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.)
The Bearcats are back into the Top 20 in this week’s AP Poll, staking their claim to #19, improving on their highest ranking since finishing the 2009 season at #8.
For the first time in their history, they’re also ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, squeaking at #24 ahead of their College GameDay matchup with UCF—#11 in both the AP and CFP rankings. When the CFP rankings were released last night, I tweeted that Fickell had received a $50,000 bonus for the appearance, which I saw in this Enquirer article from February 2017. There seems to be some confusion out there on whether or not the bonus hits for an appearance or for finishing the season in the rankings, but I digress. Either way, it’s good for UC.
To the AP Poll breakdown we go…
The Bearcats racked up 344 points this week, seeing a pretty widespread distribution of votes. Cincinnati is still unranked by some voters but was also ranked at #12 by one, making them the second most polarizing team behind Utah State—unranked by one and ranked at #11 by one.
The most interesting part of UC’s placement this week comes in the distribution of their votes. If you look at only top-25 placements, it makes a pretty standard bell curve, with nine votes coming at #18, reaching up to #12 on the high end and #25 on the low end. The bulk of the votes fall between #18-24. Totally normally.
Stunningly (or perhaps not so), there are also nine voters who don’t have Cincinnati on their ballot at all. This dichotomy sums up the Power 5-Group of 5 gap in 2018. An equal number of pundits see UC as the #18 team as they do unworthy of even being on the board.
It’s this type of thinking that has Cincinnati ranked behind five teams with three losses (and two teams with four losses in the CFP rankings—but that’s for another day).
Is Iowa State (6-3, #18) a bad team? No. The win over West Virginia is great, but the Oklahoma State win, which looked good at the time, doesn’t mean as much as they’ve fallen to 5-5 on the year. The Cyclones also have losses to 4-6 TCU and 6-4 Iowa. Not to mention their season opener was cancelled because of a hurricane. That’s out of their hands, and they’d likely have won that game, but apparently we’re punishing teams for cancelled games now. Cincinnati has three more wins and two fewer losses than Iowa State and I think UC should be ranked ahead of them.
Switching gears, Cincinnati’s ranking may appear slightly inflated because they shook out at the top of their tier. (I talked about tiers a lot during basketball season. It’s just how I refer to teams appearing in bunches if you look at the total points in the poll.) The Bearcats are at 344, leading a pack of Kentucky (337), Utah (307), and Boston College (254).
Biggest UC Fan
It’s gotta go back to Dylan Sinn. His #12 vote last week wasn’t crazy, as I’d originally thought, but forward-thinking. When the Bearcats scored as solid victory over 7-2 USF, he sat on that #12 vote this week and it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb as much.
He doesn’t have UC behind any three-loss teams, and he also has them ahead of Utah State, a Mountain West Conference roadblock on Cincinnati’s path to a New Year’s Six bowl. (I know the NY6 doesn’t use the AP.)
Biggest UC Hater
Don Williams still has Cincinnati unranked, and I’ll have whatever he’s on: