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.)
After a two-week hiatus following a loss to Temple, the Bearcats find themselves back in the top 25 of the AP Poll. Is this starting to feel normal again, at least a little bit? It’s the first time the Bearcats have spent three weeks as a top-25 team since the 2011 season, when they spent four weeks in the rankings.
The last few years have taught me not to take winning for granted. I worry because nobody expected this year to be so successful that many will shrug it off while looking ahead to next season and the potential that team will have. The thing is, even many great teams don’t start 8-1, and sometimes destiny takes over. We saw how many wins the 2015-16 Bearcats sports gods reclaimed. Sometimes that happens. Just be sure to soak up this winning, because it can evaporate.
Two important AAC teams lost this week. Houston (not on our schedule; don’t really care) got beat up by SMU. South Florida (you idiots, I wanted a matchup of 8-1 teams) got wrecked by Tulane.
This means two things. First, surely this has gotta make UC’s conference record look at least five percent better. A pair of solid 7-1 teams just got picked off by teams the Bearcats have beaten. Second, it means that the road to December top-25 glory is in the hands of UCF and Cincinnati. If UC can get past USF and UCF can evade Navy, I think there’s a chance we’re looking at a top-20 team on the road against a top-10 team, at least by AP Poll rankings. That’s good for the conference.
The all-important College Football Playoff rankings debut Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN (I think. It’s ridiculous how hard it is to track down the air time of the reveal show).
This ranking debuted in 2014, so the Bearcats have never appeared on it. It’s the one that matters though. Not only does the highest-ranked Group of Five team get a placement in a New Year’s Six bowl (this year the Fiesta or Peach) but Luke Fickell also gets a $50,000 bonus from UC if his team hits the rankings at any point.
A continuing gripe: I still do not understand how this team plummeted from #20 to #35 after an overtime road loss to a team that was favored to win. This week’s poll muddied that question even more for me. Navy entered Nippert 2-6, and the Bearcats were favored by a couple touchdowns. They were lambs for the slaughter. The jump from #30 to #25 is no small feat, yet here we are.
I feel like a blowout win over a bad team should not be prettier than a narrow loss to a pretty good team is ugly. Maybe I’m crazy and none of this even makes sense.
Of course, the point of this entire series is to laugh at this type of stuff, yet it only continues to boggle the mind.
Biggest UC Fan
We’ve officially got a vote that’s so outlandish I have to wonder if it was an error. Dylan Sinn of Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette ranked the Bearcats 12th on his Week 11 ballot, sandwiched behind Ohio State and ahead of Kentucky. I will take the love, but that one is wild. No other voter has the Bearcats in their top 15.
The weirdest part of Sinn’s ballot, to me, is that the rest of it is mostly boring. College Poll Tracker doesn’t list any Extreme Picks (teams ranked more than five spots from their rankings in the final poll) for Dylan in the Top 20, so it’s not like he’s going around shaking things up on his ballot.
Biggest UC Hater
Can I just go back to the guy from last week? What do you want from UC, Mike Barber? He ranked UC on his Week 9 ballot, one of just three voters to do so in the wake of the Temple loss. Since then, the Bearcats are 2-0 with a road win over a serviceable (and likely bowl-bound) SMU team and a hammering of Navy at home.
Barber has yet to move Cincinnati back into his top 25, but that’s starting to become less surprising when you see the other shenanigans he’s pulling.
Barber has five Extreme Picks on his ballot. Three are Power Five teams and two are Group of Five teams. As you may have guessed, all the Power Five teams are flagged for being overrated (five or more spots above where they finished in the final AP Poll) and both of his Group of Five teams are flagged for being underrated (five or more spots below where they finished in the final AP Poll).
Mike just hates Group of Five teams.