NCAA: what are polls, rankings and what they eat with

Every fan of American football, and in particular the NFL, once encounters the student component of this sport.

Players don’t come out of nowhere in the National Football League – they come from the NCAA.
Attempts to meet and fall in love with college football most often end at the stage of understanding the college sports system in the NCAA. Over 100 teams, a huge number of conferences, divisions, an incredibly large number of games, seedings, but at the same time, only 4 teams get into the playoffs.
As part of the promotion of collegiate sports to the NFLRUS, the Saturday Heroes Blog presents content that will introduce you to the world of NCAA football. Today we will talk about ranking or, in other words, about team seeding.

We start with a few definitions, the translation and meaning of which is important for understanding the following text:

  • poll (or poll) – list;
  • ranking (ranking) – team rating;
  • AP (The Associated Press) is one of the largest US media publications, whose poll is one of the main in the country.

The UPI Coaches Poll, along with the AP, is (but for the most part) one of the most important in the country.
College Football Playoff – A new ranking system introduced in 2014.
The history of team seeding in college sports goes back to 1936, before the NFL even existed. The AP began to think that NCAA teams needed to be ranked by strength in some way, and on October 19, 1936, the first ranking appeared. To this day, the AP Poll is the longest ranking team in history, which is released every week.
The system invented by AP specialists is simple to the point of efficiency – 61 specialists from all over the USA voted for teams and, depending on the place in the voting, each received points. The team with the most points in total wins first place. The second most points received the number two seed, and so on. The number of teams that the polls consisted of changed quite often: there were 10, 20 and 25 programs each. It is from 25 crops that the poll currently consists.
It is worth noting the price that the rating compiled by AP specialists began to play, namely, it determined the national champion of the NCAA. However, as history has shown, this system was rather absurd: here are a couple of vivid examples of the imperfection of this system. Until 1968, AP released its poll after the end of the regular season. He didn’t factor in postseason Bowl results. An incredibly absurd situation happened in 1964 – the AP released the team rankings just after the end of the regular season and Alabama became the champion of the NCAA. However, in the Orange Bowl, Alabama lost to Texas, and Arkansas, who in turn beat Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, was the only team to remain undefeated but not destined to become a champion.
A year later, AP changed the system, deciding to wait for the results of the Bowls. In the end, No. 1 seed Michigan State lost USLA in the Rose Bowl, No. 2 seed Arkansas lost LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and No. 4 seed Alabama defeated No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. This resulted in Crimson Tide finishing first in the final AP field. Thus, fortune was twice on the side of Alabama.

In addition, there was also the UPI Coaches Poll, a poll compiled by NCAA coaches that also determined the champion.

Most often, UPI and AP had unanimity in determining the champion, but in 1965 there were 2 champions in the country. AP chose Alabama, UPI chose Michigan State.
Starting in 1968, AP came to the decision to make sure to release the final poll after the Bowls, the coaches with UPI came to this idea 6 years later, in 1974.
As you already understood, the decision of the coaches did not always coincide with the decision of the media. As a result, 11 times UPI and AP named different teams champions – in 1954, 1957, 1965, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1991, 1997 and 2003. As you understand, such absurdity caused horror, rage and other unpleasant emotions among NCAA fans.
Years passed, and the number of different counting systems grew. In 1973, 1974, 1978 each student had two champions. This was followed by a long period of calm: from 1979 to 1989, both AP and UPI picked the same champions. However, already in 1990-1991, the NCAA again turned out to have two winning teams.
This is where the idea finally came to mind that it was time to update the outdated champion definition system. It became obvious that #1 and #2 should play each other for the championship title (by the way, from 1968 to 1987, the first and second number of the nation played each other only 6 times). And in 1992, the Bowl Coalition (Bowl Coalition) was created, which consisted of 5 conferences (SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC and Big East) and independent North Dame, as well as 7 Bowls. And already in the first year, the system worked perfectly: the University of Miami, the champion of the Big East, which was the first number in both polls, took on Alabama, which was second everywhere. Miami had the right to choose which Bowl they wanted to play in.

Their choice fell on the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Alabama won 34-13 and the Crimson Tide became the unanimous champions.
However, despite the success of the first year, the Coalition Bowl system was constantly criticized. The Big Ten and Pac-10 champions could not compete in the title game. There was also a possibility that the team would not be able to participate in the final game without draws and defeats, which happened a year later. In 1993, Nebraska and West Virginia finished the season undefeated. West Virginia was #2 in the coaching poll, behind #1 Nebraska, but in the AP they were only #3 behind #1 Florida State and #2 Nebraska. The difference between Florida State and West Virginia was large and the latter were the third seeded in the Coalition Bowl, and therefore could not take part in the final.
In addition, the Coalition did not take into account the interests of middle-class colleges from other conferences at all, such as WAC, MAC and others.

The expected death of the Coalition came a year later.

First, the SEC, which had fallen into disrepair, announced that it would disband in 1995. Secondly, Notre Dame, after going 10-1-1 in 1992 and 11-1 in 1993, went 6-4-1 in 1994. In the 1995 season, #2 Penn State failed to take part in the finals, as they were not part of the Coalition and played #1 Nebraska and #3 Miami in the title game.

In 1995, this system was replaced by the Bowl Alliance (Bowl Alliance – yes, there were big problems with the originality of the names then). This system turned out to be much more successful, as the Alliance included more student conferences, and most importantly, the first and second numbers were determined by simply adding up AP points and UPI polls. But this system did not take into account the interests of Pac-10, Big Ten and less top conferences. It is not surprising that after 3 years it was replaced by the Bowl Championship Series system (Bowl Champion Series). It included all the conferences, thus opening up the theoretical possibility for any college to be in the final.
This system relied on a combination of multiple polls and computerized selection methods to determine crops. It’s worth noting that despite this, the Bowl Championship Series failed to determine the 2003 champion. Therefore, the title was split between USC and LSU.
To determine the finalists, the new system had its own poll, which at times did not coincide with others. The AP No. 1 and No. 2 seed have faced each other 13 times in 16 seasons. As with other systems for determining the best teams, this one was also controversial and constantly criticized. In particular, this was due to the lobbying of the interests of the Power Five conferences, especially the SEC. But, nevertheless, every year the two best teams fought for the title of champion in a face-to-face meeting.

Nothing lasts forever and in 2013 this system came to an end.

The era of the College Football Playoff has begun, in which not two, but four student teams participate in a direct battle for the championship.
The method of determining the crops has become extremely simple: 13 people, members of the Committee, determine by their vote the 4 best teams that take part in the title game. It is worth noting that those crops that are indicated in the first half of the season are AP poll. The Committee begins to meet only from the second part of the championship.
To determine the seeding of teams, many criteria are taken into account: the complexity of the calendar, the strength of the conference, the results of matches and head-to-head games. In addition, members of the Committee do not have the right to attend games in person. This vote is anonymous. Every week it starts anew, without taking into account the choice of the previous week.
As always, there are critics of this system. Members of the Committee are accused of infringing on the rights of average conferences, of a subjective approach, of a secret voting procedure. Also, there are questions about the composition of the Committee, in particular, to the former US Secretary of State – Condoleezza Rice, who has nothing to do with football.