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FanPulse Top 25 Week 1: The Definitive Best Teams

After one week of the season, the first real poll is in. Utah is up, the Top 10 didn’t have many changes, and some teams in the Top 25 really should not be ranked right now.

For nearly nine months out of the year, we argue about which football teams are better, we fight over who would beat who, and try to pick which conference is best. Thankfully we don’t have to argue about that anymore because now we have a poll to tell us exactly who the best is. So, there will be no more arguing in college football anymore. You’re welcome!

The SB Nation FanPulse College Football Top 25 is back, and this time the voters had actual games to use as a reference point. If you’re new to the FanPulse Top 25, it’s a poll created by SB Nation community members. So, the fans finally get a voice in who the best 25 teams are in the country. Each team community creates its own Top 25 poll as well. So, we now have a national poll and a poll based on what the members of the BlockU community voted. It’s pretty awesome.

Naturally, after one football game we can be totally confident in who the best 25 teams in the country are, right? Probably not, but at least when we argue about the poll, we can base it off of what happened on the field, rather than something dumb like thoughts or feelings.

Here’s how the national rankings shook out after Week 1:

And here’s the Top 25 created by Utah fans (Photoshop Skills on Point):

Let’s talk about it.

Utah is Fighting for Respect

Utah came at No. 14 in the FanPulse Top 25 and No. 10 in the Utah Fan Top 25. Neither of these numbers are surprising. Oregon was the only team in the Top 20 this week that lost, choking away their game against No. 18 Auburn. Naturally, Oregon dropped below Utah in the poll and Auburn jumped ahead of Utah this week. Utah did move up from No. 15 last week, as the Utes flipped spots with Penn State. I’m not sure what the conversion rate is for a 30-12 win against BYU and a 79-7 massacre of Idaho, but the voters decided that Utah’s win was more impressive than Penn State’s.

Utah fan’s placing the team at No. 10 is interesting for a couple of reasons. The Utah fan poll had the Utes four spots higher than the national poll did. That’s tied for the largest gap between a team’s ranking in the national poll and the team’s ranking in its own fan poll. The other fans to push their team four spots up in the poll were Washington, Penn State, and noted rational fanbases Texas A&M and Florida.

The Utah fan poll results show that most fans continue to feel that Utah is underrated by the rest of the nation. The culture among fans of the Utes is generally one of feeling disrespected by the rest of the country. Part of that stems from the time when Utah was a mid-major power trying to prove that it belonged in the BCS conversation. Then the narrative shifted to Utah trying to prove that it belonged in the Power 5 and could really compete at the Pac-12 level.

By this point, the evidence is overwhelming that the Utes fully deserve to be in the Power 5 and can compete with anyone. But there’s always something new to prove. So, Utah enters this season trying to prove that not only can the program win conference titles, but also that Utah legitimately belongs in the playoff conversation.

Since 2004, the Utes have maintained some sort of underdog status and carried the burden of proving that they belong. This poll reflects that line of thinking that the fans still feel like they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Utah is in the same boat right now as Washington and Penn State, two programs on the rise that are also trying to prove that they are true contenders. For now, the rest of the nation lags far behind in their opinion of Utes.

Confidence Rankings

At the end of filling out the Top 25 for FanPulse, you were asked one simple question to complete the survey. Are you confident in the direction of your program? It was a simple yes or no, and the percentage of “Yes” votes was recorded. Among Utah fans, 96.6 percent of fans said that they were confident in where Kyle Whittingham is leading the team.

That number feels like a pretty accurate representation of the program right now. Expectations are high and the hype train is borderline out of control one week into the season. Since Whittingham was hired as head coach, there has always been at least a small contingent of fans who have not believed in his coaching style or recruiting strategy. I don’t think that will change until Utah wins the Pac-12 and goes to the playoff. Even then, if Utah doesn’t win the championship, there will probably still be Whittingham doubters.

For now, I feel like Whittingham has the program as strong as it’s ever been. However, if you answered that you didn’t feel confident in the direction of the program, please comment and explain below. I’m curious to see what the biggest concerns for the program are right now.

There was data recorded on how 65 different fan bases felt about the direction of their team, we can’t list them all, but I wanted to include a few of note:

· Arizona State fans are 100 percent confident in where Herm Edwards is leading the program. It has been 20 months since Edwards was hired and I still don’t fully comprehend the hire. But if Arizona State fans feel fully confident after going 8-6 in his first 14 games, more power to them. Most coaches would kill to get that much benefit of the doubt.

· Meanwhile, only 7.7 percent of Arizona fans are confident in Kevin Sumlin after the loss to Hawaii. That seems high.

· Los Angeles is full of miserable fans right now. 22.2 percent of USC fans are confident in Clay Helton while only 27.6 of UCLA fans believe in Chip Kelly. Kelly is only in year two so there’s a chance he can still turn things around, though Week 1 wasn’t promising. As for Helton, I think it would be hilarious if he was able to guide USC to an 8-4 season with a true freshman at quarterback and then use that to avoid getting fired for another year.

· I really want to know what the 32.3 percent of Tennessee fans who believe in the program are thinking. The Volunteers just got steamrolled by Georgia State. Georgia State went 2-10 in the Sun Belt last year. Tennessee and BYU will be playing this week to see which fans get to go into full blown panic mode in Week 2.

How Are They Still Ranked?

One of the struggles with creating an accurate poll early in the season is the preseason rankings skew how we think about teams for the rest of the year. If a team is in the Top 25 in the preseason, and they win in Week 1, there’s no way they’re dropping. If a team is in the Top 15 and loses, but not to an FCS team or a bad Group of 5 team, that team will still be ranked the following week.

We are just quick to assume that teams in the Top 25 are good until the evidence of a loss proves they are not. That’s all good and fine because early in the season it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the No. 20 team and the No. 35 team in the nation. However, sometimes a team wins in a way that’s so ugly, they deserve to be dropped significantly in the polls.

That team this week would be Iowa State. The Cyclones took three overtimes at home to beat Northern Iowa 29-26. Both teams only managed to score 13 points during regulation. Granted, Northern Iowa is a good team, they’re ranked No. 11 in the FCS. That’s not an excuse for Iowa State though when the program was considered No. 20 in the entire nation. Plus, all the other Top 20 FCS teams that played an FBS opponent in Week 1 lost. And they all lost to teams that were nowhere near the Top 25 of the polls. Even Kansas managed to beat FCS No. 13 Indiana State in regulation.

After the scare in Ames, the Cyclones should not be ranked ahead of teams with solid Week 1 wins such as Boise State, Memphis, and Cincinnati. However, because Iowa State started the season ranked, they only fell three spots to No. 23. Even Iowa State fans, who should be expected to be biased, had the Cyclones ranked lower than the national poll at No. 24.

Also, an honorable mention to Nebraska, who is still ranked at No. 25 despite looking really bad against a South Alabama team that went 3-9 last season. I’m not ready to say Nebraska is back just yet. Is Texas back though? That’s the real question.

The Oregon and Auburn Fallout

The Ducks and Tigers played in the only ranked game of the week, with Oregon losing a big lead because they forgot in the fourth quarter that first downs are actually good. After the win, Auburn shot up into the Top 10, coming in at No. 8. Meanwhile, Oregon tumbled all the way down to No. 17 and is now the only team in the Top 25 that lost in Week 1.

People were quick to use this as a reason to bury the Pac-12’s chances of making the playoffs. That’s some excellent Week 1 overreacting. Oregon losing hurts the conference’s chance to make a statement against the SEC, but an Oregon win wasn’t going to guarantee the Pac-12 a spot in the playoff anyway.

As of right now, the Pac-12 has five teams in the Top 25, more than both the ACC and the Big 12. Yes, the Pac-12 doesn’t have any teams in the Top 10 at the moment, but if Utah and Washington keep winning, they’ll be in the Top 10 within weeks. Once everyone takes a step back and thinks, they’ll realize this isn’t that big of a deal for any team but Oregon. If hypothetically Utah and Washington both enter the Pac-12 Championship with one loss, the odds of the winner making the playoff are very high unless every other conference champion is undefeated.

The Pac-12 has plenty of talented teams. It has a lot of bad ones in the South to be sure, but to write off the Pac-12 after one game is overdramatic.

As for Auburn, they just won a big game to start the season. This means either Auburn is going to the National Championship or they’re going to go 6-6, because that’s what Auburn football does. Expect them to be No. 1 in three weeks or unranked. It’s funny that at No. 8 in the country, Auburn is still only the third best team in the SEC West.

Clemson was the Unanimous No. 1

Yeah, that seems about right.

Thank you for continuing to join us in the creation of this fan driven poll. This experiment has been illuminating so far and a lot of fun. If you still haven’t signed up to participate in the poll, CLICK HERE. You can help us truly understand what the fans are thinking. Now it’s time for Week 2.