Expect more change in the rankings

By Ryan Decker

Week 6 Associate Press Top 25 rankings via ESPN.com.

Is it just me or has it seemed like there has been a lot of shuffling in the Top 25 rankings this year?

It’s felt like college football fans haven’t been able to go one week without a major shake up, most seemingly coming from a loss by a team that was ranked inside the top 10 or 12.

Teams that we thought had chances of winning the National Championship going into the year are so far outside the playoff picture that some are firing head coaches.

Granted, shakeups in the AP Top 25 happen every year.

It is college football after all.

Upsets happen. Teams have a bad game on the road. Trap games on Thursday nights or early on Saturday turn into crushing losses.

This year, though, it seems like no ranked team is safe.

Are ranked teams this year at more risk of being upset than normal?

Graphic created by Ryan Decker

So far in the first five weeks of the 2016 season, numerous ranked teams have lost.

Losses should be somewhat expected though. Not all ranked teams play cream puff schedules, especially during the out of conference portion of their schedule.

The best opening weekend in college football history gave fans five ranked-vs-ranked matchups. Someone had to lose those games.

Attempting to be fair to all teams, I was looking for signs of bad losses.

Teams normally don’t get overly penalized for losing to someone they should’ve lost to. An example of this being Wisconsin only dropping three spots after losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor this past Saturday.

The bar I set was five. If a team dropped five or more spots, or out of the Top 25 completely, that showed me they suffered a bad enough loss.

I also looked solely at the Associated Press Top 25 for the entireties of seasons. AP voter methodology is pretty understood at this point, whereas the CFP committee and BCS system is and was under much scrutiny and seems to not be very consistent.

Here’s the data to show you exactly what I’m talking about: Ranking Drops

Wisconsin tight end Mitchell Herl celebrates near an LSU player late in the game during their Week 1 meeting.   Photo via @Seahdixon on Twitter

In 2016, 29 teams have suffered losses bad enough to drop them at least five spots in the rankings, or out of the rankings completely.

Two of the weekly rankings – Week 2 and Week 6 – saw eight teams have dramatic changes.

Every week so far this season has seen at least one team fall double-digit spots in the rankings, including LSU falling 16 spots after its Week 1 loss to the Badgers in Lambeau.

Each week has seen at least three teams fall five or more spots, and the rankings for Weeks 2, 4, and 6 saw six or more teams have significant changes.

Compare that to 2013 which saw only three such weeks total, and 2014 which only had four weeks of six or more major shakeups, and you can see that life in the Top 25 this year has been a bit unstable.

More weeks containing lots of movement in the rankings create a chaotic environment.

Some fans root for chaos. Not an actual team, just complete and utter chaos. Their “favorite” team is the unranked underdog.

All fans, however, should expect chaos, especially this year.

Expect chaos?

Yes, expect chaos. It’s going to happen this year.

Most years there are two or three, some years even four or five great teams in college football. Then there are some really good teams that are close to great, but have a shortcoming or two, but are really good.

This year there have been three truly great teams – Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan. The really good teams have been Clemson, Washington, Houston and Louisville.

Other than there, there’s no sure bet in college football this year.

The average number of big changes per week this season is 5.8. That’s one more team a week than last year, and nearly two more a week than we saw three seasons ago.

We are on pace to see 92 teams fall five or more spots, or out of the rankings, in 2016.

That’s 16 more than last year, and 28 more teams than we saw fall in 2013 – the final year of the BCS.

If you’re betting, put money on chaos. Fans better start expecting it, because it’s going to happen.



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