Like many of you reading this, or who check The Reporter website each Wednesday when the latest batch of prep football rankings come down, I find weekly rankings in football to be a fascinating topic, and at minimum an interesting discussion point when looking at a team’s schedule or hype entering the season.
Full disclosure, I am one of the people who votes in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s weekly polls (if I didn’t vote for your team it’s because I hate them. I’m kidding of course, but at least once this season I did have an AD for a school outside our area ask why I didn’t rank his school.), and it’s one of the most fun, challenging parts of my week trying to figure out who belongs where.
To give you some sort of an idea of how this works, each Monday when I come into work there is (usually) a cheat sheet we get that compiles who beat or lost to who in the Top-10 of each classification that past week, and from there you start to work your way down the list and the classes to put together what you think are the 10 best teams in each class.
Being new to Alabama and high school football across the state, relying on the help of other writers or the wealth of knowledge that Shannon Allen has about various teams has helped me cast my ballot each week, because as you may have guessed, it’s not always the easiest task trying to rank 80 teams each week when we cover 10, and might see another 10 or so teams that we don’t cover regularly throughout the year.
There are some weeks, classes, and teams that are extremely easy, like two weeks ago when the entire Top-10 of Class 7A won their games. Simple enough, no changes needed there, and really, putting anyone but Thompson at the top of the 7A rankings is probably enough of a reason to lose your voting privileges. Or voting for Fyffe each week. They’ve won 49 games in a row, three-straight titles, so until someone beats them, they go in at No. 1 in the 3A polls each week, and have been so nearly unanimously each week in the polls.
The challenge each week comes when a ranked team loses, particularly when that loss comes to an unranked team. I’m of the opinion (for both college and high school) that rankings shouldn’t come out until three to four games have been played, because how many times has a team been ranked highly in the preseason…only to bottom out and have a lousy year leaving everyone wondering how they could have been ranked so high?
But back to figuring out where to rank a team off a loss, or where to rank a team that earns a victory over a ranked team, or even a team like Sylvania who took Fyffe to the limit in a couple weeks back. The example this week I’ll use is Geraldine and Plainview.
Plainview entered the week ranked No. 4 in 3A, Geraldine was unranked. After Friday night, they both have the same record, but the Bulldogs have a head-to-head win, and while I think Plainview is still a Top-10 team, Geraldine, on my ballot at least, is ranked higher than the Bears. I have no idea how the other people voted this week, but that’s at least my process.
Update: The rest of the voters didn't have the same idea as me as Geraldine just missed out on the Top-10 this week, unofficially coming in at No. 11 in 3A.
This is all a long way of saying, there’s more that goes into a team’s ranking each week than just their record. Because let’s be honest, a 3-1 team that lost to say the No. 3 ranked team in their class is probably a better team than one that’s 4-0 but three of those wins have been by punching down and playing schools two or three classes smaller than them. It’s a combination of opponents played, how they looked in those wins, and frankly, reputation sometimes.
It’s a fun process that makes me think each week, and also keeps me up to date on what’s happening across the state in high school football, and one I’m glad to be a part of every Monday when I vote, and every Wednesday when I see the full results come down.