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The College Football Playoff Committee vs. the Polls

The AP and Coaches polls are in harmony. The CFP cares not, and neither should you.

We're #5!
We're #5!
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The first College Football Playoff (CFP) Rankings came out Tuesday night and the message was loud and clear: it’s all about who you play and how you play. In this the third year of the CFP, the Committee has kept pretty consistent in ignoring the AP and Coaches Polls – and so should you.

The AP Top 25 College Poll is compiled from votes by 60 sportswriters and broadcasters from across the country including Cecil Hurt from The Tuscaloosa News and John Solomon from The Birmingham News. They also come from places like Idaho, Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York (real hotbeds of college football, right?). The thing to remember here is that writers are trying to sell newspapers (for you young’n’s, that means website clicks). They don’t always put a fine toothed comb to their choices. Often times, they are selling a narrative and usually skewed to their local team.

The Coaches Poll is made up of 64 FBS head coaches including Nick Saban. There have long been doubts that many, if any, of these coaches actually sit down and fill out these polls every week. A few of them might give their opinion on the top couple of choices, but in most instances it is likely a staffer taking on this duty.

In short, these polls are often less than impartial and an inaccurate portrayal of the college football landscape. Take the AP Preseason Poll for instance. Notice all the swings and misses after the top seven:

1 Alabama (33) #1 CFP
2 Clemson (16) #2 CFP
3 Oklahoma (4) #14 CFP
4 Florida State (5) #22 CFP
5 LSU (1) #13 CFP
6 Ohio State (1) #6 CFP
7 Michigan (1) #3 CFP
8 Stanford unranked
9 Tennessee unranked
10 Notre Dame unranked
11 Ole Miss unranked
12 Michigan State unranked
13 TCU unranked
14 Washington #5 CFP
15 Houston unranked
16 UCLA unranked
17 Iowa unranked
18 Georgia unranked
19 Louisville #7 CFP
20 Southern Cal unranked
21 Oklahoma State #18 CFP
22 North Carolina #21 CFP
23 Baylor #17 CFP
24 Oregon unranked
25 Florida #11 CFP

As you can see, almost HALF of the teams ranked above are now unranked and most of those have losing records.


In contrast, to the polls, the CFP Committee takes two days every week to pour over data and come to a group decision. There is none of this "one guy, one vote"/bias towards the home team with their choices. They have no agenda other than to get the best teams to match up in the end.

Thanks to a generous RBR budget, we can bring you top of the line graphics rivaling CBS Sports' patented red and blue boxes. Looking at the two polls below, they are almost hand-in-hand in perfect harmony. But then we come to the no nonsense CFP rankings and things change.

polls Nov 1 2016

The AP and Coaches agree perfectly on the top eight and are within one spot for the top 19.  They only vastly differ on Va Tech and Penn State. Point is, ignore the polls.


As for the CFP rankings, it appears they value a loss to #1 Alabama over a win against #97 Idaho. The Washington non-conference schedule is a pitiful sight. Rutgers is supposed to be the Huskies big cross-P5 game. Then they played and defeated Idaho and Portland State. All three were home games. Getting into conference play, UW beat Stanford and Oregon which does not seem like such a big deal here in November.

The Aggies on the other hand, had their own cupcakes in Prairie View and New Mexico State, but also stepped up and scheduled UCLA. Some may say the Bruins (3-5) have fallen apart but their last three losses have come due to injuries to QB Josh Rosen who has not played the last two games and is doubtful to return this season.

The moral of the story: schedule up! The Huskies can still make up some ground but let this be a lesson for the future.


Here again we have a story of scheduling. Michigan chose to play non-conference against Hawaii, UCF and Colorado - all at home (the Buffaloes have turned out to be a decent team but I am sure UM didn't expect that when they set up the matchup).

While the ACC is not the strongest conference top to bottom, they do have some stalwarts at the top, and Clemson has beaten the other two (FSU and Louisville) already. But the real bonus is defeating Auburn in Week 1. Schedule up!

Both of these teams have a pretty easy path for the next three weeks. Michigan has Maryland, @Iowa, and Indiana before a showdown at Ohio State. Clemson faces Syracuse, Pitt, @Wake, and South Carolina. Style points will be crucial.


It is a good thing that the Committee was paying attention to the fact that the Cardinals almost lost to Virgina because the pollsters clearly did not. Despite one loss to #2 Clemson, close wins to UVa (2-6) and Duke (3-5) the last couple of weeks does not help their argument.

Additionally, where is that big cross-P5 game? They already beat Charlotte and Marshall, ending the season against a wilting non-P5 Houston and an improved but still-Kentucky Kentucky. If they want to have a chance, they will need some serious chaos and win out in convincing fashion.

For the record, Louisville plays Purdue in 2017, Alabama in 2018, and home-and-home against Notre Dame the next two seasons.


  • It is interesting to see that all three ranking systems have used the same 25 teams, no disparity at the bottom as per usual.
  • Western Michigan is #23 in the CFP because they don't care about bogus Cinderella stories. WMU gets more love from the AP (#17) and the Coaches (#18) for no real reason other than the second number in their record.
  • Baylor is #17 in the CFP, but #13 in both polls. Their non-conference foes were Northwestern State, SMU, and Rice.
  • Penn State is #12 in CFP, #20 in AP, and #23 in Coaches. I am not exactly sure why the CFP is so fond of them.