Synan Says: The Real Top 25 in College Football

Yes, I am a college football junkie. It is, by far, my favorite sport for one simple reason: every game matters.

Unlike the NFL, where a 9-7 team can make a run at the Super Bowl, only the best need apply in college football.

Can you imagine a 7-5 West Virginia or Louisville making it all the way to the title game? No thanks. Best teams only.

There have been many calls from media pundits to stop ranking teams in the preseason or even before October because we don’t know enough about the teams. Hogwash! The problem lies not with what we know or don’t know about the teams. The problem is with the voters themselves. Let me explain. Most of the voters in the AP Poll are writers assigned to a particular team or region. On Saturdays, these writers are at a game involving the team they write about for several hours before and several hours after the game. How are they supposed to know about all of the teams if they spend at least eight hours focused on just one of those teams? Their information literally comes from stat sheets and highlight shows.

The same holds true with the Coaches Poll (a better description might be the Sports Information Director (SID) Poll because many coaches abdicate this responsibility). Coaches and SIDs are too busy working their respective teams to have a real grasp of what is happening.

I am a different entity entirely. My Saturdays in the fall are mostly free and I have two televisions set up where I watch from noon until early Sunday morning. The difference with this poll is simple. I’ve actually watched the teams and the games.

Some pundits call for holding off on polls until October due to the inherent advantage it gives teams that were highly ranked in the preseason. Those teams can suffer losses and still bounce back in the polls. This bias hurt the University of Central Florida (UCF) more than any other school in the nation last year. The undefeated Knights were never even in the discussion for a playoff spot and did not rise in the polls as other teams lost.

Where is the bias against UCF? I’ll let you in on a little media secret: writers are arrogant and hate being wrong. Here is how it works. If a team like Penn State barely survives Appalachian State, they won’t be dropping far in the polls that week and will rise right back up quickly. The reason why is that writers want to think they were right in their original assessment. Not ranking a team highly that you believed in is nothing more than an admission that you were wrong. Like most everyone, sports writers really hate doing that.

Here is what you will find on a weekly basis with Synan Says and my Top 25: an honest assessment of what happened and the implications–creating an honest ranking. Here is all I care about when I rank teams: who have they played and how did they do? You will see the rankings change wildly on a weekly basis. I do not just push a team up one ranking because they won and the team in front of them lost. I rank them on who they have beaten and who have they have played. That’s it. Does it matter this week where your team is? Not at all. The only rankings that matter are at the end of the season.

A good example of how this ranking system works is the Clemson Tigers, my own alma mater. Clearly they are one of the best teams in the country. You can see that with the thing they call “the eyeball test” (a test I deplore). The problem with Clemson is simple. They do not have a good enough win to be ranked highly. Their thumping of Furman this past weekend was fine, but not a top effort. All that matters is who they have beaten and who have they have played. Is Clemson a top team? We will find out Saturday when they travel to Texas A&M. Win that game and they would have a top tier win worthy of a high ranking.

I always love feedback on college football. Reach me at and we can talk about it.

Top 25 for the Week Beginning September 2

  1. Alabama (1-0) Thrashed Louisville on a neutral field.
  2. LSU (1-0) Win over Miami on neutral field more dominant than final score.
  3. Virginia Tech (1-0) Florida State made about two decent plays on offense.
  4. Auburn (1-0) Gutted out a tough neutral field win over a Washington team that looked tough.
  5. Notre Dame (1-0) Time will tell how good this win will be. Maybe Michigan is not very good?
  6. Oklahoma (1-0) Lane Kiffin brought back talent to FAU and still got stomped.
  7. West Virginia (1-0) Went on the road and thrashed an SEC team (even though it was Tennessee).
  8. UCF (1-0) Why doesn’t the whole nation see how good this team is? 56 points at UConn.
  9. Ole Miss (1-0) Impressive road win at Texas Tech. Bet they won’t be here all year.
  10. Boise State (1-0) Went to Troy and whipped  one of the best schools outside the Power 5.
  11. Stanford (1-0) San Diego State is sneaky good but got whipped.
  12. Georgia (1-0) They’ll be higher if they can win at South Carolina.
  13. Clemson (1-0) There is a full blown QB controversy in Tiger Town.
  14. Wisconsin (1-0) Did what they had to do versus inferior opponent.
  15. Ohio State (1-0) Scoring 77 points is good. Giving up 31 is not.
  16. BYU (1-0) Went to Arizona and ruined Kevin Sumlin’s debut.
  17. Cincinnati (1-0) Quality road win at UCLA (at least it’s a quality win this week).
  18. Mississippi State (1-0) Time to rank good teams that played no one.
  19. TCU (1-0) No real test yet with SMU coming to town this week.
  20. Southern Cal (1-0) Should have beaten UNLV by more.
  21. South Carolina (1-0) An ESPN pundit said they would not cover versus Coastal Carolina. They did.
  22. Oregon (1-0) Gave up too many points but will score a lot this year.
  23. Arizona State (1-0) Herm Edwards debut a smashing success.
  24. Michigan State (1-0) Could have easily lost at home to Utah State.
  25. Penn State (1-0) Taken to overtime by Appalachian State.


Reach Mike Synan at

Share this story on Facebook or Twitter or Send in a Text Message::