Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to worry so much about the Associated Press college football poll anymore. Now the AP has come out with its all-time Top 25 based entirely on the organization’s data and everyone’s getting bent out of shape?
Miami fans are howling that five national titles ought to be worth more than No. 13 on the all-time list.
The Florida Gators come in at No. 10, second only to Alabama among SEC schools, and that has everybody else in the conference upset.
Florida State is No. 9 and what Seminoles fans want to know is how Texas, a proud program stuck in a terrible slump, could be ranked above them.
All of this is beautiful to me. It’s the reason the AP list always has mattered in August, when there are no games to play and passionate college football nuts can’t wait to win something, anything, even an imaginary list built on all kinds of arbitrary factors.
What’s needed here is an understanding of exactly what this all-time Top 100 is supposed to be. The AP isn’t saying that Ohio State, No. 1 in this poll, is the best program in history.
It’s not saying that the Buckeyes’ five AP national championships are more important than Miami’s five, or that Notre Dame’s greatness in the 1940s was more significant than FSU’s in the 1990s.
This thing is an amalgamation of everything that has come before, with AP staffers doing an exhaustive search of every poll since the poll began in 1936. From that points were awarded for how many times a program was included in the Top 25 through the years, how many times it rose to No. 1 in a weekly poll and how many times it was awarded an AP national title.
Consistency is rewarded most of all. Being a name brand for longer than other programs brings consistency in this setting.
Regional bias in the earliest years of the poll makes a big difference, too. And if anyone’s looking to debate which polls matter and which don’t, forget it. This AP Top 100 recognizes national champions recognized by the AP alone, and not all those ancient other ones that you’ve never heard of which always show up on the resumes of Alabama and Notre Dame and other bluebloods.
Put it all together and it’s ridiculously impressive that FSU could find a spot in the all-time AP Top Ten.
The Seminoles didn’t even field a football team until 1954. That means 18 years of AP polls had already gone by with no chance of representation for FSU but tons of recognition for Ohio State and Oklahoma and Southern Cal and Nebraska and similar monster programs.
FSU didn’t appear in an AP poll until 1964. Since then Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher have combined to push the Seminoles to the No. 1 position in 72 weekly AP polls. That’s only two times fewer than Alabama, which has been at this thing from the start.
Penn State, meanwhile, has been No. 1 in 19 weekly polls and has just two AP national titles, which doesn’t compare too well with Miami’s 67 times at No. 1 plus five national titles.
Still, the Nittany Lions come in at No. 12, one spot above the Hurricanes, because they’ve always been there. That’s what the numbers say, with Penn State appearing in 53.4 percent of all AP polls throughout history and Miami appearing in 41.5 percent.
Bottom line, don’t let this thing eat your lunch. It’s something to talk about, or shout about, with the certainty that no one will ever be completely satisifed, even all-time top dog Ohio State, which has Urban Meyer but still can’t seem to push Jim Harbaugh and Michigan out of the headlines.
Here’s a reason to crow. The AP Top 100 verifies that FSU, Miami and Florida have established themselves as elite programs and that they’ve done so the hard way, by winning a lot of games in a short time.
The Hurricanes would be higher if they hadn’t lost their momentum in recent years. On top of that, it won’t matter what any all-time poll says if Miami gets great in real time. That’s what brings in the recruits and makes the stadium rock and gets people eager to see the rankings the drive the industry these days.
That would be the College Football Playoff committee rankings. A topic for another day, much later in the season, long after this provocative and entertaining AP Top 100 has been pushed down the list of rage-worthy college fan debates.