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Giger Counters: Rankings can be silly, but they serve purpose by getting people talking and debating

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Journey Brown

We love to debate — and even to argue! — in this country. It’s just who we are and how we’re built in our society.

In sports, we love to debate whether my team is better than your team. In many sports, we’ll find out the answer eventually, when the two teams play each other head to head.

In college sports, though, we don’t get all of the head-to-head matchups we want. We get some of them — Penn State vs. Ohio State every year, for instance — but we rarely get to see how our teams match up against those from around the country.

Bragging rights, therefore, are hard to come by.

That’s why rankings are such an integral, fascinating and infuriating aspect of college sports, particularly football.

With nothing else to go on and no other gauge available, we can always pound our chest when we see our team ranked ahead of another team.

The perception is: My team is better than your team, because it says so right there in the rankings.

Truth be told, the rankings are really meaningless. And I think everyone realizes that.

They do not tell us which team is better than another team. That’s just flat-out wrong, since upsets happen all the time.

OK, so what is the purpose of the rankings?

Easy.

To stir up debate and create interest in college sports.

The NFL now has rankings, done by The Associated Press. No one cares because those rankings truly are useless.

The NBA, MLB and NHL don’t have and don’t need rankings. Again, because no one would care.

Oh, but we do care about rankings in college football.

We care a TON!

Like they are some sort of gospel.

Which is, of course, silly. But hey, that’s just the way it is, and nothing is gonna change it.

All of this brings me to the issue of whether Big Ten and Pac 12 teams should be ranked in the current AP and coaches polls.

The Big Ten won’t start playing for another four weeks, the Pac 12 for another six weeks.

But lo and behold, there are four Big Ten teams (6. Ohio State, 10. PSU, 19. Wisconsin, 23. Michigan) and one Pac 12 team (14. Oregon) ranked in the AP Top 25 this week. The AP had been holding out and not including Big Ten or Pac 12 teams in its poll, until reversing course last week.

By the time the Big Ten starts its season, most other teams around the country will have played five or six games already. We will have a good feel for who and what they are, and how they stack up with one another.

And yet, those five teams from the Big Ten and Pac 12 will still be ranked, having done nothing on the field whatsoever to give us any indication if they’re worthy.

In some cases, you’ll have 5-0 or 6-0 teams ranked behind teams that have yet to play a game, which seems sort of ridiculous. Pitt could be one of those teams. The No. 24 Panthers could be 6-0 and still ranked behind Penn State come the Nittany Lions’ Oct. 24 opener.

And you know what? I’m perfectly fine with all of that.

Why? Because this ranking silliness gives us something to talk about, plain and simple.

That’s what the rankings are for. They spark debate, give us something to think about and keep fans focused on college football while the sport competes with the NFL behemoth.

Pitt actually dropped three spots in the rankings despite a good home win over Louisville. That didn’t sit well with one Pitt player.

Should we take these media and coaches rankings all that seriously? No. Not anymore. Sure, they carried great weight back in the day, deciding national championships and bowl participants, but now we have the College Football Playoff Committee rankings to do all that.

Those CFP rankings absolutely are incredibly important. And we’ll have to wait a while until we see them this season.

These media and coaches rankings? They exist merely for our entertainment and amusement.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career.

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