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WATCHING COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Week 4 Tier Rankings

More informative than your average Top 25 poll? Probably!

The regular readers of this esteemed column will no doubt be wondering: “Why are you posting something on a Tuesday?”

And those who don’t read this column will wonder instead: “Who the heck is this guy?”

Regardless of who you are, welcome! Glad you’re reading. To answer the second question: I’m Connor, and I mostly write about sports and entertainment here at The Resurgent. In the fall, I run through every weekend’s college football matchups, helping you decide what’s worth watching.

Which brings me to that first question.

Every week after all the stadium lights across the nation go out, a bunch of sportswriters and/or coaches and/or statisticians all rank the top 25 teams in college football. (Why 25? Who knows!) Their votes emerge as the AP Poll, the Coaches’ Poll, and several different rankings systems from Massey to Sagarin to SP+. (Why did Bill Connolly drop the ampersand from S&P+? Who knows!)

Inevitably, we all get very mad. Why isn’t my team ranked higher? Why isn’t my team ranked at all? Why is this team not ranked ahead of that team? And on and on it goes.

Then it gets worse. Because about halfway through the season, some university ADs and various luminaries get together in a big room somewhere in Irving, TX. And THEY start ranking teams. And those rankings eventually determine which four teams get a shot at a national title.

Respectfully, this is all a very silly system for determining which teams are actually better than others. But is there a better way?

Well, certain flaws in the current ranking system just can’t be remedied. For example, subjectivity will always be the cornerstone of any this-is-better-than-that list. If someone created a mathematical formula to do the ranking, the formula would itself be the product of a biased creator.

But there are some perfectly fixable elements of this system that actually produce unnecessary controversy and confusion, making it harder to talk about them. The polls never come with an explainer. Why is team #11 ahead of team #12? We aren’t told. They just have numbers now. And the major polls bury or leave out important bits of data, like how close non-ranked teams are to being ranked, and how conference races are individually shaping up.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that the system I’m laying out below will solve all of these problems, or be controversy-free. It won’t. But I think it’ll help.

Introducing the College Football Tier Rankings. Every week, I’ll lay out the Power 5 conference races for you on an easy-to-read graph. It’ll rate teams from top to bottom, splitting them into four simple categories: Best, Contender, Pretender, or Worst.

Just like my other college football posts, we have rules! First, these rankings are unapologetically based on my opinion, fueled by the “eye test.” As I said, I can’t fully take the subjectivity out of this system. If you don’t know why I ranked these teams the way I did, or just want to yell at me, feel free to comment below! I’ll probably reply back.

Second, you are free to create your own rankings based on these templates too! You can find them on Tiermaker by searching for WatchingCFB.

And finally, one last housekeeping item: all future Tier Rankings will be shared every Tuesday morning, exclusively on Twitter. Follow me here so you can stay up to date!


ACC

We begin with a conference that does not do a great job of demonstrating how well this ranking system works, largely because almost the entire ACC is HOT GARBAGE, and not likely to improve. The clear class of the conference is the Tigers, and no one else is close to catching them. But no one’s awful either except Georgia Tech. Just one giant blob of mediocre tapioca. Yuck.

BIG TEN

Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin left a really sour taste in my mouth, and I may be overreacting here. The Contender tier of the conference is packed with exciting teams that could emerge from the muck with a few well-placed signature wins. Like Iowa, who no one seems to be talking about.

BIG 12

This is probably the ranking I’m most confident in. As I said this past Overreaction Sunday, Texas is the best one-loss team in America. Iowa State/Baylor could easily flip after next week, but I hesitate to place the Bears any higher after their scare at Rice. TCU effectively played themselves out of Contender status by bombing against SMU this week, and I’m still not overly impressed with Kansas.

PAC-12

The PAC-12’s basically the mirror image of the ACC right now: pretty much everyone in the former is mediocre-good, whereas everyone in the latter is mediocre-bad. We’ll start to see some separation as conference play continues. One thing of note: I still think Wazzu’s better than UCLA despite the loss. They put on an offensive show, but just had a Murphy’s-Law-terrible defensive second half.

SEC

I struggled on the dividing line here, as I’m still unconvinced that Texas A&M and Auburn are Contenders. For now, though, they have the on-field play to back that title up. Oh, and the Dawgs are ranked higher than Bama because although the Tide have been dunking on podunk opponents, they haven’t been truly tested. Georgia was, just this week.


Let me know what you thought in the comments or on Twitter. Do you like the format? Any changes you’d make? Hope to hear from you. Until then, see you this Friday for your regularly scheduled dose of Watching College Football!

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