Nothing riles up the fan bases quite like the College Football Rankings.
Currently, there are three major ranking systems in college football, each of which ranks the top 25 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football teams throughout the season and helps determine the four teams that eventually compete for the College Football Playoff National Championship.
The three ranking systems are the:
- Associated Press Top 25 poll
- USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll
- College Football Playoff rankings
Each poll is voted on by a different group of individuals deemed qualified to give their take on the matter. That doesn’t mean the polls necessarily matchup with one another. It can be quite the opposite, actually.
Let’s take a look at each of the three polls and where the current rankings stand for the 2022 college football season.
College Football Rankings Polls
In the case of all three polls, “experts” rank teams based on a variety of criteria, including recent results and current win-loss records, the strength of opponents, and results against common opponents.
Associated Press top 25 poll
The AP Poll has been around since 1936.
The poll is put together by a panel of 63 sports writers and broadcasters. Each voter does a top-25 ranking that gives a team 25 points for a first, 24 for a second, and so on. The numbers are then combined to produce the AP Top 25 rankings and voter ballots are made public.
The AP began conducting a Top 25 college football preseason poll in 1950. It now does that preseason poll annually in mid-August and a weekly AP Poll that comes out every Sunday throughout the regular season.
USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll
The AFCA Coaches poll has been around since 1950 using a panel of NCAA head coaches to rank the top college football teams in the country. USA Today has been the sole publisher of the poll since 2005.
The poll is now conducted once in August during the preseason and weekly throughout the regular season using a panel of 66 head coaches at FBS schools to rank the top college football teams in the country.
Like the AP Poll, each coach on the panel does a top 25 ranking giving a team 25 points for a first, 24 for a second, and so on. The numbers are then combined to produce the Coaches Poll rankings.
The coaches panel itself is put together using a random draw from a pool of coaches who have indicated a willingness to participate.
Up until 1974, the final Coaches Poll came out following the final week of the regular season, and the team in the top spot was awarded the AFCA National Championship Trophy. Since 1974, the Coaches Poll has conducted its final poll in January, after the bowl season.
College Football Playoff Rankings
A rotating 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee, made up mostly of NCAA athletic directors, former coaches, and former players, decide which teams will be invited to the College Football Playoff four-team postseason tournament and have the chance to play for a national title.
In 2014, the first the College Football Playoff to determine the Division 1 FBS national champion was held. Four teams were selected based on their position in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Four teams play in two semifinal bowl games (1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3) and the winners advance to play for the National Championship in the CFP National Championship game.
The committee meets in-person in November and produces an interim top 25 rankings starting with Week 10. It releases new rankings each week until conference championship week has concluded. In the following, the committee meets for selection day to determine which four teams will play in the CFP semifinal bowl games.
Officially, the Coaches Poll and AP Poll are no longer used to help determine which teams play for the CFP National Championship. However, the polls can align with the selection committee’s choices, suggesting they influence various committee members’ decisions.
Current College Football rankings
Here’s how the College Football rankings look at this point of the 2022 season.
|AP Top 25||AFCA Coaches Poll||CFB Playoff Rankings|
|1. Georgia||1. Georgia||Available Week 10|
|2. Alabama||2. Alabama|
|3. Ohio State||3. Ohio State|
|4. Michigan||4. Michigan|
|6. Oklahoma||6. Oklahoma|
|7. USC||7. USC|
|8. Kentucky||8. Oklahoma State|
|9. Oklahoma State||9. Kentucky|
|10. Arkansas||10. Arkansas|
|11. Tennessee||11. NC State|
|12. NC State||12. Tennessee|
|13. Utah||13. Ole Miss|
|14. Penn State||14. Utah|
|15. Oregon||15. Penn State|
|16. Ole Miss||16. Wake Forest|
|17. Baylor||17. Baylor|
|18. Washington||18. Oregon|
|19. BYU||19. Texas|
|20. Florida||20. Texas A&M|
|21. Wake Forest||21. Michigan State|
|22. Texas||22. Florida|
|23. Texas A&M||23. BYU|
|24. Pittsburgh||24. Washington|
|25. Miami||25. Miami|
How rankings impact College Football odds
Oddsmakers have their own formula for determining odds, while college football betting patterns also factor in.
When it comes to the rankings, those are merely a measuring stick and a guide for viewers to project which teams are among the best in the country.
The best college football betting strategies all revolve around good research. That can include having a grasp of the three most important college football rankings.
These college football rankings won’t spell out if a team will cover the spread or guarantee a victory. However, the rankings can help you better understand college football odds. By studying the teams in these rankings you may be able to find important information in some of the week’s top games.
The rankings can bring value in college football futures betting markets. Preseason polls may factor into a team’s odds to win the national championship, a conference title, making the playoffs, or their over/under for regular season wins.
Typically teams ranked high early will have the shortest odds in futures markets. But, as we’ve seen in the past, surprise teams can crack into the College Football Playoffs. Michigan State was a surprise in 2015, while Cincinnati caught many off guard in 2021.
Michigan’s College Football rankings history
Michigan’s college football program has a rich history of success.
Approaching 1,000 wins in its history, the Wolverines have claimed 11 national titles since 1901.
It’s last national title is one that is most remembered when it comes to college football rankings.
The 1997 Wolverines, coached by Lloyd Carr, went 12-0 to earn the AP National Championship. However, the Coaches Poll gave its national title to unbeaten Nebraska. It was just one of 11 times that the two polls disagreed on the season’s national champion. Following that season is when the NCAA switched to the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
Altogether, Michigan has appeared in the final AP rankings 62 times since the poll began in 1936.
Until 2021, Michigan didn’t find itself as much of a factor in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Wolverines won the Big Ten and earned the No. 2 spot in the final CFP rankings of the year.
That earned Michigan a spot in the Orange Bowl against No. 3 Georgia. Michigan’s football odds for the semifinal were +7.5. Ultimately, the Wolverines took a 34-11 loss to the eventual champions.
Michigan State’s College Football rankings history
Michigan State’s football history may not be quite as rich as Michigan’s, but it’s still successful.
The Spartans have over 720 wins in their history and have six claimed national championships. The last of which came in 1966.
Like Michigan, MSU also has a split national championship in the polls. The 1965 Spartans were voted No. 1 by the Coaches poll at the end of the season. However, Alabama took the top spot in the AP poll.
Altogether, Michigan State has closed out 28 seasons in the final AP rankings.
Where Michigan State does have bragging rights on Michigan is in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Spartans got into the playoffs first in 2015 when they won the Big Ten and earned the No. 3 seed.
However, the results would be similar to Michigan as the Spartans drew No. 2 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
Michigan State’s football odds in the semifinal were double digits. The outcome would be a 38-0 shutout by the Crimson Tide, who went on to win the championship game.
BCS, CFP Rankings history
In 1997, the NCAA launched the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) to determine an official NCAA Football National Champion. The Coaches Poll, along with the AP Poll and a computer-based poll, were used to help determine BCS rankings. Those rankings ultimately decided the two teams that would play in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Coaches Poll signed a contract with the NCAA ensuring the winner of the BCS National Championship Game would be named the top team on the season’s final Coaches Poll and awarded the AFCA National Championship Trophy in a postgame presentation.
In 2014, the College Football Playoff (CFP) system began, creating a four-team postseason tournament to determine a national champion.
Since the Coaches Poll is no longer officially used to determine which teams play for the national title, it is no longer contractually obligated to award its championship trophy to the playoff winner. Still, the winner of the CFP National Championship Game has been in the top spot on the final Coaches Poll every year since the CFP’s inception.