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College football tiers: Clemson and Ohio State on top, but who's next?

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Kiper's top five draft prospects for 2021 (2:25)

Mel Kiper Jr. lists his top 5 NFL draft prospects for 2021, including Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. (2:25)

There are two inherent truths about college football's top 25 rankings. The first is that everyone reads them. The second is that everyone hates them.

The contempt is legitimate. Look at the numbers:

  • Teams ranked 20 through 25, over the past decade, are just 76-76 in matchups against unranked Power 5 foes that went on to finish the year with a winning record.

  • Last year, teams ranked 11th or worse at game time were just 14-15 against unranked (but above .500) Power 5 competition.

  • Teams that finished the year unranked in 2019 had a fairly solid 14-17 record against teams ranked 11th or worse at game time, too.

  • In all, 32 different teams held a ranking between 21 and 25 last year -- essentially one-quarter of all of FBS.

The point of all this is to say that the top 25 rankings are a sham, yet the entire idea is still so ingrained in our college football culture that, even if we hate it on a surface level, we can't help but bow to its ubiquitous power.

To quote the great Frank Costanza, there has to be a better way!

Indeed, there is: Tiers. No "1 through 25," but rather groups of teams on a similar level.

This isn't exactly scientific, either, of course. But it's a start. And, since we've all been locked away in our homes and forced to binge-watch way too much TV, we'll use a few of those shows as our guides.


Tier 1 (two teams): "The Wire" Seasons 1-4

Ohio State, Clemson