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Do AP Preseason Rankings Matter? An Analysis of OSU’s History With the Poll Says No



Oklahoma State was recently left out of the AP preseason poll for 2018, making it the seventh year in Gundy’s tenure when the Cowboys start the season as an unranked team.

The AP poll’s preseason rankings have been relatively close to the Cowboys’ final ranking for the past couple of years, but that’s not the case for when the team starts the season unranked. Here’s a look at recent history of the poll and OSU’s standing in both the preseason and final poll dating back to 2008.

YEAR AP Preseason Poll AP Final Poll Change
2017 12 14 -2
2016 20 11 9
2015 Unranked 20 6
2014 Unranked Unranked 0
2013 14 17 -3
2012 15 Unranked -11
2011 9 3 6
2010 Unranked 13 13
2009 9 Unranked -17
2008 Unranked 16 10

In the past ten years, OSU has only started and finished the season unranked once. That year, which was the 2014 season, saw the Cowboys get up to No. 16 after a 5-1 start. But a five-game losing skid would quickly pull the Pokes out of the rankings before they salvaged the season with back-to-back wins in Bedlam and in the postseason.

The other three instances where OSU started unranked concluded with the Cowboys making the final poll. In 2008, the trio of Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant helped lead the team to a 9-4 season. The Pokes got off to a 7-0 start, including an upset victory at No. 3 Missouri, but they lost four of their last six, all to ranked opponents.

The 2010 Cowboys entered the season with a number of uncertainties, including a new offensive coordinator, a former walk-on starting at quarterback and a relatively unproven receiving corps following Dez Bryant’s departure. But the Cowboys would record the program’s productive offense in Gundy’s tenure in both yards and points per game, only to be topped in the following year.

In 2015, Oklahoma State entered the season with a lingering concern at offensive line after the unit struggled in the past season. The Cowboys got off to a surprising 10-0 start with J.W. Walsh, Mason Rudolph and James Washington at the helm, but the team fell in their last three games, including a 48-20 loss to Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.

If history indicates anything for the Cowboys, it will tell us that a preseason unranked status means little to nothing in predicting their actual finish. Additionally, national media have likely gotten wrapped up in the fact that OSU has lost both Rudolph and Washington, but with the talent still on the roster, the Pokes will have every opportunity to finish the season in the national rankings.

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