Top 10 rank does not portend playoff spot

There were no surprises near the top of the AP preseason college football poll. It’s the same group of teams we’ve been discussing on the Internet and the airwaves for at least the last six months.

So now is a good time for a history lesson.

As much as we may have convinced ourselves that the top teams in this poll will probably still be there at the end of the season, recent years tell us otherwise. If you look at the AP’s top four teams to end the regular season – because those would theoretically have been the picks of a selection committee – more of them since 2007 came from outside the preseason top 10 than from within it.

In fact, there has been only one year in the last seven (2011) in which more than two of the preseason top-10 teams finished the regular season ranked in the top four.

Final Regular Season AP Top-4 Teams
By Preseason Ranking (since 2007)

Taking it a step further, over the last two seasons, three of the eight teams to finish the regular season in the AP top four were unranked in the preseason poll; only two of the eight were ranked in the preseason top 10 (Alabama in 2012 and 2013).

So take another look at the current preseason top 10 and try to imagine only one of those teams reaching the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Recent history is telling us that’s more likely than three of them making it.

This bodes well for among others, No. 18 Michigan, which we've noted in this piece, could get off to a hot start this season.

And if you believe in unlucky numbers, here’s a trend to give any Oregon fan nightmares. In the 16-year BCS era, the preseason No. 3 team in the AP poll never finished the regular season ranked in the top four. But Florida State fans shouldn’t rest easily either. Only once in the last seven years has the AP preseason No. 1 team been in the top four to finish the regular season (Alabama in 2013).