How are college football rankings calculated?

How are college football rankings calculated? May, 1 2023

Introduction to College Football Rankings

As a college football enthusiast, I often find myself wondering how the rankings are calculated. It seems like a complex process, but it's actually quite fascinating once you delve into the details. In this article, I'll be breaking down the different components of college football rankings and how they are determined. To make it easier to navigate, I've divided the article into nine sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the ranking process.

Understanding the Polls: Coaches and AP

There are two main polls that play a significant role in determining college football rankings: the Coaches Poll and the Associated Press (AP) Poll. The Coaches Poll is conducted by a panel of head coaches at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools, while the AP Poll is voted on by sportswriters and broadcasters from across the country. Each week, voters rank the top 25 teams in order of their perceived strength, with points assigned based on the ranking position. The points are then tallied, and the teams are ranked accordingly.

The College Football Playoff Rankings

Another important component of the college football rankings is the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings. These rankings are determined by a 13-member selection committee, consisting of former coaches, players, administrators, and journalists. The committee evaluates teams based on factors such as win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and conference championships. The CFP rankings are released weekly starting in November and are used to determine which teams will compete in the College Football Playoff and other high-profile bowl games.

Strength of Schedule: A Critical Factor

The strength of a team's schedule plays a significant role in determining its ranking. A team that consistently plays against strong opponents is more likely to be ranked higher than a team with a weaker schedule, even if they have a similar win-loss record. When evaluating the strength of schedule, the selection committee considers factors such as the opponents' win-loss record, the quality of the opponents' conference, and the location of the games (home or away).

Conference Championships: A Key Component

Another crucial factor in determining college football rankings is a team's performance in its conference. Winning a conference championship is often considered a strong indicator of a team's overall quality and can significantly impact its ranking. The selection committee evaluates each team's performance against its conference opponents, taking into account factors such as head-to-head results, overall conference record, and the strength of the conference as a whole.

Head-to-Head Results: Settling the Score

When two or more teams have similar records, strength of schedule, and conference performances, head-to-head results can be the deciding factor in determining the rankings. If a team has defeated another team it's competing with for a higher ranking, it's more likely to be ranked above its competitor. The selection committee places a strong emphasis on head-to-head results, particularly when evaluating teams with similar profiles or when trying to determine which teams should be included in the College Football Playoff.

Margin of Victory: How Much Does It Matter?

While margin of victory can be an indicator of a team's strength, it's not a primary factor in determining college football rankings. The selection committee is more concerned with a team's overall body of work, including factors such as strength of schedule, conference performance, and head-to-head results. However, a team that consistently dominates its opponents may be more likely to be ranked higher, especially if other factors are relatively equal.

Injuries and Suspensions: Impact on Rankings

Injuries and suspensions can have a significant impact on a team's performance, and the selection committee takes this into consideration when determining the rankings. If a key player is out for an extended period, the committee may factor this into its evaluation of the team's overall strength. However, the primary focus is still on a team's overall body of work and how it has performed against its schedule, regardless of any injuries or suspensions.

Putting It All Together: The Final Rankings

Ultimately, the college football rankings are determined by a combination of factors, including the Coaches and AP polls, the CFP rankings, strength of schedule, conference performance, head-to-head results, and more. While no system is perfect, the goal is to provide the most accurate representation of the best teams in the country. As a fan, it's important to understand how these rankings are calculated and what factors contribute to a team's position in the standings. This knowledge can not only enhance our appreciation for the sport but also spark engaging discussions and debates with fellow fans.