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The latest college football top 25 poll has a few weird teams in it

If you’re a big college football fan like me, you may have noticed something different in its latest AP Top 25 polls: Weird teams.

OK, they’re not actually weird, they’re just weird to me. For example, Tulane went into Week 11 ranked 20th in the country. When I think of Tulane, I don’t think of college football, I think of standup comedian and alum, Anthony Jeselnik, who would likely tell his alma mater that it had no business being in the top 25. Right behind Tulane is James Madison. When I think of James Madison, I think of a 14th seed in the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Rounding out the top 25 are the Liberty Flames, a private Christian school whose nickname can’t just be a coincidence. That school makes me think of Jerry Falwell and those funny insurance commercials that are totally unrelated to the university (the insurance commercials, not Jerry Falwell).

Speaking of college basketball, it’s not uncommon to see a Group of Five school ranked in the top 25, but not so much in college football. And certainly not three at once.

Again, weird.

But also cool.

Tulane is a member of the American Athletic Conference and went into Saturday with an 8-1 overall record and a 6-0 mark in the conference. James Madison entered the weekend with a 9-0 record and was 6-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. As for LIberty? It was 9-0 overall and 7-0 in Conference USA.

What does this all mean? Does it mean that these college football programs, and programs on their level, are ready to compete with the big boys in those Power Five conferences? Not likely, but I think it may be a byproduct of the transfer portal and kids wanting to play somewhere, anywhere, sooner rather than having to sit on the bench for a year or three.

That’s just a guess, of course, but seeing so many non-traditional schools in the top 25 is fascinating.

If you peruse the latest BCS rankings, it predictably wipes out Liberty, James Madison and….wait, Tulane managed to sneak in at 23. Certainly not anywhere close enough to sniff one of the bids for the annual four-team college football playoff, but what about next year when the tournament becomes an actual tournament by expanding to 12 teams?

You might think that’s crazy talk–the committee would just take the winners of the Power Five conferences along with several of their runners-up–but the top six ranked conference champions get bids to the tournament. Since there are only five, well, Power Five conferences, that means a school like Tulane would have a shot at the dance. And unless the Pac-12 can quickly do something about its recent defections, that could leave room for another Group of Five champion to make the field.

Let’s face it, the powers that be who pick the schools to play for the annual college football national championship will never take a Group of Five program like Tulane, James Madison or Liberty seriously. But starting next year, when one of those teams could be representing their university in the expanded tournament, the Power Five program they’ll be facing will have no choice.



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