked outside of the top 5 in the AP poll in week eight of the season was 2006-07 when Florida was No. 9 and coming off its only loss of the season the day before.
I would rather wait for a couple of months and give voters time to really evaluate teams than just jump right in and potentially cost deserving schools their shot at a championship.
With the adaptation of a college football’s first ever playoff system next season, it is time for AP to change its ways as well. Get rid of the preseason and early season polls, wait to release your rankings until later and give every team an equal opportunity to win it all.