The Iowa football team played about as close of a game possible in Ames last weekend, and the college football pollsters are left unimpressed.
The Week 4 AP Polls came out Sunday afternoon and the Iowa football team was the #18 team, up from #19 the week before.
The other major poll also has Iowa as the #18 team, meaning Iowa did not move at all in the Coaches Poll.
Like Andrew mentioned earlier this month, the College Football Playoff rankings are the only rankings that affect postseason play.
However, it would be naïve to believe that the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll don’t play a part in the perception of college football teams. That’s a problem.
I want to be very clear – I’m not arguing that Iowa should be ranked higher than they are right now. With Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State on the schedule, Iowa has their chance to skyrocket up the polls.
The argument is that the college football landscape is built off of two diametrically opposed concepts – preseason rankings and the eye test.
The preseason rankings are assigned based on last year’s performance and the brand value of a team. We all know that a 4-8 team from 2018 normally wouldn’t be ranked in the preseason polls the following season, but congratulations Nebraska, you did it.
The ranking system this year seems to indicate that the eye test is much less important than reputation. Florida played a pretty sloppy game against Miami (FL) to open the season. While Miami is a traditionally good football program, neither team looked like anything near a top 10 team.
Army, a non-Power 5 team, took Michigan to overtime before falling just short. Michigan dropped 3 spots to #10.
If the rankings truly reflected the mythical eye test, a team like UCF would rise to the top 10 after pummeling a team like Stanford. UCF was rewarded by rising two spots (#15) in the AP Poll and stayed put in the Coaches Poll (#16).
You may be asking what my point is here. The ranking system puts too much stock into the preseason ranking. I understand wanting to have rankings earlier in the season because it generates interest and excitement, but the lack of movement in the polls indicates that the eye test isn’t being used at all in the earlier stages of the season.
This makes virtually no sense, as you would expect to see the eye test when there is a low amount of data.
The conclusion is simple: the polls appear to favor teams with big names and isolate teams outside of the inner circle. What does that mean for the Iowa football team?
It means nothing new to Iowa fans. When Iowa is ranked at the back end of the polls in the preseason, it means that our margin of error for entering the College Football Playoff is larger than a team like UCF but noticeably smaller than a Michigan or Florida.
If Iowa somehow goes undefeated this year, they are in. If the Hawkeyes lose a game, it’ll depend on who they lose to, how they lose, and what other teams have done.
Until Iowa makes it into the top 10, the other games matter.