StatTiger: Do Preseason Rankings Matter?

With preseason rankings already being released by various publications for the 2008 college football season, Stuart Carter (StatTiger) takes a look at how the Tigers have faired over the years compared to their preseason AP ranking.

One of the most debated topics of college football has been the college football posts and the rankings of each team. It starts off with the preseason rankings and continues through the final game of the regular season.

With the current BCS system pitting No. 1 vs. No. 2, it becomes even more heated, especially when there are more than two undefeated teams going into the bowl games. Though the BCS doesn't have a preseason poll there are several major polls that publish a preseason poll.

Though it's more important where you finish than where you started, preseason polls can benefit the teams starting in the top 10. Obviously, starting closer to the top makes the journey to No. 1 or No. 2 a little smoother. We often gauge teams and conferences based on their rankings and with this mind I decided to see which conferences and individual teams had more top 10 finishes. The data has been compiled from the Associated Press Poll.

1970-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes by Conference

SEC77
Big 1265
Big 10 58
Independent 53
Pac 1051
SWC26
ACC24
Big East16
WAC 4
MAC3

1992-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes by Conference

SEC 36
Big 12 31
Big 10 26
Pac 10 21
ACC15
Big East 15

1970-2007, Most Top Five Finishes by Conference

SEC38
Big 1237
Independent 35
Pac 1024
Big 1023
ACC11
SWC11
WAC 4
MAC3

1992-2007, Most Top Five Finishes by Conference

SEC19
Big 1215
Big 10 12
Pac 1012
ACC9
Big East7

1970-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes by School

Nebraska24
Michigan23
Oklahoma20
Alabama17
Ohio State17
Penn State17
Florida State16
Miami15
Southern Cal15
Florida14

1992-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes by School

Florida10
Florida State9
Nebraska8
Ohio State8
Georgia7

Six other schools had six finishes in the top 10; Kansas State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Auburn had four.

1970-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes in the SEC

Alabama17
Florida14
Georgia13
Auburn12
Tennessee12
LSU8
Kentucky1

1992-2007, Most Top 10 Finishes in the SEC

Florida10
Georgia7
Tennessee6
LSU5
Auburn4
Alabama4

From 1951-2007, Auburn has started the season ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll 15 times. AU was ranked 11-20 in the AP Poll in 11 seasons at the start and unranked 31 times.

When Auburn started the season ranked in the top 10
7 finishes in the top 10 (46.7%)
10 finishes in the top 20 (66.7%)
4 finishes unranked (26.7%)

When AU started the season ranked 11-20 in the AP Poll
3 finishes in the top 10 (27.3%)
7 finishes in the top 20 (63.6%)
3 finishes unranked (27.3%)

When AU started the season unranked in the AP Poll
7 finishes in the top 10 (22.5%)
15 finishes in the top 20 (48.4%)
16 finishes unranked (51.6%)

Based on Auburn's history, it's better to start the season ranked in the top 10. Don't kid yourself that it's better for Auburn to start the season unranked or very low in the polls. Yes, I realize there has been some Auburn teams that failed to live up to preseason hype but the above numbers tell the entire story.

During the 15 seasons Auburn started in the top 10, it has compiled a 127-43-5 record or a winning percentage 74 percent. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but are better than the 70.6 winning percentage when ranked 11-20 or the 64.0 percent when starting the season unranked.


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