What Does Being Ranked 15th in the Coaches Poll Mean?

Jul 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

In the preseason Coaches Poll, the Iowa Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the nation

College football rankings are the most important thing in the sport, yet the most ridiculous at the same time.

Despite the BCS system no longer in place, complaining about rankings is something that will never end. There will never be a perfect way to evaluate teams’ success over a season, week-by-week. Although, to be fair, at least we knew how the BCS poll formed its rankings. Sure, it wasn’t always perfect, but it was a mathematical system where we could pinpoint why a team was ranked higher or lower than we felt they should have been.

However, the current polls are based off a committee’s decision, based on the eye test and statistics. The College Football Playoff committee compiles a top-25 starting in week 10, however, prior to that the AP and Coaches Polls are what’s used to determine where teams stack up amongst each other.

Although, no matter how much they don’t want any bias being in the rankings, it’s near impossible to have zero objectivity when ranking teams. Still, the College Football Playoff has been a huge success over its first two years, and should continue to grow as the NCAA works out the kinks.

With that being said, there is a reason that the College Football Playoff doesn’t start until week 10 – it’s simply too early to decide where teams truly rank in the college football landscape. I understand why rankings are put out every week by the Associated Press and Coaches, though. It’s a way to sell and market games better, and gives teams and analysts a better idea of how their season is going.

Although, how much weight does the preseason Coaches Poll carry?

Iowa was recently ranked 15th in the preseason Coaches Poll. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as they return many starters on each side of the ball and barely missed the College Football Playoff as Michigan State barely squeaked out a win in the Big Ten Championship. Although, as bad as preseason polls are, the preseason Coaches Poll is the worst of them all.

As previously noted, I understand why the NCAA has multiple polls every week, but preseason polls carry very little weight. They are just predictions, like everyone else has.

Sure, it’s obvious that Alabama will probably contend for another championship. Or that Clemson will be better than Wake Forest, but there’s no real way to tell how good a team will be that season, especially in week one.

There is too much turnover in college sports to make an educated and accurate prediction before the season starts. That’s why in 2012, USC was ranked #1 in the country before the season but finished outside the top-25 at the end of the season. In fact, USC went 7-5 that year and lost their bowl game to Georgia Tech.

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Maybe not this drastic, but predictions are wrong all the time. Teams always end up over or underachieving each season based off preseason polls ranking teams before watching them play.

The fact of the matter is that no one knows how transfers, new coaches or freshman will fare in college. While most of the top prospects live up to expectations, or at least become decent players, there are always a handful that aren’t able to make the jump. While there are no certainties in sports, with injuries possible on any play, it makes preseason polls even that less reliable because it’s just a prediction based on how teams look on paper.

Although, at least the AP Poll is calculated by a panel of 65 sportswriters who closely follow every little niche in the sport. Writers who know if the fifth string kicker on Georgia State decided to retire. Although, the Coaches Poll is completely different.

The fact that coaches get to rank teams has always amused me. It never seemed like coaches would know the entire college football landscape well enough to rank teams effectively. Sure, they know their team, opponents and conference like the back of their hand, but how much of Houston football does Kirk Ferentz watch on Saturday?

In fact, during Iowa’s media day, Ferentz explained why he has never voted in the Coaches Poll during his 18 years at Iowa, “The problem is we never see, other than the teams we play and the teams in our conference, anyone on film. It’s not like we watch a lot on TV. For full disclosure, I haven’t seen Clemson this year. At least for this case, I’d be the worst possible person for this.”

That is most likely the case for most coaches across the nation. I doubt that Nick Saban and Bob Stoops watched any of Iowa football last season.

The Coaches Poll is a fun idea, because coaches know the game better than anyone. Although, that doesn’t mean they know how every team is performing on a weekly basis. That’s why teams like Tennessee, who went 9-4 last season, are ranked in the top-10 and received a first place vote. While the Volunteers have a chance to be dangerous and bounce back from a disappointing season, it’s hard to say they’re a top-10 team after losing four games a season ago.

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When it comes down to it, other than media days, it’s the first taste we get of rankings and college football. It’s a small glimpse of how teams could be ranked in the preseason AP Poll. Although, while being ranked 15th in the nation sounds nice, it doesn’t carry much weight, yet. A few weeks into conference play is when the Hawkeyes ranking will start to matter.

Until then, it’s just another thing to keep us sane until the start of the season. The biggest thing is, it shows that Iowa gained a lot of respect last season.