Final 2006 BlogPoll Ballot Explained (Part II)

Although the official polls have been released, BlogPoll ballots still are being submitted, because, here in the blogosphere, we would rather be thorough than quick.

Last night, I gave you my 32nd- through 11th-ranked teams, so, now, as promised, here is my top 10:

10. West Virginia (11-2)---The Mountaineers edged up from the 12th spot on my final regular season ballot on the strength of a resume largely identical to that possessed by Rutgers. Both West Virginia and the State University of New Jersey posted 11-2 records in the Big East and each could claim among its victims five teams with winning records, six bowl-eligible teams, and four teams that finished the season with fewer than six losses. Rich Rodriguez's squad edged out the Scarlet Knights for the last spot in the top 10 by virtue of a New Year's Day bowl victory over Georgia Tech and an overtime victory in the head-to-head meeting between the Big East runners-up.

Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, resume ranking does not take into account the attractiveness of a particular university's alumnae, or else Rutgers would have gotten a significant boost from having graduated Kristin Davis. (Photograph from Ask Men.)

9. Wisconsin (12-1)---If I'm giving your team no love and you want to get my attention, beating an S.E.C. divisional champion in a Sunshine State bowl game is the way to do it. I clearly underestimated the Badgers, whom I had ranked 17th in my final regular-season rankings. Nevertheless, despite their once-blemished ledger, I was unable to rank them any higher than ninth because Arkansas was one of only two teams with fewer than six losses to have fallen to U.W., because the Badgers' wins came against teams that went a combined 1-4 in bowl games, and because Wisconsin's loss to Michigan was not competitive. Had the B.C.S. championship game gone differently, the Badgers might have made it all the way up to No. 8, but, because the duel in the desert took the course it did, the best Big Ten team not to make it into a B.C.S. bowl game finished behind the best S.E.C. team not to make it into a B.C.S. bowl game.

8. Auburn (11-2)---The Plainsmen moved up a notch from the No. 9 spot on the strength of a campaign that included wins over seven bowl-eligible teams, including quality wins over Florida and Louisiana State. Two factors prevented the War Eagle from flying even higher on my ballot, however. First of all, the Tigers' two losses both came at home in games that were not close against opponents that arrived at Jordan-Hare Stadium as deserved underdogs. Secondly, I hate Auburn.

7. Louisiana State (11-2)---In theory, when two teams from the same conference finish with identical records, the one that beat the other head-to-head ought to be ranked higher, but the Bayou Bengals concluded the campaign as the more accomplished S.E.C. West squad. Both sets of Tigers beat four teams with winning records, seven bowl-eligible opponents, and four teams with fewer than six losses. However, L.S.U.'s losses were more forgivable than Auburn's, as each of the Fighting Tigers' setbacks was suffered on the road against a team that won 11 or more games. Victories over Arkansas, Notre Dame, and Tennessee heightened Louisiana State's achievement, earning Les Miles's team a ranking one spot above Auburn's. However, L.S.U. dropped from sixth to seventh due to other factors, including the 1-4 bowl record of the Bayou Bengals' victims.

6. Michigan (11-2)---As one might have expected, given their animal mascots, the Wolverines and the Fighting Tigers battled mightily for the sixth spot. L.S.U. and Michigan each went 11-2 while suffering similar setbacks. Neither squad lost on its home field; both squads lost one game narrowly and another by a wider margin; the combined record of the teams that beat the Maize and Blue (Ohio State and Southern California) was 23-3 and the combined record of the teams that beat the Bayou Bengals (Auburn and Florida) was 24-3. Although Louisiana State beat one more bowl-eligible opponent (7) than did Michigan (6), the Wolverines beat an additional team with nine or more wins (4) than their counterparts from Baton Rouge (3). In the end, it came down to the two teams' three best wins. L.S.U. hammered Notre Dame at a neutral site . . . but Michigan throttled the Fighting Irish in South Bend. Louisiana State beat Arkansas and Tennessee . . . but the Maize and Blue beat Penn State and Wisconsin. Since the Nittany Lions defeated the Volunteers and the aforementioned Badgers beat the Razorbacks, I believe it's fair to give Michigan more credit for its biggest wins; hence, the Wolverines dropped from third only to sixth on my ballot.

Dude, you got it handed to you in the Rose Bowl and I still only bumped you down three lousy spots. Quit complaining.

5. Ohio State (12-1)---The previously top-ranked Buckeyes' fifth-place finish might surprise some folks, but it shouldn't. Teams O.S.U. beat went 3-4 in bowl games and Jim Tressel's squad beat just five teams with winning records . . . the fewest of any team in the top five. Ohio State beat just four teams with fewer than six losses . . . the fewest of any team in the top five. The Buckeyes beat seven bowl-eligible teams . . . tied for the fewest among top five teams. O.S.U. beat just three teams with nine or more wins . . . tied for the fewest among top five teams. Finally, my top five teams combined to lose just five games between them and the only one of them to have suffered a full-fledged blowout loss was Ohio State. The cumulative effect of those factors was to knock the Buckeyes down four spots in the standings.

4. Southern California (11-2)---The Trojans defeated nine bowl-eligible teams and seven teams with winning records, conquering five teams with nine or more wins. The 1-6 bowl record posted by teams the Men of Troy defeated prevented U.S.C. from advancing past its previous No. 4 spot, but a 7-2 record against teams that made it into postseason play (including victories over Arkansas, Cal, Michigan, Nebraska, and Notre Dame), coupled with the fact that both of Southern California's losses were close games played on the road, kept Pete Carroll's crew from dropping.

3. Louisville (12-1)---The Big East's unblemished bowl record bolstered the case for the Cardinals, whose victims included eight teams with winning records and nine bowl-eligible teams. U. of L.'s lone loss was a close contest on the road and, during the regular season, Bobby Petrino's former charges squared off with teams that went a collective 6-2 in postseason play. Wins over A.C.C. champion Wake Forest and bowl champions Cincinnati, Kentucky, Miami, South Florida, and West Virginia---all but one of which were by margins of greater than a touchdown---got the once-beaten and previously seventh-ranked Cardinals into the top three.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think you hear Louisville knocking, I think the Cardinals are coming in, and I think they're bringing a better pizza made with better ingredients with them!

2. Boise State (13-0)---I tried. I really, really tried. In the end, though, I just couldn't do it. The Broncos deserved consideration, certainly. B.S.U. beat six teams with winning records, seven bowl-eligible teams, four teams with nine or more wins, six teams with fewer than half a dozen losses, and teams that went 4-2 in bowl games. The Broncos' victims included Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Oregon State. Their accomplishments clearly earned them a bump up from the No. 8 spot in which I previously had them ranked . . . but the Gators' dominance of the Buckeyes ended all doubt in my mind as to which team was most deserving of the top spot on my ballot, as much as it pains me to admit it.

1. Florida (13-1)---Yes, the Gators lost on the road in the Jungle. Yes, five of U.F.'s wins were by a touchdown or less. The resume compiled by the squad from Gainesville cannot be gainsaid, however, which is why (much to my chagrin) the Gators had nowhere to go but up from their previous No. 2 ranking. In Florida's 13 games against Division I-A competition, Nancy Meyer's team faced 11 opponents that went to bowl games and defeated 10 of them. Eight of the Gators' conquests were over teams that finished the year with fewer than six losses and six of their wins came against squads that concluded the autumn with nine or more victories. Florida faced the winners of the Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Emerald, GMAC, Liberty, Music City, and Sugar Bowls, beating six of the seven of them, and they capped it all off by crushing Ohio State in a postseason performance so dominant that the worst that can be said of it is that Steve Spurrier would have hung 50 on them. Can anyone argue with a straight face that any other team in the country could have gone 13-1 against that schedule?

All right, fine, then . . . yes, you are No. 1. You also have no class and you will be remembered in college football history as the first female head coach ever to have led a Division I-A school to a national championship.

Those are they, ladies and gentlemen. (There are ladies who read Dawg Sports . . . right?) You have before you my top 10. Questions? Comments? Criticisms? Feel free to share your point of view below.

(Oh, by the way . . . I'm supposed to report which games I watched. Let me put it this way; if I wasn't at work and/or it wasn't televised on the N.F.L. Network, I watched it. What I have is a sickness, I know.)

Go 'Dawgs!

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