Examining the AP Preseason College Football Poll's Ability to Foretell the Future

By Chris Lauderback on August 11, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Ohio State slotted No. 5 in the 2014 AP Preseason Poll.
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These days, there's only one poll that matters but since that one doesn't come out until the first half of the college football season is complete, it's always fun to see how the other major polls view the teams before and during the early part of the season. 

Joining the Coaches Poll as one of two major rankings we pay attention to until the College Football Playoff rankings are released, the AP Poll has been around since 1934. 

Sometimes as laughable as frustrating or intriguing, the AP Poll may not mean anything anymore but that doesn't mean you don't at least glance at it from August through October-ish. 

Daniel Wilco of NCAA.com took a look at the last nine years of the AP Preseason Poll and there's some interesting nuggets in his data. 

  • 225 total teams have been ranked in the Top 25 over the last nine years but just 61.8% of those teams made the AP's final Top 25 poll. 
  • The inverse of that means 86 total teams during the nine-year span didn't appear in the preseason Top 25 but made the final poll. 
  • Out of those 86 teams, 17 finished in the Top 10 with Auburn making it all the way to No. 2 in 2013. 
  • The Big Ten had four of those unranked preseason teams to finish in the Top 10. Penn State (No. 7) and Wisconsin (No. 9) in 2016, Iowa (No. 9) in 2015 and Michigan State (No. 3) in 2013. 
  • Since 2010, seven of the 45 teams ranked in the Top 5 finished unranked including Wisconsin (No. 4) last year. 

If you're curious about Ohio State specifically, here's how the Buckeyes were ranked in the AP's preseason poll, how they finished, and the delta between the two: 

OHIO STATE AP PRESEASON AND FINAL POLL RESULTS
SEASON AP PRESEASON POLL RANK AP FINAL POLL RANK  DELTA
2018 5 3 +2
2017 2 5 -3
2016 6 6 0
2015 1 4 -3
2014 5 1 +4
2013 2 12 -10
2012 18 3 +15
2011 18 NR -7+
2010 2 5 -3
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