It is time once again to justify my weekly BlogPoll ballot.
Unsurprisingly, there were significant changes from my preseason ballot. I will try to justify each of these adjustments, but, as a general proposition, teams that refuted criticisms of their capability rose in the rankings or solidified their hold on their previous position, whereas teams that performed unimpressively lost ground.
Audrey Horne continues to look impressive and, accordingly, she retains her stranglehold on a high spot in the standings.
Here are the top 25 teams in the land from my vantage point here at Dawg Sports:
1. Texas: Honestly, if the Longhorns aren't the top team on your ballot, I don't know what sport you're watching. We came into the season thinking the race for the national championship was wide open because every contender had obvious flaws. Texas's Achilles heel supposedly was under center. By completing 12 of his 19 passes for 178 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions, in addition to rushing for a fourth score, Colt McCoy turned the question mark at quarterback into an exclamation point. The 'Horns are a clear No. 1 at this point.
2. Southern California: The Trojans' total domination of the Hogs impressed me. Fayetteville is a tough place to play and U.S.C. made the victory look easy. Southern California displays all the indicia of a national championship-caliber team and, right now, I wouldn't be able to deny the Men of Troy a berth in the title game.
3. Ohio State: I know it was just Northern Illinois, but the Buckeyes answered some questions on defense by holding the Huskies to 12 points. As I noted above, when a team about which I have doubts addresses those doubts convincingly, they get a bump in the standings.
4. Auburn: The Plainsmen dropped on my ballot because they allowed a clearly overmatched Washington State squad to hang around for far too long . . . then they demonstrated the complete lack of class to go for the touchdown with under three minutes remaining. The Tigers would do better to look good early than to look cheap late. When your star player admits to a lack of class, you deserve to drop a couple of notches on my ballot. I hate Auburn.
5. Florida State: There's no question about it . . . Monday night's victory was a gritty, gutsy win by a talented team fielding a speedy and dominating defense. While I wouldn't put the Seminoles in the national title picture just yet, this contest was the antithesis of last year's ugly in-state showdown.
6. Oregon: The Ducks officially got my attention by opening the season with a 48-10 win in conference play. I now think Oregon is the second-best squad in the Pac-10 and their victory was sufficiently complete to propel them to the verge of my top five.
7. Tennessee: I expected the Volunteers to be better. I even expected the Vols to be much better. I didn't expect them to be this much better. Rocky Top rockets towards the top with its impressive win over a then-top 10 team.
8. Iowa: Drew Tate played well in the Hawkeyes' 41-7 season-opening victory. Since the game was against a Division I-AA opponent, Iowa only moves up incrementally, but the Hawks are starting to convince me that their top 10 ranking is legitimate.
9. Florida: A lackluster start against Southern Miss, coupled with more impressive showings by lower-ranked teams, cost the Gators poll position.
Actually, Coach, you moved down on my ballot, so there's nothing for you to celebrate.
10. West Virginia: Steve Slaton was at it again, piling up 203 yards in a heated in-state rivalry game that produced a 42-10 Mountaineer victory. The size of the win pushed W.V.U. up a notch.
11. Louisiana State: I'd be lying if I said I felt good about knocking the Bayou Bengals out of the top 10. They performed well against substandard competition, but enough other teams earned promotions and there simply wasn't room enough to place the Tigers any higher than this, for which I apologize profusely to the L.S.U. faithful. It isn't fair, but those are the breaks, I'm afraid.
12. Louisville: When the Cardinals held a 31-0 lead on the Wildcats, I thought U. of L. would be moving up from the No. 8 spot on my ballot. However, when Louisville allowed Kentucky to mount a comeback and lost Michael Bush for the season, much of the luster came off of the Cards' prospects and they lost ground accordingly.
13. Michigan: A sluggish 27-7 win over Vanderbilt at home still counts as a victory, but it doesn't impress me, which is why the Wolverines dropped a spot.
Get a win next weekend and the Red and Black will move up, Coach. . . . I promise.
15. Miami (Florida): Is there even the slightest doubt that this is the best 0-1 team in America?
16. Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs won the game, but they trailed in the third quarter and pulled out a lackluster win, causing me to question T.C.U.'s worthiness for a spot in the top 15.
17. Notre Dame: If the Fighting Irish are No. 1, the Yellow Jackets are No. 2. The Golden Domers' vaunted offense was held in check by Georgia Tech and my doubts about the hype were confirmed in a big way.
18. U.C.L.A.: Ben Olson put up big numbers and what was expected to be a battle turned out to be a bloodletting, as the Bruins battered the Utes into submission by a 31-10 final margin. U.C.L.A.'s impressive performance caused me to be cautiously optimistic about Karl Dorrell's team, so they broke into my top 20.
19. Clemson: The Tigers' leap would have been larger after such an impressive showing in their opening game, but the loss of star linebacker Anthony Waters dampens the achievement and causes me to question whether a loftier ranking would be justified.
20. Penn State: I didn't know whether Joe Paterno had back-to-back good seasons left in him, which is why the Nittany Lions weren't ranked on my preseason ballot. I still don't know how good P.S.U. will turn out to be, but the defending Big Ten champions' 34-16 thrashing of Akron confirmed that Anthony Morelli is a quarterback and earned Penn State the benefit of the doubt.
Somebody wake JoePa up and let him know the Nittany Lions are ranked on my BlogPoll ballot!
21. Cal: I was never a believer in the Golden Bears, so I am only too happy to drop the Berkeley squad like a rock. The only thing that kept California in my top 25 at all was the heart Jeff Tedford's squad showed in attempting to come back.
22. Nebraska: These are not the Cornhuskers of old, but the Big Red Machine hung 49 points on Louisiana Tech, which was enough to allow Nebraska to crack the ranks of the . . . er, ranked.
23. Virginia Tech: It was just a Division I-AA opponent, so the Hokies' 38-0 win over Northeastern didn't relieve all of my nagging doubts about V.P.I., but it assuaged some of my concerns, which allowed Frank Beamer's squad to break into my top 25.
24. Oklahoma: I have plenty of respect for U.A.B., but the Sooners' uninspired performance against the Blazers verified the validity of all of my concerns about O.U. and caused Bob Stoops's squad to lose ground.
25. Alabama: When you're playing Hawaii at home, you shouldn't need a late defensive stand to preserve a 25-17 win, but that's exactly what the Crimson Tide required to emerge victorious . . . hence their drop from No. 20 to No. 25.
I didn't drop 'Bama from my BlogPoll ballot altogether out of respect for the Crimson Tide's head coach, Don Shula. Hmm? I'm sorry, what's that you say? Alabama is coached by Mike Shula? Who the heck is Mike Shula?
Dropping Out: Arizona State, Navy, and Utah. The Sun Devils, the Midshipmen, and the Utes all represented themselves poorly when taking on opponents against which each of them should have played better.
Others Receiving Consideration: Fresno State and Georgia Tech. Both teams need to follow up impressive showings with solid subsequent performances. The Bulldogs need to prove that they can play well both in and out of conference, while the Yellow Jackets need to convince me that they're not Michigan State with a Peach State mailing address.
Games I Watched: Mississippi State-South Carolina; Fresno State-Nevada; Georgia-Western Kentucky (which I attended); Cal-Tennessee (I told you I had a thing for Bonnie Bernstein!); Georgia Tech-Notre Dame; Auburn-Washington State; Arkansas-Southern California; Arizona-B.Y.U.; Oklahoma-U.A.B.; Memphis-Mississippi; Kentucky-Louisville; Florida State-Miami.