College Football AP Poll Vs. KFord Most-Deserving Rankings: Stop Disrespecting James Madison

Written By Kelley Ford | Last Updated
college football rankings

College football polls are antiquated. Even the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee’s weekly top-25 rankings often do not accurately represent the most deserving teams. When the CFP ranks come out, the best college football betting sites adjust CFB odds, but several teams are being ranked too highly this week. Several other college football teams are not getting the respect they deserve. This week’s teams include Tennessee, Miami (FL), West Virginia, James Madison, and Iowa.

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.

For a full explanation of the inputs and concepts to keep in mind, refer back to my first CFB rankings post of the season.


college football rankings

OVERRANKED College football teams

No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers (4-1, 1-1): +14 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
  • W 41-20 vs No. 33 South Carolina

Tennessee is a strong team, ranking No. 15 in my power ratings. However, by mid-October, there is no excuse for the AP Poll to be serving as a power rating. With only one win against teams in the top 70 of my power ratings, it’s hard to rationalize ranking Tennessee in the top 30, let alone the top 20. 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. 33
  • REC: 84%; No. 36
  • SM: 1.8; No. 18

No. 25 Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-1, 0-1): +14 spots


  • W 38-3 vs No. 77 Miami (Ohio)
  • W 48-33 vs No. 16 Texas A&M
  • W 48-7 vs FCS Bethune-Cookman
  • W 41-7 at No. 112 Temple
  • L 20-23 vs No. 59 Georgia Tech

Like Tennessee, Miami is a strong team, ranking No. 20 in my power ratings. But again, that’s not what the AP Poll is supposed to be at the midway point of the season. From a mathematical perspective, the win against Texas A&M has been nullified – and then some – by the inexplicable loss to Georgia Tech. This is a classic, and unfortunately all-too-common, example of the Pollsters placing far too much emphasis on a single “good win.”

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 39
  • REC: 91%; No 41
  • SM: -0.7; No. 22

No. 18 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1): +13 spots


  • W 27-13 vs No. 74 Coastal Carolina
  • W 35-10 at No. 91 San Diego State
  • W 59-7 vs FCS NC Central
  • L 7-14 at No. 17 Utah
  • W 25-17 vs No. 31 Washington State

UCLA provides us with another textbook example of voter malpractice. The Bruins jumped from unranked (No. 29) last week in the AP Poll to No. 18 this week. Why? Because they beat AP No. 13-ranked Washington State at home…a game in which they were favored to win!

It is best practice to use a team’s opponents’ power rating, not ranking (AP Poll, CFP Selection Committee, Coaches Poll, etc.), when assigning credit for results and building a résumé.

Washington State is power-rated No. 31. UCLA should get credit for beating the No. 31 team at home, not the No. 13! There is no excuse for this error in today’s advanced analytics environment. 

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 31
  • REC: 82%; No. 32
  • SM: 1.0; No. 20

UNDERRANKED College football teams

No. 31 West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1, 2-0): -18 spots compared to KFord MD


  • L 15-38 at No. 5 Penn State
  • W 56-17 vs FCS Duquesne
  • W 17-6 vs No. 38 Pitt
  • W 20-13 vs No. 28 Texas Tech
  • W 24-21 at No. 26 TCU

For the third consecutive week, West Virginia remains No. 1 on my under-ranked list, now 17 spots lower in the AP Poll than my MD Rankings – it was 18 spots the past two weeks. 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. 5 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. Rank the Mountaineers!

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 14 (up from No. 15)
  • REC: 45%; No. 12 (down from No. 10 following their off week)
  • SM: -4.8; No. 30 (up from No. 34)

No. 34 James Madison Dukes (5-0, 2-0): -14 spots


  • W 38-3 vs FCS Bucknell
  • W 36-35 at No. 94 Virginia
  • W 16-14 at No. 60 Troy
  • W 45-38 at No. 86 Utah State
  • W 31-23 vs No. 56 South Alabama

James Madison is fighting two inappropriate stigmas slapped on the Dukes by AP Poll voters: “G5” status and the dreaded “eye test.” A team’s conference affiliation should have no bearing on its ranking. The résumé is the résumé, and it should be evaluated independently of the associated team or conference logo. The voters are holding them back because James Madison hasn’t “looked good” in their wins. The Dukes are winning games against quality enough competition that their résumé merits a top 20, not just top 25, ranking. Put the Dukes in your college football rankings, voters!

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 20
  • REC: 62%; No. 17
  • SM: -15.2; No. 64
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No. 34 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1): -10 spots


  • W 24-14 vs No. 86 Utah State
  • W 20-13 at No. 47 Iowa State
  • W 41-10 vs No. 117 Western Michigan
  • L 0-31 at No. 5 Penn State
  • W 26-16 vs No. 63 Michigan State
  • W 20-14 vs No. 54 Purdue

I don’t understand this one. Iowa, a Power 5 team, began the year ranked No. 25 in the Preseason AP Poll (aside: How can you even rank teams in the preseason? They haven’t played any games? Based on what are you ranking them? It makes no sense, but I digress.) and are 5-1 on the year with their only loss being at AP Poll-ranked No. 6 Penn State. By all accounts, this is a team the AP Poll voters would usually – and in this case, should – rank. All I can come up with is the voters are unjustly downgrading the Hawkeyes résumé (which is nonsensical) because this offense isn’t any good (which it isn’t, but that’s beside the point of résumé rankings).

KFord Résumé Metrics

  • MD: No. 24
  • REC: 66%; No. 20
  • SM: -10.0; No. 46

Full College Football FBS Most-Deserving Rankings

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