Will Army be Ranked in the Only Preseason Poll that Matters?
Welcome back to those As For Football Fans who are reading their very first article since last season! Some of you are guilty, I know it, but you couldn’t resist that headline. How could you with Army’s season only weeks away?
To be honest, this is my first article back since last season, too. AFF Senior Writer Dan has been busy keeping folks entertained this off season. That’s good because as AFF’s First Captain, I do have a confession to make… I will not be writing as much this year.
Why you ask?
Two reasons. First, Dan is better at writing than me, and second, we have A LOT of new content coming to you this year. That’s going to take most of my time. However, I will write a few articles this season, especially pertaining to national rankings and bowl projections–my personal specialties.
Before you rapidly scroll to the bottom like a Plebe scrambling from Arvin Boxing to the Mess, please consider listening to (or watching) the As For Football Army Football Show on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, or Stitcher. This year the AFF Crew is putting even more effort into the show, introducing new segments and BIG TIME surprise guests. Furthermore, please sign up for our Email List. You’ll get emails from us with exclusive content, but more than anything, you get a chance to win our Ultimate Army Navy Experience Package.
Will Army Remain in the AP/Coaches Polls?
Ok so… it depends. Typical Officer Answer right?
You may have seen that the 2019 Coaches Preseason Poll was released on August 1st. Unfortunately the Coaches did not vote the Cadets into the Top 25. Army did receive enough votes, though, to come in 30th, just behind several Power 5 Teams. Only two G5 Teams were ahead of Army–Boise State and UCF. Of those, only our half brother Knights (UCF) made it into the top 25. Boise State ranked 27th.
Now don’t fret. It’s the AP Poll that truly matters. I researched the matter thoroughly using the Thayer method, and the problem is that there are almost too many variables to factor in when it comes to Preseason Rankings–Returning Starters, Quarterback Experience, Coach Continuity, Previous Year Ranking, etc. Don’t forget that the ole’ gut factor also plays a significant part in the minds of the 61 sports writers that make up the poll. There is a lot of noise, but I found enough consistencies across the last few years to come to an informed opinion.
What does the Data Say?
Over the last three seasons, almost five teams per year have finished in the Top 25 but not been ranked in the AP Poll to start the following season. The unfortunate 14 teams in this group consist of six G5 and eight P5 Teams. More relevant to the Black Knights, however, is the number of G5 teams that remained in the Top 25 from the end of one year to the start of the next.
That number is just three.
Those three have something in common…Beating a P5 Team. The winners were the 2016 USF Bulls who beat South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl (returned ranked at #19), the 2017 Boise State Broncos who beat Oregon (also returned to their previous spot at #22), and 2017 UCF who finished the year at #6 after beating Auburn (returned at #21 the following year due to Scott Frost’s departure and the loss of several key players).
2015 Navy and 2017 USF were the only two other teams out of the nine evaluated that beat a P5 team but did not return to the Top 25 the following year. Again, there was a common theme between those two teams–the departure of notable quarterback. Keenan Reynolds in Navy’s case (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little) and Quinton Flowers from USF.
In summary, P5 teams record in returning to the Top 25 is 58-8 while the G5 is 3-6. And like I stated above, all returning G5 teams ended their season with P5 victory.
2018 was an abnormal year because it saw six G5 teams end up in the final AP Top 25. Not all of these teams will stay ranked. In fact, when the 2019 AP Preseason rankings are released on Monday, I expect just two or three G5 teams to be in mix.
The list of competitors besides Army is as follows:
1. UCF. Finished #11 after losing to LSU. Returns 13 Starters.
2. Cincinnati. Finished #24 after beating VA Tech. Returns 14 Starters.
3. Boise State. Finished #23; bowl game against Boston College cancelled. Returns 13 Starters (Not QB).
4. Memphis. Finished unranked after losing to Wake Forest. Returns 14 Starters.
Utah State and Fresno State both finished 2018 in the Top 25 as well, but they each only return 9 starters and shouldn’t get the nod ahead of any of the teams listed above.
What some Sportswriters have already announced?
Four sportswriters have released preseason ballots publicly. Of the four, two had Army in the Top 25. In this particular sample Army received more votes than any G5 team. It is a little misleading, though, because of the #16 ranking given by Jon Wilner. If he had ranked Army at #19, then UCF would receive the most points despite getting on only one ballot vote (twenty-five points for #1; one point for #25).
If we don’t start in the Top 25, how long will it take to get in?
If Army starts outside the Top 25 but thumps Rice in Week 1, we might see the Black Knights ranked the very next week. UCF plays an FCS Team, but both Boise State and Cincinnati play P5 teams in Week 1. The Broncos head to Florida State, while the Bearcats travel to UCLA. If either lose while ranked we can expect Army (or some other deserving team) to fill the void. But if Boise and/or Cincinnati are unranked and win, they would get in ahead of an unranked Army team.
Continuing on this line of thought: What teams with wins in Week 1 could leapfrog Army into the Top 25? Alas, that’s a potentially large list, but we’ll focus on teams that should already be receiving votes.
1. Memphis vs Ole Miss
2. Fresno State vs USC
3. Utah State vs Wake Forest
4. Boise State or Cinncinati as previously mentioned
The good news is that if the Cadets are ranked and win, they shouldn’t slip even with an upset from the G5 teams listed above.
Although the historic trends are not on our side in that we didn’t beat a Power Five team in our bowl game, my lean is that we will see the Black Knights conduct a PLF* and land somewhere around #23. The Houston Massacre and the Oklahoma Thriller are too much for voters to forget.
Let’s see if the sportswriters love the Troops…
Beat Rice! Rest.
*Parachute Landing Fall for you legs out there.