The Florida Gators are in the AP poll’s Top Ten so they must be pretty good.
Why, then, is there the feeling that our state just isn’t all that special in college football anymore?
I attribute it the following chart, which demonstrates better than any deep analysis of roster strengths or coaching credentials why Florida, FSU and Miami aren’t really scaring anybody to death this Halloween, and why the South Florida Bulls deserves a spot in any discussion of the best programs in our state.
Team Best 2016 win Last win over ranked team
Florida (6-1) Kentucky, 45-7 No. 3 Ole Miss (10-3-15)
FSU (5-3) South Florida, 55-35 No. 11 Ole Miss (9-5-16)
USF (7-2) Navy, 52-45 No. 22 Navy (10-28-16)
Miami (4-4) Ga Tech, 35-21 No. 22 Duke (10-31-15)
UCF (4-4) East Carolina, 47-29 No. 6 Baylor (1-1-14)
What’s the best win of 2016 overall for this bunch? Call if FSU over South Florida. The Seminoles don’t get brownie points for beating Ole Miss in the season opener now that the Rebels are 3-5 and 1-4 in the SEC.
Miami and Central Florida are going to have to scramble to qualify for bowl games.
Florida could win the SEC East or stumble badly down the stretch for the second consecutive season. Flip of the coin.
FSU lost 63-20 to Louisville, which would be more easily forgotten if Louisville were going to the ACC title game or the College Football Playoff. Neither is true.
Any way you slice it, we’ve clearly forfeited some of the old bragging rights from championship seasons past.
Right now you’d have to say Alabama is the state-of-the-art state in college football, with the Crimson Tide at No.1 and Auburn No. 11.
Michigan comes in second (Wolverines No. 2 and Western Michigan No. 17).
Incredibly, Washington and Florida are too close to call in third. The Huskies are all the way up to No. 4 with Washington State at No. 25. If you want to argue the No. 10 Gators and No. 19 Seminoles outweigh that combination, go ahead. Look back to that chart above, though. Nothing much has been proved on the field yet.
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.
Beginning Nov. 3 the College Football Playoff committee will begin to sort all of this out, but for now the Florida Gators are back with the big boys of the AP poll. Barely.
Ranked 25th after Saturday’s wild 28-27 comeback win over Tennessee, the 4-0 Gators still don’t look like a team that ought to scare anybody. It’s more a matter of, hey, somebody’s got to be No. 25. This week it’s Florida.
Consider that Tennessee was No. 25 in the AP preseason poll. The Vols, who couldn’t keep a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter at the Swamp, are now out and leaking oil at 2-2.
Last week the Missouri Tigers were No. 25 and now they’re out, too. The difference between them and Florida in the eyes of voters is that the Gators were able to beat Kentucky and the Tigers weren’t. Not the strongest of recommendations but, again, somebody’s got to be No. 25.
Not that the Gators don’t prize the spot, or that Miami wouldn’t. It’s an important step on the way back to national prominence. Next Saturday night’s game with Ole Miss sure makes it a slippery step, though, followed by No. 9 LSU and No. 8 Georgia down theline.
That’s the challenge of making these poll numbers stick, and why FSU’s streak of 58 consecutive appearances in the AP Top 25, second only to Alabama, is a vital part of Jimbo Fisher’s continuity in landing great recruiting classes.