College Football AP Poll vs. KFord Most-Deserving Rankings: Who Have You Beaten, Michigan?

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Written By Kelley Ford | Last Updated
college football rankings

The Associated Press (AP) Poll was first released during the 1936 college football season. Until the creation of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) during the 1998 season, the AP Poll served as the primary method through which the National Champion was crowned. Today, it’s still prominent until around Halloween, when the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee begins unveiling its weekly top-25 rankings. When the CFP ranks come out, the best college football betting sites adjust CFB odds. But I’m here to tell you there’s an argument to be made to throw both rankings systems into the garbage.

In today’s environment of advanced statistics and more sophisticated mathematical models, Polls and Selection Committees are no longer required to rank college football teams. Enter the KFord Most-Deserving Rankings.

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To summarize, my Most-Deserving (MD) Rankings are a results-oriented (résumé-based) metric that describes how a team has performed against its schedule (including scoring margin) relative to how the average top-25 FBS team would be expected to perform against that same schedule.

The two inputs are:

  • Record Achievement (REC): the percent chance that the average top-25 FBS team would achieve a team’s record, or better, given that team’s schedule – lower is better
  • Relative Scoring Margin (SM): average scoring margin per game relative to what would be expected of the average top 25 FBS team, given the schedule – higher is better

Which teams are the most over- and under-ranked by the AP Poll, according to my MD Rankings? Let’s discuss.

Two very important concepts to keep in mind:

  1. It is best practice to use a team’s opponents’ power rating, not ranking (AP Poll, CFP Selection Committee, etc.), when assigning credit for results and building a résumé.
  2. Opponents’ power ratings listed in the “results” sections below are KFord power ratings either currently or at the time the game was played, whichever is better. This approach allows for maximum credit to be earned by each team for each game.


OVERRANKED College football teams

No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers (3-1, 0-1): +25 spots compared to KFord MD


  • W 49-13 vs No. 86 Virginia (in Nashville, TN)
  • W 30-13 vs FCS Austin Peay
  • L 16-29 at No. 31 Florida
  • W 45-14 vs No. 72 UTSA

Tennessee is a strong team, ranking No. 18 in my power ratings. However, it is widely accepted that polls are supposed to be merit-based rankings. With no wins against teams in the top 70 of my power ratings, it’s hard to rationalize ranking Tennessee in the top 40, let alone the top 25. It’s clear to me that AP Poll voters are sticking to their preseason priors, in which Tennessee was ranked No. 12. 

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 46
  • REC: 94% (No. 51)
  • SM: -1.8 (No. 25)

No. 19 Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1): +24 spots


  • W 42-17 at No. 90 San Jose State
  • W 55-7 vs FCS UC Davis
  • W 26-9 vs No. 96 San Diego State
  • L 35-38 at No. 34 Washington State

Similar to Tennessee, Oregon State is a good team – No. 22 in my power ratings. But when a win on the road at the No. 90 power-rated team in the country is a team’s best win, I don’t understand how pollsters could rationalize casting a top 25 vote for that team. Oregon State was preseason No. 18, and it’s clear the AP Poll voters are again sticking to their priors.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 43
  • REC: 94% (No. 49)
  • SM: 3.3 (No. 17)

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (4-0, 1-0): +23 spots


  • W 30-3 vs No. 84 East Carolina
  • W 35-7 vs No. 94 UNLV
  • W 31-6 vs No. 114 Bowling Green
  • W 31-7 vs No. 48 Rutgers

Michigan is a classic example of the antiquated mentality that still persists with many AP Poll voters: if a team is ranked highly in the preseason and wins its games, it won’t fall in the rankings. Michigan entered the year ranked No. 2 and remains in that spot, despite having beaten only team power-rated in the top 80.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 25
  • REC: 78% (No. 29)
  • SM: 1.7 (No. 21)

UNDERRANKED College football teams

Unranked West Virginia Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0): -18 spots compared to KFord MD


  • L 15-38 at No. 2 Penn State
  • W 56-17 vs FCS Duquesne
  • W 17-6 vs No. 38 Pitt
  • W 20-13 vs No. 34 Texas Tech

West Virginia has two wins against teams with top 40 power ratings. And the Mountaineers only loss of the year is on the road to my No. 2 power-rated team. But since West Virginia wasn’t ranked in the preseason, the AP Poll voters are not giving the Mountaineers the respect they deserve for what they have accomplished on the field in 2023.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 21
  • REC: 70% (No. 18)
  • SM: -6.6 (No. 38)

No. 34 Syracuse Orange (4-0, 0-0): -12 spots


  • W 65-0 vs FCS Colgate
  • W 48-7 vs No. 117 Western Michigan
  • W 35-20 at No. 61 Purdue
  • W 29-16 vs No. 76 Army

Like West Virginia, Syracuse wasn’t ranked in the preseason. Because of that, the pollsters are not giving the Orange the credit they deserve for a 4-0 start, in which they have outscored their opponents – who have an average FBS power rating of No. 85 – by an average score of 44-11.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 22
  • REC: 75% (No. 24)
  • SM: 4.4 (No. 14)

No. 28 Colorado Buffaloes (3-1, 0-1): -11 spots


  • W 45-42 at No. 20 TCU
  • W 36-14 vs No. 50 Nebraska
  • W 43-35 (2OT) vs No. 107 Colorado State
  • L 6-42 at No. 7 Oregon

With all of the media hype surrounding Colorado this year, I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the Buffaloes are being disrespected by the AP Poll voters. With two wins over top 50 power-rated teams and their only loss against a top 10 power-rated team on the road (granted, by a lot), Colorado still deserves to be ranked in the top 20, but my numbers.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 17
  • REC: 60% (No. 14)
  • SM: -12.1 (No. 56)