football-fbs flag

Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | August 19, 2019

How the AP preseason football poll predicts the College Football Playoff

Check out these 5 ACC teams to watch in 2019

Clemson is the preseason No. 1 for the first time in program history. The Tigers are ahead of Alabama in the 2019 preseason AP Poll.

"But how much do preseason polls actually matter?" you might ask. We analyzed the data and it turns out fans of the AP preseason No. 1 team should be pretty excited.

RELATED: Preseason Top 25 college football rankings

Alabama is the only team that has made the College Football Playoff in all five years of its existence, and from 2014 to 2018, the No. 1 team in the AP preseason poll made the playoff four times. The rest of the 2018 field — Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma — were ranked No. 2, No. 12 and No. 7, respectively, in the preseason.

Here's how the preseason AP poll correlates to the final College Football Playoff poll in the CFP era.

The categories below indicate for each preseason ranking in the AP poll, the teams' average ranking in the final CFP poll, the best finish, the worst finish, the number of times a team has been not ranked in the final CFP poll and the number of times a team with that AP preseason ranking made the College Football Playoff.

AP POLL AVG. RANKING BEST RANKING WORST RANKING NR CFP
1 3.2 1 7 0 4
2 4.2 1 11 0 3
3 9.2 2 NR 1 2
4 19.2 8 NR 2 0
5 6.8 1 20 0 3
6 14 3 NR 1 1
7 8.2 2 15 0 2
8 18.4 8 NR 1 0
9 23.4 6 NR 3 0
10 15 5 NR 1 0
11 25.6 8 NR 4 0
12 10.8 1 NR 1 2
13 26 17 NR 3 0
14 12.4 4 20 0 1
15 23.4 3 NR 3 1
16 27.4 17 NR 3 0
17 23.6 12 NR 3 0
18 19.4 9 NR 2 0
19 18.4 4 NR 2 1
20 22 9 NR 3 0
21 15.6 6 NR 1 0
22 29 25 NR 4 0
23 27 15 NR 4 0
24 24.8 16 NR 3 0
25 22.2 11 NR 2 0

While the sample size is just five years, recent history says it's best to be ranked No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 5 in the preseason AP poll. The preseason No. 4 team hasn't just never made the College Football Playoff but its best finish is eighth and its worst finish was outside of the top 25, twice.*Note: When calculating average finish in the CFP poll for teams that were ranked in the preseason AP poll, we assigned a rank value of 30 for any team that wasn't ranked in the final CFP poll.

MORE: College football teams with the most national championships

Teams ranked No. 1 through No. 7 in the preseason AP poll have combined for 15 of the 20 CFP appearances with Oklahoma in 2015 making the biggest jump to the top four from No. 19 in the preseason poll.

Heading into the season, the averages said that three of the top seven teams in the preseason AP poll make the CFP. That held true again in 2018 with Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma.

The first five years of the playoff also tell us that, on average, one team from outside the top 10 of the preseason AP poll will make the CFP. Notre Dame was the team this season at No. 12. Clemson (No. 12 in 2015), Washington (No. 14 in 2016), Georgia (No. 15 in 2017) and Oklahoma (No. 19 in 2015) have also proven it's possible to climb into national title contention from a lower ranking in the preseason poll.

If you're feeling confident, pick a team from outside the top 10, along with three schools ranked in the top seven of the preseason poll, because recent history says that's usually the recipe for determining who will be playing for a shot at the national championship.

College football rankings: Week 13 Top 25 polls for the 2019 season

We're onto Week 13 of the 2019 college football season. Get the College Football Playoff rankings, AP Poll and Coaches Poll Top 25 here.
READ MORE

2019 SEC football schedule: Game times, TV channels for every week

The 2019 SEC football season is through Week 12 and goes through the SEC Championship Game on December 7. Get the full schedule, including TV channels, here.
READ MORE

Undefeated college football teams in 2019

We're keeping track of all the remaining undefeated college football teams for the 2019 season. There are three teams that remain unbeaten.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners