Iowa State’s poll dance with Michigan

For the first time since 2005, Iowa State is a ranked football team. But, at the same time, Iowa State hasn’t been ranked since 2012.

This contradictory situation exists because of borderline circumstances with the two major college football polls.

In this week’s Associated Press poll, the gold standard of polling with 80 years of experience behind it, the 5-2 Cyclones are #25 after a big win at Texas Tech. Iowa State replaced 5-2 Michigan, who got a thumping by Penn State. It is the first time ISU has been ranked by the AP since being #23 on Sept. 25, 2005; a double-overtime loss at Nebraska Oct. 1 ended that. But in this week’s Coaches’ Poll, run by USA Today, formerly branded with ESPN, ISU is 27th (in “still receiving votes”), while Michigan remains ranked at 25th.

This is the exact opposite of what happened in 2012. Then, Iowa State’s Oct. 6 road win at against a ranked TCU team that didn’t have its starting quarterback was enough to squeak in. ISU, 4-1, was ranked #25 in the Coaches Poll and was there for one week before losing to #5 Kansas State. The AP, however, gave the #25 slot to a 3-2 Michigan team, causing the poll drought discrepancy.

The Coaches’ Poll was used as a factor in computing BCS standings. (The AP pulled out after the 2004 season, which ended with three undefeated teams.) ESPN ditched the Coaches’ Poll in favor of the BCS rankings in the second half of each season, just like it now does with the College Football Playoff committee rankings. In the first BCS rankings of the 2012 season Oct. 14, the Cyclones still made it in at #24, but then lost to Oklahoma State and fell out of that one, too.

So Iowa State is both ranked and not ranked, depending on where you’re looking. (Schroedinger’s football team!) It will clear up one way or the other Saturday, when #4 TCU comes to Ames. Of the 13 times an AP-ranked ISU team has played an AP-ranked opponent, the Cyclones have won one (2002 Nebraska). A win would, in one year, triple ISU’s number of all-time wins against top-five teams — from 1 to 3.

That’s the cue to plug my “Iowa State vs. AP ranked teams” page and list, where the numbers are through the end of last season but this year’s Oklahoma score has been added because I still am not entirely sure that it actually happened.

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