As if the AP Poll itself wasn’t meaningless enough, there is actually a story behind the story. There’s a tiny number next to teams in the Top 25, but there are a ton of little things going on behind that number. Breaking the Poll is a series that breaks down the AP voters and dissects why the Bearcats are ranked where they are. Last week’s entry is here. (This series is made possible by College Poll Tracker.)
Long Time, UC
The miraculous ascension continues in Clifton as the Bearcats use a bye week to pass five more teams, hitting #20 in the AP Poll. The last time the Bearcats took the field as a Top 20 team, it was New Year’s Day 2010 and they were in the Sugar Bowl facing Tim Tebow.
So how did they get here? In mid-September I joked about UC not getting any love in the AP Poll. A week later they were a top-40 team, a development I thought was crazy. I did a Ranking The Poll mostly for the novelty of it. Then they hit #29.
“How crazy that this team was 4-8 last year and is flirting with the Top 25!”
A week after that, they did it. UC hit #25 last week, a slight surprise given their resume. With a week off, I’d hoped they could move up to #23 or #24, but at least hoped they wouldn’t fall out of the rankings. The #20 ranking is stunning to me, frankly. We’re halfway through the season (one that was expected to be a transition year) and this team is doing things that haven’t been done in Clifton since Tony Pike’s incredible 2009 team.
It’s been a crazy season.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
This is a conversation I didn’t expect to have, and it’s one that probably doesn’t need to be had for most of you.
I thought I’d be running a UC sales pitch all year. “The team is only 4-3 right now, which isn’t sexy, but the talent is obvious!” Instead, we’re swinging the other way.
News break: Cincinnati is (probably) not the 20th-best team in the country and this is (probably) not the best team the Bearcats have had since 2009. Does that matter? Not at all! I will continue saying this every week, but I’m totally happy with starting 9-0 and climbing into the Top 15 on what could be the country’s softest schedule. That sounds fantastic.
I don’t say this to dampen anyone’s enjoyment. It’s the opposite, actually. History tells us that this team is going to lose at some point. Cincinnati has finished a regular season undefeated just one time, and it took a lot of magic to make it happen. When this team’s first loss almost certainly comes, do not panic. It may be a Top 20 team losing to a middle-of-the-road AAC team on the road, which looks bad. It’s not. We’ve got a really young team that is performing at such a high level that it’s easy to forget where we were a couple months ago.
The Bearcats have clinched a bowl and matched my projected win total already. Everything from here on out is icing. Rather than expecting to go undefeated and treating every loss like a catastrophe, I’ll choose to remember that I prayed for six wins this year and treat every additional victory as a treasure.
(That being said, I still think this team can easily go 3-3 the rest of the way.)
After receiving 41 total votes a week ago, Cincinnati has 53 total voters this week, good for 87% of the voting body. After 11 total votes just a few weeks ago, the Bearcats have 14 total votes in the top 20. Perhaps most stunning to me is that two voters put Cincinnati in their Top 15.
Biggest UC fan: Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal placed Cincinnati at #13.
Get enough national attention and it’s not hard to find a voter crazy enough to fall in love with your team. Conor’s ballot is reassuring though. College Poll Tracker marks ballots with picks five or more places from their actual position as ‘Extreme Picks.’ For example, Alabama is #1 in the national poll. If some voter was crazy enough to rank them #6 on their ballot, it would be flagged as an Extreme Pick.
Conor’s ballot has UC as an Extreme Pick, since they’re #20 nationally and #13 on his ballot. The rest of his choices come out looking pretty vanilla, and only a vote of confidence to Appalachian State (#24 on his ballot, #29 nationally) raises an eyebrow. At least right now, Conor looks like a pretty smart voter. A smart voter that likes UC is alright with me.
Biggest UC hater: My dear folks, it’s time to tee off on an AP voter again. It’s a favorite pastime here at OhVarsity. I avoid starting drama or fighting with people, but sometimes the monsters of the AP voting body are practically asking for it!*
This week’s enemy is Mr. Don Williams of the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal. Williams, fed up with living in Lubbock and mistakenly operating under the belief that former Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville is still in Clifton, exerts his rage on the Bearcats, leaving them unranked in his Week 8 ballot.
UC was unranked by eight AP voters this week, so his snub isn’t noteworthy until you look at the rest of his ballot. That’s where his credibility starts to fall apart.
Don’s Top 9 is nearly picture perfect. Get to #10 and things start to go south. Iowa, whose best win is Indiana, is in the Top 10 here, despite being just #19 nationally, and unranked completely by 13 voters. In other words, Iowa has more doubters nationally than Cincinnati does, and Don here has the Hawkeyes in his Top 10. Washington State (best win is Utah) checks in at #19, despite being #25 nationally. Utah (4-2, #33 nationally) comes in at #20.
Don Williams has UCF at #24 on his ballot. Folks, come on. I haven’t seen this much disrespect in Orlando since Kobe posterized Dwight Howard into the grave.
It’s fine if you don’t think UCF is a top-1o team. But having them at #24, behind two-loss teams like Utah, Michigan State, Mississippi State, and USC is just laughable.
There are three undefeated AAC teams. One is ranked #10 nationally, and the other two are at #20 and #21, respectively. Placing only one of those teams on your ballot, at #24 no less, is just irresponsible. Conscious or not, it shows a clear bias when you have two-loss Power Five teams ahead of an AAC team on a 19-game win streak.
The underrated funniest aspect of Williams’ ballot is that Duke is at #25. “Okay, I finally gave the frauds at UCF their due, so who is next?” Don then creates a list of 5-1 Power Five teams and sorts by alphabetical order until he lands on Duke.