College Football AP Poll vs. KFord Most-Deserving Rankings: Voters Still Too High On 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. I’m here to tell you there’s an argument to be made to throw it into the garbage. Even the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee’s weekly top-25 rankings often do not accurately represent which teams are most deserving. When the CFP ranks come out, the best college football betting sites adjust CFB odds, but did these opinion-based rankings get it right in the first place? So far this season, Michigan is the team that’s too high.

In today’s environment of advanced statistics and more sophisticated mathematical models, better ways exist 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. 2 Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 2-0): +15 spots compared to KFord MD


  • W 30-3 vs No. 84 East Carolina
  • W 35-7 vs No. 88 UNLV
  • W 31-6 vs No. 105 Bowling Green
  • W 31-7 vs No. 44 Rutgers
  • W 45-7 at No. 64 Nebraska

Last week, Michigan was No. 3 on my over-ranked list, 23 spots higher in the AP Poll than my MD Rankings. This week, Michigan is No. 1 on this list; however, the Wolverines are now only over-ranked by 15 spots. Michigan rose from No. 25 to No. 17 in my MD Rankings following a dominant win against power-rated No. 64 Nebraska. The Wolverines’ résumé was also helped by previous opponents UNLV (+10), Bowling Green (+9), and Rutgers (+4) all rising in the power ratings.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 17 (up from No. 25)
  • REC: 64%; No. 19 (up from No. 29)
  • SM: 7.3; No. 10 (up from No. 21)

No. 15 Oregon State Beavers (4-1, 1-1): +14 spots


  • W 42-17 at No. 92 San Jose State
  • W 55-7 vs FCS UC Davis
  • W 26-9 vs No. 103 San Diego State
  • L 35-38 at No. 34 Washington State
  • W 21-7 vs No. 21 Utah

Oregon State was No. 2 on this list last week as well. But like the Wolverines, the Beavers aren’t as over-ranked this week (+14 spots in the AP Poll compared to my MD Rankings) as they were last week (+24 spots). Unlike Michigan, Oregon State’s previous opponents didn’t do the Beavers’ résumé any favors this week. However, Oregon State added their best win of the year, by far, last week against then-No. 21 power-rated Utah in Corvallis.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 29 (up from No. 43)
  • REC: 81%; No 35 (up from No. 49)
  • SM: 3.9; No. 16 (up from No. 17)

No. 9 USC Trojans (5-0, 3-0): +11 spots


  • W 56-28 vs No. 92 San Jose State
  • W 66-14 vs No. 118 Nevada
  • W 56-10 vs No. 87 Stanford
  • W 42-28 vs No. 97 Arizona State
  • W 48-41 vs No. 56 Colorado

USC is a strong team, ranking No. 12 in my power ratings. However, polls are intended to be merit-based rankings, especially now that the calendar has turned to October. With no wins against teams in the top 55 of my power ratings and only one win against a top-85 team, it’s hard to rationalize ranking USC in the top 10. It’s clear to me that AP Poll voters are still sticking to their preseason priors, in which USC was ranked No. 6. 

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 20
  • REC: 69%; No. 23
  • SM: 6.3; No. 12

UNDERRANKED College football teams

No. 33 West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1, 2-0): -18 spots compared to KFord MD


  • L 15-38 at No. 3 Penn State
  • W 56-17 vs FCS Duquesne
  • W 17-6 vs No. 38 Pitt
  • W 20-13 vs No. 32 Texas Tech
  • W 24-21 at No. 26 TCU

West Virginia remains No. 1 on my under-ranked list, still 18 spots lower in the AP Poll than my MD Rankings – the exact same as last week. West Virginia has three wins against teams with top-40 power ratings. And the Mountaineers only loss of the year is on the road to my No. 3 power-rated team. But since West Virginia wasn’t ranked in the preseason, the AP Poll voters are still not giving the Mountaineers the respect they deserve for what they have accomplished on the field in 2023.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 15 (up from No. 21)
  • REC: 47%; No. 10 (up from No. 18)
  • SM: 5.3; No. 34 (up from No. 38)

No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (4-1, 1-1): -10 spots


  • W 73-7 vs FCS Mercer
  • W 37-20 at No. 38 Tulane
  • W 48-23 vs No. 65 Georgia Tech
  • L 10-24 at No. 4 Alabama
  • W 55-49 vs No. 14 LSU

Ole Miss has two wins against top-40 power-rated teams and the Rebels only loss on the year is at No. 4 power-rated Alabama. AP Poll voters have historically been notorious for over-punishing teams with a loss this early in the season. The objective numbers suggest Ole Miss is being held back because of that this year.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 6
  • REC: 43%; No. 7
  • SM: 10.9; No. 7
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No. 21 Missouri Tigers (5-0, 1-0): -8 spots


  • W 35-10 vs FCS South Dakota
  • W 23-19 vs No. 108 Middle Tennessee
  • W 30-27 vs No. 17 Kansas State
  • W 34-27 vs No. 49 Memphis (in St. Louis)
  • W 38-21 at No. 97 Vanderbilt

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the AP Poll voters are disrespecting an undefeated SEC team in college football rankings. With two wins over top-50 power-rated teams, Missouri has put together one of the most impressive records, relative to expected given the schedule, in the entire country. But because the Tigers haven’t “passed the eye test” (gross), they are being held back by the AP Poll voters.

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 13
  • REC: 45%; No. 9
  • SM: -8.2; No. 42
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