Cue the outrage over a meaningless ranking conducted more than six months before the start of the college football season – an automated ranking from ESPN Stats & Information had the audacity to rank Georgia Tech No. 23 going into the 2015 season.
The Yellow Jackets are the third-ranked ACC team in the ratings, behind Clemson at No. 19 and Florida State at No. 21. Tech finished the season No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll after winning the Orange Bowl and finishing 11-3.
ESPN’s Preseason FPI (Football Power Index) is based on four components – the teams’ efficiency on offense, defense and special teams, returning starters, recruiting rankings and coaching tenure.
In end-of-season ratings by ESPN’s metrics, Tech was ranked No. 7 on offense, No. 49 on defense and No. 83 on special teams. One would suspect Tech’s recruiting rankings did not help the Jackets in the ratings. Tech returns 13 starters, including quarterback Justin Thomas.
For what it’s worth, last year’s ratings had some significant hits. Three of the teams in the College Football Playoff – Florida State, Oregon and Alabama – were the top three ranked teams. Nine teams that finished in the AP top 15 were in the 2014 preseason FPI top 15, the same as the AP preseason top 25. A particularly prescient pick was Mississippi State, which ESPN’s preseason FPI picked 15th. The Bulldogs were unranked in the opening AP top 25. Like most others, it missed big on South Carolina and Stanford, which were both in the top 10 but finished the season unranked, not to mention the Jackets, who were No. 49 in last year’s preseason ratings, one spot behind Virginia.
Notably, Tech will play four teams ahead of it the rankings (No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 9 Georgia and Clemson and Florida State), two more teams in the top 30 (Virginia Tech at No. 26 and Miami at No. 29.) and another two in the top 45 (North Carolina at No. 35 and Pittsburgh at No. 42).