College Football Top 25 Comparisons

The AP Top 25 poll came out on Sunday, right as we were finishing up our Top 25 countdown here at With the USA Today Coaches’ Poll that came out earlier next week, we can use all three polls to potentially find some value early on in the college football season.

Understand that Joe Public bettors will be influenced by things like the Top 25 polls because there is an inherent expectation that these teams will be good. The last four preseason #1 ranked teams on the AP Top 25 finished no higher than seventh. Over the last four years, an average of eight teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 have finished outside the Top 25. The last two teams to be ranked #10 finished with 4-8 records. Over the last 13 years, 13 teams in the Top 10 finished unranked. Being on the AP Top 25 poll really shouldn’t mean a whole lot to bettors, but novice bettors will keep laying the chalk week after week on these teams. That creates value for the more astute bettors out there.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two Top 25 polls and our Top 25 power ratings:

RankAP Top 25USA Today/
1Florida StateFlorida StateFlorida State
5Ohio StateAuburnOhio State
6AuburnOhio StateGeorgia
8Michigan StateMichigan StateAuburn
9South CarolinaSouth CarolinaBaylor
11StanfordStanfordSouth Carolina
13LSULSUMichigan State
17Notre DameNotre DameBYU
18Ole MissArizona StateStanford
19Arizona StateOle MissTexas
20Kansas StateTexas A&MWashington
21Texas A&MKansas StateOle Miss
22NebraskaNebraskaTexas A&M
23North CarolinaNorth CarolinaBoise State
25WashingtonWashingtonVirginia Tech

There are a lot of similarities, which is understandable because good teams are good teams. Oklahoma is the biggest difference between the voters and the power ratings. There are a lot of overreactions to perception with the voters based on small samples and there’s no smaller sample than a lone bowl game against Alabama. The Sooners have a friendly schedule and may not be the team that finishes the season unranked from the top 10, but it looks like bettors may pay a serious premium in their lines early on in the season. Notre Dame is the highest-rated team not to appear in the top 25 of the power ratings and their spot in the AP Top 25 came after the announced suspensions for the cheating scandal. The Fighting Irish seem to be perennially overrated and over-ranked. They weren’t even a consideration for the top 25 in the power ratings list even before the suspension.

Expect Nebraska to fall out of the top 25 pretty quickly. They were on the fringes of the top 25 in the power ratings poll, but they have a brutal schedule with four really tough Big Ten road games. They should spend at least three weeks comfortably on the poll, but a September 20 game against Miami is a problem. Two weeks later, the Huskers play at East Lansing against Michigan State.

Another team rated too high is the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils return just two starters on defense. It’s rather surprising to see Arizona State on there with back-to-back losses to end the season and a lucky win over Wisconsin early in the season based on an officiating error. The voters put too much emphasis on last season’s record instead of what a team lost over the offseason. The Sun Devils lost a lot.

It’s a bit surprising to see Texas A&M rated so high by the voters. The #22 ranking in our Top 25 seemed a bit optimistic, but the voters have taken away some of the value in backing the Aggies early on. Then again, novice bettors will remember that Johnny Manziel is gone and those are huge shoes for Kenny Hill to fill. It would have been better to see the Aggies fly under the radar, but it will be interesting to see what their perception is.

The #17 ranking for BYU in our power poll is certainly noteworthy since the Cougars only received eight points in the AP Poll and 18 in the Coaches’ Poll. If the power ratings are right about the Cougars, there could be some great early season value on Bronco Mendenhall’s team.

The Stanford Cardinal are another team that appears overrated based on the polls. The Cardinal lost a lot in the trenches and ended the season on a pretty rough note. Respect will always be there for a program like Stanford’s, but don’t be surprised if they’re one of the teams that finishes the season unranked, given their shortcomings and the overall state of the Pac-12.

The biggest difference is the placement of Marshall. The Thundering Herd are projected to be at least a 14-point favorite in every game and could be 17 or more point favorites in every game without question. By points, the Herd ranked 32nd in the AP Top 25 and 37th in the Coaches’ Poll. It’s important to understand that Marshall’s placement on the list doesn’t mean that they would be a pick ‘em against Michigan State, Wisconsin, or Oklahoma. That’s why there are numbers to compensate for the gaps between conferences. The point is that Marshall should go undefeated through the regular season and will be serious chalk in every single game. The Herd’s power rating needs to be high enough to compensate for the spreads and that’s why they’re in the top 25. They could play with some of the Top 25 teams from the polls, but they won’t have to, so it’s irrelevant.

Some bettors will fire on the top 10 and top 15 teams week after week no matter what. Understand that these polls have very little value, except to cause a little bit of inflation week to week. Be prepared to lay an extra point or two or find spots to go against these teams.

Adam Burke

Adam Burke

Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.