For the first time since September of 2008, the Fighting Illini Football team is ranked. Hooray!
Though we’re all ecstatic, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Illinois fought hard to beat a ranked Arizona State last week, who was #22 in the AP Poll and #18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
This week, the Illini earned a #24 ranking in the AP Poll and, let’s see here, other votes received from the Coaches Poll right behind Ohio State. Huh? Didn’t Ohio State lose in an ugly fashion last weekend? How strange.
I’ve got a few questions on that AP Poll (ahem Clemson and TCU), but considering Illinois is at least on the list, I’m not going to complain. Especially since Arizona State was only #22 on that poll and we didn’t blow them out, because that’s apparently the only way to actually win a game.
So let’s take a closer look at who nabbed a ranking above the Illini in the Coaches Poll. Remember, this is the poll where ASU had a pretty solid #18, so wouldn’t a win here be worth more? Not to mention the fact that this is voted on by coaches, who can really appreciate the defensive effort Illinois put forth in the 17-14 win.
First you have #14 Florida State and #13 Oregon, who both have a 2-1 record compared to Illinois’ 3-0 record. Since Oregon lost to a ranked LSU in the season opener, I guess I’ll let that slide. Oregon then killed both Nevada and Missouri State, neither of which are teams that will make any noise, but they were blowouts.
Florida State is in a similar position with a 2-1 record with a loss against a ranked team (#1 OU) and blowouts against subpar teams (Louisiana Monroe, Charleston Southern). So with this reasoning, if Illinois had perhaps lost to ASU they would be ranked? Or no because ASU was only a top 20 team and not a top 10 team. Again, we’ll let those slide since they did at least face ranked teams.
Here’s what I don’t understand, those guys at the bottom of the list: #22 Clemson, #23, Michigan State, #24 Georgia Tech, and #25 North Carolina (Wha??). Then of course there is that guy receiving votes ahead of us that I mentioned before.
If we were talking about basketball, then maybe I could understand the snub – but it’s football!
Let’s start with Clemson, Georgia Tech and UNC. All of them have 3-0 records. Clemson beat Auburn, who was ranked 19 last week in the Coaches Poll, and then two nobodies. Illinois beat the No. 18 team and two nobodies. Georgia Tech beat three unranked teams: Kansas and two nobodies. Again, this is football! Kansas doesn’t get extra points in football for being Kansas. Lastly, North Carolina beat Rutgers by just 2 points, Virginia by 11 points and then beat down James Madison. Are any of these teams ranked you ask? Why no!
So now let’s take a look at my buddies in the Big Ten. Michigan State lost to an unranked Notre Dame, and somehow that means they get to sit pretty up there at #23? Prior to that they beat two football powerhouses Florida Atlantic and Youngstown State. MSU put up a good effort against Notre Dame though, right? The loss was 37-17, and it was Notre Dame’s first win of the season. Makes you think?
Then back to OSU. At least they fell off the rankings, but who gave them more votes than Illinois? Sure they killed Akron in the first game of the season, but they barely scraped by Toledo, and then they got crushed by an equally troubled Miami team! Are these pity votes?
I have a few of these rants each year during basketball season, but I’m not used to paying close attention to the football rankings because it’s been a few years since it mattered. When I let the rankings get to me, people talk me down off the cliff by saying they make no sense and ignore them, especially since it’s nearly impossible to rank teams before they even play. These pre-season rankings come from last year’s performance, and since Illinois went out on a high note with a bowl win against Baylor (who incidentally is ranked this week), I would think it would have some sort of positive effect. I just want my team to get the credit it deserves.
In the end, the rankings shouldn’t matter to the team anyway. All I can hope for is that Illinois continues to do its job and win and ignore what the coaches and the media have to say. Although, it would be sort of nice if Arizona State were to beat USC next week (this is tough for a USC alum to say, but it would help my cause) and prove that the Illini deserve more attention than they’re getting.
However, maybe it’s better sometimes to just stay under the radar.
If you’d like to gape at the rankings yourself, click here: