October 8, 2013

Poll positions: Streaking up the rankings

More news about: John Carroll

At No. 21, John Carroll is the highest it has been in the D3football.com Top 25 since the first year of its existence, 2003.
John Carroll athletics photo

I saw a tweet last week from the folks at sportheory that listed Carroll as the No. 1 team in D-III. The Pioneers may have won two of their first three games, but 'Man,' I thought, 'you can't trust those math-based rankings."

Turns out they meant John Carroll, which at 4-0 with just seven points given up this season at least makes sense by the numbers. And the Blue Streaks make sense in the human polls too, moving up from 24 to 21 after a 54-0 win at Marietta. A computer ranking that doesn't take into account the long shadow cast by Mount Union's history could make this the No. 1 team in the country. For us living, breathing top-25 rankers, the true test won't come until Nov. 9 in Cleveland against Heidelberg and Nov. 16 at Mount Union.

Each year, about half the final poll starts the season unranked. As we approach the halfway point of 2013, the top 20 teams in the Week 5 poll were all ranked in the preseason, and John Carroll was the only team not receiving votes. That either speaks to a relatively predictable season to date -- aside from St. John's beating St. Thomas, most of the losses by top teams were against other top teams or those from other NCAA divisions -- or a relatively accurate D3football.com poll.

No. 1 votes

Mount Union's hold on No. 1 votes went from 15 to 16 this week, despite No. 2 Linfield beating then-No. 11 Pacific Lutheran 29-0 and No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor beating Trinity (Texas) 49-7. 

The Wildcats held steady at six votes and UMHB dropped one to three, but my guess is not that a UMHB voter flipped to Mount Union after the teams put up similar results (the Purple Raiders won at Ohio Northern, 58-7), but that there was more movement. I'd bet a voter somewhere saw that Linfield led PLU just 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter and moved its vote to Mount Union, while a UMHB voter saw the 29-0 final against the No. 11 team in the country and flipped to Linfield.

Me personally, I'm one of the three with UMHB. Any split between the three is negligible, as all three are off to great starts. A case can be made for all three, but my case is based on the home game each played against a top-15 team. UMHB, as I mentioned in Sunday's snap judgments, has the most impressive victory -- made even more impressive by Wesley's two bounce-back wins since and no other reason to ding them.

A voter who says Mount Union is the champ until someone beats them, or looks at Linfield's two wins over ranked teams and consecutive shutouts probably has a point too.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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