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Rankings Are Utterly Meaningless

Or, Why My Team is Definitively Worse Than Your Team.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

400 weeks of college football ago, on September 20, 1994, Indiana football was ranked by the Associated Press as the 25th best college football team in the nation. The following week would see Indiana fall out of the AP Top 25, and they are still waiting for a return to that hallowed ground.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to IU football, their streak of weeks outside the top 25 is the longest in the Big Ten, just barely edging Purdue by 221 weeks (for the arts majors frantically doing math, Purdue hasn’t made the poll for 179 weeks). Third in conference is Illinois (112 weeks), followed by Rutgers (91 weeks) and Maryland (82 weeks). Minnesota is the only other Big Ten squad that hasn’t been ranked in over a “year”, having gone 57 weeks since their last appearance.

Shockingly, however, Indiana doesn’t even come close to the longest streak in the nation, and by weeks alone is a long way from cracking the current top 5. The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana last appeared in the AP Poll on November 1, 1943, a poll which included Iowa Pre-Flight (but not Iowa) and also only 20 teams, the norm for the AP for most of its history until 1989. Their 1,081 unranked weeks leads Cornell (1,007), North Texas (910), New Mexico State (894), Rice (892), and SMU (528). Indiana slots 7th in this ranking, with Army, Wyoming, and Tulane rounding out the “top” 10. The next Power 5 team is Syracuse in 11th, having gone 268 weeks without cracking the poll.

Barring something miraculous, a return to the AP Poll will not happen this season for the Hoosiers. It would likely require a massive upset, given that Indiana’s most recent wins over ranked teams brought them a single #25 vote after upsetting Missouri in 2014 and a single #23 vote after upsetting Michigan State in 2016. Considering this is the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen at Indiana, we’ll likely be waiting a long time before seeing anything more than “Receiving Votes.”

But who knows? A long time ago, Indiana actually got first place votes in this poll. (Last occasion: November 13, 1967.) So really, anything is possible.