Top 25 poll analysis

Wartburg played its way up in the Top 25.Photo by Caleb Williams,

Wartburg played its way up in the Top 25.
Photo by Caleb Williams,

I’ve often told people that you can’t just analyze a team’s placement or movement in the Top 25 in a vacuum. The reality is, all 25 teams’ placement (and those in the others receiving votes) are all relative.

Case in point this week: Wittenberg moves down three spots in the first regular-season Top 25 after losing by six to Butler, a Division I FCS team (albeit, a non-scholarship opponent). When I’m voting, I try to keep a few things in mind: Did we expect this result, or should we have expected them to win? That may mean I don’t drop Wittenberg or a team in a similar situation (Thomas More) on my ballot.

Nonetheless, Wittenberg dropped three spots. And in all honesty, that’s because Wabash and Wartburg really deserved to move up. Wabash beat a ranked team, while Wartburg basically dismantled a pretty decent team.

It may also be helpful to look at the poll points. They can tell you two things — first of all, where are the tiers of teams, and secondly, how far a team truly moved each week.

Going back to Wittenberg as our example: The Tigers received 244 points in the preseason poll and 225 in the Week 1 poll. That difference of 19 points means that the 25 voters moved Wittenberg an average of about one spot on their ballot. But Wartburg went from 175 points to 267 (plus-92) and Wabash went from 191 to 294 (plus-103). Johns Hopkins, the other team that passed Wittenberg, gained 74 points as they helped erase one of the preseason concerns about their offense.

Wesley and Linfield swap spots. I think it’s pretty easy to see that Wesley beating a ranked team is more impressive than Linfield not playing. And this was only a shift of 12 points: Wesley trailed Linfield by five in the preseason and leads by seven now. There is a cluster of teams ranked 4-7 that are within 18 points of each other, then a big dropoff to No. 8 UW-Platteville and another one to No. 9 St. John Fisher.