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Rankings are dumb, aka NC State remains out of Top 25 after 9-3 regular season

It doesn’t matter, but then again it kind of does really matter

East Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

NC State had a very good season, one of its best ever, finishing the regular season 9-3 (5-3). Yet, they remain unranked in the Week 15 polls.

On the one hand, it doesn’t make sense to get worked up by these things. Outside of finishing in the CFP top 4, or maybe the top 12 where a New Years 6 bowl game is on the line, rankings don’t REALLY matter. Right?

But actually, they do matter. To be able to say to recruits that we’re finishing consecutive seasons ranked in the top 25 makes a difference. Dave Doeren wanted to schedule a 12th game to have the potential to win 9 or 10 games. He has been open that recruits pay attention to how the program does year over year. Also, having that one extra win is helping as we speak for bowl jockeying. This was a great strategy by the coach.

I thought after demolibliterating Eastern Carolina, NC State would reenter either the CFP or AP top 25 polls, preferably both. They were left out of both, landing in the Others Receiving Votes of the AP, finishing at 28th technically.

Maybe I was overreacting by feeling this wasn’t the usual result for teams finishing with as many wins? So let’s look at all of D1, and see how the Wolfpack stack up.

First, these are all the teams landing in the current CFP rankings. From spots 1 through 9, all the teams won 10 or more games. Here are the rest:

10 Florida 9-3

11 LSU 9-3

12 Penn State 9-3

13 Washington State 10-2

14 Kentucky 9-3

15 Texas 9-4

16 West Virginia 8-3

17 Utah 9-4

18 Mississippi State 8-4

19 Texas A&M 8-4

20 Syracuse 9-3

21 Fresno State 11-2

22 Northwestern 8-5 (26th in Week 15 AP)

23 Missouri 8-4

24 Iowa State 8-4

25 Boise State 10-3

This list includes 16 teams. For comparison’s sake, we can remove 2 non Power 5 teams and Washington State which won 10 games. Of the remaining 13 teams, 7 won 9 games, and 6 won 8 games.

Here is the remaining list of UNRANKED D1 teams that won either 9 or 10 games:

9 wins:

North Texas, 9-3 (C-USA)

Troy, 9-3 (Sun Belt)

Georgia Southern, 9-3 (Sun Belt)

Army, 9-2 (Independent), 22nd in Week 15 AP

10 wins:

Cincinnati, 10-2 (AAC)

Appalachian State (Sun Belt)

UAB, 10-3 (C-USA)

Buffalo, 10-3 (MAC)

Utah State, 10-2 (MWC)

What does this mean??

Notice anything from the above groups? All these teams are non P5. This means NC State is the ONE P5 team in D1 that finished the regular season unranked with 9 or more wins. Now, rankings are subjective affairs. And like it or not, they are largely winning streak dependent. Lose a couple and you drop like a rock. Lose 3 of 4 like the Wolfpack did and you drop out completely. But if that’s the case, then winning 3 straight should make the case for returning.

Getting bent out of shape about midseason rankings is dumb. Starting the season 5-0, rising to the top 15 and playing what-ifs about placement in the CFP is jumping the gun. We always say, “just wait, these things always shake themselves out”. And by and large that is true. But what happens when they don’t?

Many of you are yelling right now, “WAKE FOREST!!”

Yes, that one loss dropped State out of the top 25. Without that loss, the Wolfpack could very well be at or near the top 10, and talking about a NY6 bowl. It was a high profile game on national TV. It hurt, but NC State has done enough to regain footing after what really could have sank the season.

NC State’s other two losses were against ranked opponents on the road, Clemson and Syracuse. The losses themselves aren’t inherently bad, but the timing of them being back to back did not help. And just for the sake of comparison, Syracuse has 2 losses against top 5 teams, Clemson and Notre Dame, the third being against Pitt (Coastal division winner, high five to them). Non conference wins are relatively equivalent, they beat mostly the same teams within the conference. Their best ACC win is against..well..NC State (ranked 22nd at the time). They had a 2 game losing streak surrounded by 4 game winning streaks. Comparing with others is usually a fool’s errand, as the schedules are not apples to apples.

Rankings are dumb

Ultimately, the number doesn’t REALLY matter, and complaining about it matters less. The Pack were still placed in a Tier 1 bowl game, and can be proud at the end of the day they had a great season. But like being featured on College Gameday, these things do matter in the grand scheme of things. NC State is heading to Jacksonville for a Gator Bowl return. They have a shot at 10 wins, which is huge. But also, they now need to win their final game of the season in order to finish ranked in the top 25. To me, that is an additional brick in the brickyard Doeren is laying. Finishing consecutive seasons in the top 25 has only happened 3 other times in school history. Here’s hoping they can take down the Jimbo Aggies (who are 8-4 and 19th, btw), get that 10th win and secure their spot in Wolfpack history.