Rankings thought process

Sports Equipment

I always think it’s interesting to watch rankings unfold throughout the course of the season. Of course, some people will say rankings don’t mean anything. For the most part, you’re probably right. What do rankings give us? They give us something to talk about and keep us informed on what games we should be paying attention to.

I’ve been a part of polls for many years and I have always felt like I have a good philosophy when it comes to ranking teams each week. Of course I think it’s good, it’s my idea! 

I’ve ran national polls for the NAIA through the Victory Sports Network and College Fanz Sports Network and for the last four years I have been a rater for one of the polls for South Dakota High School football and basketball.

What intrigues me the most is the number of people that believe a loss automatically means a drop in rankings. Why? If Team A is ranked No. 3 they are supposed to lose to Team B and Team C ranked ahead of them right? If we vote teams ahead of another it’s because we believe they are the better team. Seems simple enough. So if Team A loses to top-ranked Team C by a touchdown, why would they drop to 4 or 5 in the rankings? They were supposed to lose the game and it was close.

Additionally, I think we are too quick to forget about head-to-head match-ups that may have happened a few weeks ago. I say that knowing teams get players healthy or lose players to injury that may change what you think about a team, but I still think head-to-head contests should be considered.

Here’s an example – Last week Harrisburg entered the week ranked No. 1 in Class AA and got drilled by AAA No. 2 Sioux Falls Roosevelt. The teams are in different divisions with AAA being the higher division. It should be no surprise Harrisburg lost the game, especially considering the reason South Dakota has a AAA class is because the AA schools didn’t feel they could be as competitive week in and week out because they don’t have as many kids in the school, therefore, not as many out for football. So Harrisburg loses (wide margin) and No. 2 Mitchell blasts Sturgis, who hasn’t won a game and closest loss was by 36 points through four games. For some, that meant Mitchell should be the new No. 1 in Class 11AA. Both teams have the same record and when the two teams played to open the season Harrisburg won 27-10. To me, Harrisburg could still be the top of the class because I believe Roosevelt is on another level and would dominate all teams in AA. My opinion, yes.

Here’s my ranking philosophy:

  1. I always rank teams based on the rankings I submitted the week before, not based on how the poll actually turned out. This doesn’t mean I always get it right, but it does allow me to stay consistent with my beliefs throughout the season.
  2. If a team ranked lower loses to a team ranked higher and it is a close game, it is unlikely I will drop the team that lost much if at all. Because of what I mentioned earlier. Based on my rankings I believed the other team was better and should win the game.
  3. Take into consideration teams playing a higher level or higher division opponent. There is a reason divisions are made and the higher divisions, when based on enrollment, have more kids to choose from and often times that means a few more elite athletes.
  4. Consider opponents record and the season they are having. The win may be by a wide margin, but may not actually be that impressive.
  5. Head-to-head. If teams are close in the ranking, consider the result of the game the two teams played. Teams get one chance, usually, in the regular season to prove straight up they are better than another team.


Your philosophy may differ than mine and that is fine. You might also disagree with my approach. I’m not saying my way is the best or the right way, but it is something I have followed every time I have been a part of a poll. And I feel like it works.

This year I am keeping a database of how my rankings look throughout the year compared to the actual poll and how much both of them change throughout the season. It is interesting to look back and compare them.

If you do rankings I would be interested in your method, if you have one.




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