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There are few things as complicated and convoluted as the world of college football. This is especially the case when it comes to college football rankings. There are simply so many different college football programs, universities, and conferences that figuring out how to rank each program against one another is almost trivial. That hasn’t stopped various organizations from trying, though, and valiantly at that. However, there is still a lot of inner-debate on the best way to rank all of these college programs against one another.

The result is a variety of organizations who all produce their own college football program rankings. Most of these groups focus on specifically ranking the top 25 programs in the nation. However, even within that smaller and much more manageable sample size, rankings continue to be inconsistent between the different ranking organizations and committees. Here is how the popular ranking systems of college football actually work.

Understanding The Different Ranking Systems

As mentioned above, there are a variety of different ranking systems that have emerged as the most popular and authoritative college football rankings on the market. Before going any further, it can help to understand some of the differences between the various ranking systems and the groups of people that produce them.

The first committee we’ll cover is the College Football Playoff Committee. Then, we’ll take a look at the Associated Press Poll and what consumers like about them. Finally, we’ll discuss the Coaches Poll, which offers college football enthusiasts a bit more firsthand insight.

College Football Playoff Committee Rankings

The College Football Playoff Committee is the committee that decides which teams belong in the college football playoffs each and every year. As such, these rankings are great if you’re specifically trying to figure out which teams have the highest chance of making a college football playoff appearance. This is because the College Football Playoff Committee makes their preferred playoff candidates abundantly clear in their rankings.

However, there are some flaws with the ranks that are often publicized from this committee. Firstly, this committee has a hard time evaluating the comparative strength of a team that’s outside the major conferences. For instance, a smaller program that’s clearly dominating in their season might be ranked drastically lower than a larger program who is underperforming. That’s not all, either. Keep in mind, this is a human committee, so it’s far from perfect. For example, another flaw that’s often pointed out in this committee is the weight they put on conference championships, which ultimately have little to do with team performance. This is because the playoff committee is somewhat beholden to TV broadcasters who want well known football programs represented in the playoffs to attract larger fan bases. While the College Football Playoff Committee certainly has its role in college football, their rankings often come off as skewed.

The Associated Press Poll

The associated press poll is actually one of the oldest traditions in college football. This is a poll that surveys 65 different sports writers across the country. The Associated Press Poll is so integrated into college football, that it actually used to dictate the national champion, which was whatever school finished in the number 1 position. This was, of course, until the College Football Playoffs were formed.

The AP poll, though, offers a wider picture of the college football portrait than the College Football Playoff Committee. As each of the 65 writers submits their own list of programs ranked from 1st to 25th. While the AP poll is still very much a source of controversy, it does a much better job of ranking schools based on talent.

All of that said, though, the AP poll’s main objective is to sell headlines that will grab the attention of college football enthusiasts all over the nation. No human ranking system is without its flaws.

The Coaches Poll

Finally we come to the coaches poll. The coaches poll is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a poll taken of volunteer coaches from college programs all across the nation. Each of these coaches submits yet another round of their top 25 ranked programs.

This is a poll that offers consumers a little bit more firsthand insight into what’s happening between schools, and on the field. The coaches poll is also typically a little bit less likely to get caught up in the hype of a drama-story, or to lean in the favor of big-name-programs for the sake of TV ratings.

Computer Based Rankings

All of the current college football ranking systems that dominate the industry are manual. In other words, these ranking committees and organizations have very little future prediction ability. This is where computer based rankings can come in handy, especially if you’re looking to place a wager on college football.

Wrapping Up

College football rankings are extraordinarily inconsistent, and this is easily demonstrated by the various ranks given to Nico Lamaleava, a top recruit as a high school quarterback. All of that said, though, understanding how these ranking systems work, can be helpful in picking your teams.


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