Why is USC ranked?

As the University of Southern California serves the second year of a two-year bowl ban, the AP Poll currently has them ranked 23rd, and they were a preseason top-25 team if memory serves. Due to the NCAA sanctions, the coaches’ poll won’t rank USC, and this seems right.

What I don’t understand is why the writers bother to rank a team that cannot appear in the postseason. If they are competitive and compelling despite their NCAA-imposed sanctions, I don’t have any problem with sports networks covering their games, but why rank them? What if they were number one? The AP wouldn’t name a team its national champion if they didn’t play in a bowl game, to say nothing of the BCS national championship game, so why do they rank a team at all that is guaranteed not to play in any bowl whatsoever?

The purpose of a ranking system, it would seem, is to determine which team is the best. If a rule prohibits a team from winning the championship, what’s the point of including it in the ranking system?

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