#collegesafety | Read the Polls. Debate Them. Definitely Don’t Count on Them.

“That’s big for us,” he finally said. “But we can’t focus on that too much because we know, realistically, at the end of the day, if we dominate every single game and we win out, we know the likely outcome. We try not to focus on the external too much because it just allows for distractions.”

It was essentially an echo of Noah Burks, an outside linebacker for Wisconsin, late last month.

“There’s been some stuff that we’ve seen on social media that’s kind of added fuel to the fire, but for the most part, we try to be the same team every week,” Burks said.

As the sport prepares for the sixth season of playoff rankings, there is history to show that even surveys conducted around the time of the selection committee’s meetings in suburban Dallas are only so insightful. Consider 2017, when the A.P. poll had Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the top four at the end of October.

Two days later, the first round of playoff rankings favored Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson. Ohio State was No. 6 and Wisconsin stood at No. 9. By the end of the season, Oklahoma was chosen for a semifinal and Notre Dame was No. 14.

Even after this past weekend’s scrambling of the pecking order, expect more shifts, and perhaps many more.

No. 4 Ohio State could face Wisconsin twice, once in late October and again in the Big Ten’s title game. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Louisiana State will play in November, and both still have dates with No. 11 Auburn. No. 3 Clemson has to contend with South Carolina. Georgia could still wind up playing for a Southeastern Conference title, where Alabama or L.S.U. might be ripe for an upset. There is a distinct possibility that Texas, now No. 15, and Oklahoma will meet again to determine the Big 12 champion.

And not one of those matchups contemplates the almost entirely unforeseen upsets, like the one South Carolina dealt Georgia.

After all, the rankings now don’t matter much.

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