Things went pretty much as expected atop the rankings during the fall season. Stanford was No. 1 in Golfweek’s pre-season ranking, followed closely by No. 2 Oklahoma State.
At the end of the fall season, Oklahoma State is No. 1, with two wins and two runners-up. Stanford, with one victory and three other top 4s, is next in line.
However, the next three spots in Golfweek’s rankings provide some of the shakeups of the fall campaign.
Florida, TCU and Florida State – Nos. 3-5, receptively – had very impressive fall performances.
The Gators, No. 18 in the preseason rankings, had three top-6 showings, including a second at Isleworth.
The Horned Frogs, who started the season No. 14, notched a trio of top 10s, highlighted by a victory at The Prestige.
The Seminoles posted four top 7s, including wins at the Golfweek Conference Challenge and Gary Koch Invitational.
Five teams moved into the top 30 this fall: Oregon State (No. 17), Virginia (20), Southern Methodist (25), North Florida (26) and Middle Tennessee State (27).
Those teams who dropped include Duke (No. 31 from No. 11), LSU (32 from 12), Colorado State (34 from 23), Wake Forest (39 from 28) and Arkansas (47 from 13).
Of that group, Oregon State was most impressive with four top-4 showings including a win at Giustina and a tie for first at The Ridges. Although Virginia didn’t win, the Cavaliers did not finish out of the top 4 in five starts.
SMU arguably had its best fall season ever. The Mustangs opened with victories at the Gopher Invitational and Adams Cup, had a slight hiccup with an eighth at the Jerry Pate (which was reduced to 18 holes due to weather), and closed with a third at Lone State and second at Baylor.
North Florida had a solid showing with seconds at Wolf Run and David Toms, and a fifth at the Koch to offset at T-10 at Brickyard. Middle Tennessee State, the Cinderella team at the 2008 NCAA Championship with a 15th-place finish, won the Mason Rudolph and Scenic City events and had two other top-6 showings.
On the flip side, Duke, which played just three events, had a pair of fifths and a ninth. LSU struggled early with a 10th at the Ping/Golfweek Invitational, an eighth at the Koch and a sixth at Brickyard, but came back strong to close its fall with a win at its own David Toms tournament.
Colorado State was up-and-down big time. The Rams won the Falcon and Del Walker, but finished 13th at the Ping/Golfweek Invitational and a tie for ninth at the Mackenzie.
Wake Forest just seemed to muddle along this fall with its best showing a third at VCU and worst a T-13 at Olympia Fields to go along with a sixth and seventh.
Arkansas closed last season with six consecutive second-place finishes, including the NCAA Championship, and opened the fall with a pair of seconds. The Razorbacks broke the string, but not in the way they would have liked, closing out their fall with a third, ninth and sixth.
In just over two months the spring season will get underway and it will be interesting to see if the overachievers can continue where they left off or the underachievers can surge back into the fold.
You can bet there’s going to be a handful of teams that were not preseason top 30s or even fall season top 30s that make their presence known as the weather warms.
It seems to happen every season, which is just one of the reasons why the spring campaign is always so much fun.
If you’re wondering why Oklahoma State and Stanford are currently ranked 1-2, just look at their individual performances.
The Cowboys have four players ranked in the top 40, led by No. 1 Peter Uihlein, a two-time winner this fall. He’s followed by Morgan Hoffmann (13), Trent Whitekiller (14) and Kevin Tway (39).
The Cardinal boasts three players among the top 55: Shiwan Kim (8), David Chung (25) and Steve Ziegler (53).
You’ve got to have some strong, dependable horses to run the race.