Here's One Way to Bring Some Consistency to College Football Rankings

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterMay 13, 2013

In 2006 No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39 in the first Game of the Century in the BCS era. When the BCS poll came out the following Sunday, Michigan was still ranked No. 2. 

Was that fair?

Michigan fans argued that their team lost to the No. 1 team by a very small margin so the Wolverines shouldn't drop in the polls. USC (9-1) and Florida (10-1) fans disagreed because their respective teams had dropped in the polls after suffering a loss earlier in the season.

This unbalanced system of reward and punishment is exactly what is wrong with the BCS. 

The rankings are arbitrary and without any semblance of consistency. 

Early last November, No. 1 Alabama lost 29-24 to No. 16 Texas A&M. When the polls came out, Kansas State took over the No. 1 spot while Oregon moved to No. 2 and Alabama dropped to No. 4. 

In the following week, Oregon lost 17-14 to Stanford, and Kansas State lost 52-24 to Baylor. Kansas State would drop to No. 6 while Oregon would fall to No. 5 in the new polls. 

Like Alabama, Oregon only dropped three spots after its loss. But Kansas State dropped five. 

Apologists will argue that Texas A&M was a better team than Baylor so Alabama should not have dropped as much as Kansas State. In other words, some losses should be rewarded more than others.

As it turned out, Alabama and Notre Dame deserved to be in the 2012 title game. The pollsters got it right. 

But the process of determining which two teams are the most deserving to play for the title was—and still is—flawed.    

Shouldn't there be a mandatory amount of spots a team drops if it loses? Does it matter who it loses to?

Most fans would like to see preseason polls disappear and start the polling process after the sixth week of football. That won't happen, but the system could still be tweaked.

How would fans react if there was a formula? Like this one:

Any FBS team that loses to an FCS team should drop 10 spots in the polls. 

If a team is willing to water down its schedule playing Mary Poppins State, then it should bear the brunt of that tactic when it backfires. 

A loss to a non-BCS team on the road should drop a team seven spots. A loss to a non-BCS team at home should cost it an eight-spot drop. 

Finally, a loss to a BCS team on the road should drop a team five spots and a loss at home should drop it six.

With those parameters in place, two other issues need to be addressed: the timing of a loss and rewarding cupcake victories.  

Does a loss late in the season deserve less punishment? Most teams are playing all conference teams in November. They're in the meat of their schedule. At least most of them are. 

Last November, Florida played divisional foe Missouri and three non-conference opponents: Louisiana Lafayette (Sun Belt) and Jacksonville State (FCS) at home and at Florida State (ACC). During that same month, Oregon played on the road at USC and California, while playing at home against Stanford and Oregon State. 

Florida was ranked No. 6 after it beat Louisiana Lafayette 27-20. The following week it beat Jacksonville State 23-0 and rose two spots to No. 4.

Why was Florida rewarded for beating an FCS team? Because Oregon and Kansas State lost to conference foes on that same Saturday. 

This needs to change. No team should ever rise in the rankings after beating an FCS team. Even if teams above it lose.  

A fairer system would have had Florida's ranking remain unchanged until it had beaten a BCS team. This would prevent rewarding an FBS team for playing an FCS team.   

The timing of a team's loss should have no bearing on how many spots it drops. An early loss is more advantageous because that team has more time to climb back up the polls.

Early losses also tend to be forgotten. But the amount of spots a team drops after a November loss should be the same as for teams who lost earlier in September. 

Pollsters need to view a loss without mitigating circumstances. For example, an overtime loss is still a loss. 

No team should ever be rewarded for a loss. No team should ever be rewarded for beating an FCS team. 

The College Football Playoff is over a year away. Fixing the ranking process is a good start to kicking off the new era in college football.