All that stuff I said last week about how tough it was to fill out a BlogPoll ballot after a topsy-turvy weekend? Well, that's no less true this Sunday than it was last Sunday. The only real solace I can take in yesterday's loss to Tennessee is that it wasn't even among the top ten crazy things to have happened in college football in the last two weekends.
Here, after the dust settled, is how my top 25 looked:
Naturally, the Bayou Bengals retain their hold on the No. 1 spot. With the Golden Bears idle and the Trojans going down to defeat, there really was no question that Louisiana State would remain entrenched at the top of my ballot after winning a thriller with Florida. Accompanying wins by L.S.U. victims Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech were just gravy.
Cal held fast at No. 2, despite having the weekend off, because the Berkeley Bears' season-opening win over the Vols gained additional glamour on Saturday, so the two best wins registered by Jeff Tedford's team (at Oregon and against Tennessee) seemed to me to be superior to the Buckeyes' two best victories (at Purdue and at Washington). Accordingly, Ohio State ascended one notch to No. 3 but did not displace California as the putative silver medalist.
Although South Florida dallied with the Owls---and what, pray tell, were the Bulls doing playing at Florida Atlantic in the first place?---U.S.F. inched up a notch on the strength of a 5-0 record that included wins at Auburn and against West Virginia, two teams that won by a combined 90-21 margin yesterday.
The Sun Devils leapfrogged the Eagles for the final place in the top five in spite of winning in Pullman on a missed Cougar field goal to claim victory over 2-4 Washington State because Dennis Erickson's squad also brought wins over Colorado and Oregon State to the table. This gave Arizona State a more sparkling resume than that possessed by Boston College, in light of the fact that the Eagles' victories over Georgia Tech and N.C. State now look worse than they did previously.
A.S.U., be forewarned: Dennis Erickson is your coach, this guy is your mascot, and your team is 6-0. The only reasonable conclusion is that your top five ranking was purchased at the price of your immortal soul.
The Sooners remain the best once-beaten team in the land after adding a win in the Red River Shootout to their previous hammering of Miami (Florida). The Gamecocks' convincing victory over Kentucky augmented a resume that already included victories over Georgia and Mississippi State, vaulting the Palmetto State Poultry into the top ten.
The other U.S.C. dropped to ninth after losing at home to 2-3 Stanford. The Trojans' win over Nebraska now looks substantially less impressive than it did at the time, leaving Southern California with a victory on the road against Washington as the most noteworthy accomplishment on the resume of the Men of Troy. Pete Carroll's proven track record and two weeks' worth of absolute attrition kept the defending Pac-10 champions from sliding out of the top ten altogether.
The Ducks check in at No. 10, up one notch after taking the weekend off, on the strength of a close loss to Cal and a win over Michigan that improves in value with each passing week. Also, Oregon's win over Stanford now looks a little better than it did before.
Missouri leapt up to No. 11 after putting an absolute hammering on the Cornhuskers. Granted, I told you before that Nebraska really wasn't very good, but a 41-6 win over a conference opponent that came into the game with a 4-1 record counts for something. The Tigers also have a win over Illinois to their credit, which is more impressive than you may think.
Beating this man actually counts for something . . . and I'm not just saying that because my team went 1-2 against him.
The Mountaineers held fast at No. 12 after a big win over pitiful Syracuse because West Virginia's only victory of any real quality came over the Terrapins, of all teams. The Fighting Illini made it into the top 15 by adding a win over previously unbeaten Wisconsin to a resume that already included wins over Indiana and Penn State. Obviously, Ron Zook's squad's earlier loss to Mizzou no longer looks particularly shameful.
The Bearcats inched up from 17th to 14th after beating Rutgers on the road. I probably ought to have Cincy ranked a little higher, as that Oregon State win has improved slightly in quality, but I'm not sure how good the Scarlet Knights are, so I'm reserving judgment for the moment.
Perhaps the paucity of suitable candidates is attested to by the fact that the Seminoles garnered a spot in the top 15 after a home win over a 1-5 team. However, Florida State is in possession of Alabama's and Colorado's scalps, neither of which was acquired in Tallahassee.
The Badgers plummeted from sixth on my ballot to 16th because Wisconsin really had nothing in its ledger to cushion its fall following its first loss. Wiscy's wins over Iowa, Michigan State, and Washington State all look worse today than they did on Friday, attesting to the fact that the Badgers rose on the strength of a resume that was lighter than air. The laws of physics dictated that Wisconsin drop after the balloon was punctured.
Also, Ron Dayne? Waaaaaaaaay overrated.
Likewise, Kentucky's first setback of the season cost the Wildcats eight poll positions because U.K.'s best win (at Arkansas) is of questionable quality and Rich Brooks's squad's second-best victory (over Louisville) counts for next to nothing in light of the Cardinals' almost complete implosion.
The teams I had ranked 14th, 15th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th all sustained a second loss for the season on Saturday, clearing room for the addition of several previously unranked squads. (Despite sporting a 5-1 record following a road win this weekend, a Virginia squad I had ranked 25th last week dropped out of the rankings because the Cavaliers struggled mightily to beat 1-5 Middle Tennessee State by a two-point margin, so off the Wahoos went.)
The sheer craziness of the last two weekends enabled the Hokies to earn admission at No. 18 following a solid victory over Clemson in Death Valley. V.P.I.'s loss to L.S.U. now looks more forgivable and last weekend's win over North Carolina since has acquired additional luster, so beating the Tigers worked mightily to Virginia Tech's benefit.
I hated having to rank the Aggies at all, much less as high as No. 19, but a 5-1 record buoyed by a win over Oklahoma State gave Texas A&M at least something, however meager, upon which to rest its hopes for a place in the top 25. The Jayhawks similarly snagged a spot in the top 20 with a win over Kansas State to claim Sunflower State bragging rights and their first win over a legitimate opponent.
Mark Mangino salutes Dawg Sports for ranking Kansas No. 20.
Although there are some fair-to-middling 4-2 teams out there (viz., Alabama, Auburn, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, and Penn State), I am not inclined to rank a twice-beaten team until it offsets that pair of losses with at least five wins. The lone exception to this, of course, is Florida. I ranked the Gators 21st because they have what now looks like a semi-quality win over Tennessee and their two losses were close contests against solid opponents, including a narrow loss to the No. 1 team in the country in a night game on the road.
The Red Raiders sneaked into the mix at No. 22 following a 42-17 win over Iowa State. Texas Tech came up short against Oklahoma State, but Mike Leach's team has put up solid numbers in wins over Southern Methodist, U.T.E.P., and Rice. I know, I'm embarrassed to have to rank them, too, but they're 5-1.
So, too, is Purdue, which clung undeservedly to a spot in the top 25, despite being thumped at home by Ohio State, because there are so few worthy teams. The Boilermakers have no quality wins of which to speak and their hold on a place on my ballot is totally tenuous.
Although an early loss on the road to a Washington squad ostensibly on the rebound ended the Broncos' winning streak and caused them quickly to sink back to the status of an afterthought, Boise State remains a solid football team, as demonstrated by B.S.U.'s subsequent wins over Wyoming, Southern Miss, and New Mexico State by 10-, 22-, and 58-point margins, respectively, in successive outings. (Bear in mind that the Golden Eagles lost at Tennessee by 20 and the Aggies lost at Auburn by 35 after trailing 21-20 at halftime.) Boise State is hitting its stride and the team's solid play in all phases of the game earned this fundamentally sound squad a return to the top 25.
It would be un-American not to like the Broncos, right?
Wyoming crept up into the top 25 by improving to 4-1 with a 24-21 win over Texas Christian yesterday. In addition to defeating a T.C.U. squad coming off of back-to-back 11-win seasons, the Cowboys have beaten defending M.A.C. East champion Ohio (Ohio) on the road and handed a season-opening 20-point setback to a Virginia squad that has since won five straight games. Wyoming's only loss was to Boise State by ten points on the Smurf turf, all of which combined to allow the Cowboys to edge out Indiana for the final spot in the rankings.
Some of you, I am sure, have noted the fact that Hawaii is absent from my ballot. This is no oversight. As has been pointed out already by Paul Westerdawg and Brian Cook, the Warriors may be the most unaccomplished 6-0 team in college football history. June Jones's squad has beaten, in succession, the following: Northern Colorado, a Division I-AA team; Louisiana Tech, a 1-4 team whose lone win came against Division I-AA Central Arkansas; U.N.L.V., a 2-4 team whose lone wins came against Utah and Utah State; Charleston Southern, another Division I-AA team; Idaho, a 1-5 team whose lone win came against Division I-AA Cal Poly; and Utah State, an 0-6 team.
As The Lawgiver noted, Hawaii has yet to beat a team that has beaten a Division I-A opponent from outside the Beehive State. I will not so much as consider ranking the Warriors until and unless they get to 9-0 (with a win over Fresno State on November 10), I probably will not do so until and unless they get to 10-0 (with a win over Nevada on November 16), and I very possibly will not break down and admit them into the top 25 until and unless they get to 11-0 (with a win over Boise State on November 23). You are what you eat and, if you beat nothing but cupcakes, I'm treating you as a cupcake.
On Tuesday night, I watched the Marshall-Memphis game. On Wednesday night, I watched the Rice-Southern Miss game. On Thursday night, I watched the Kentucky-South Carolina game. On Friday night, I attended Starr's Mill High School's homecoming game against McIntosh with my wife and son, then I returned home and watched the Louisville-Utah game.
Last Friday evening's out-of-conference showdown between Louisville and Utah pitted Steve Kragthorpe against Kyle Whittingham in "The Bad Goatee Bowl."
On Saturday, I flipped around between the Auburn-Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech-Maryland, Illinois-Wisconsin, and Miami (Florida)-North Carolina games before devoting my full attention to being aggravated to no end by the Georgia-Tennessee game. After that, I went back and forth between the Clemson-Virginia Tech and Florida State-N.C. State games before settling in with the Florida-Louisiana State game as my primary contest, the Cincinnati-Rutgers game as my flipback outing, and the Ohio State-Purdue game as my tertiary tilt, with portions (particularly at the end) of the Missouri-Nebraska game thrown in for good measure. Just a short while ago, I watched this evening's Boise State-New Mexico State game. Tomorrow, I will rest . . . or go to work. One or the other.
After first granting the premise that there are not 25 Division I-A college football teams worthy of being ranked in the top 25, I am pretty comfortable with that ballot, but, honestly, none of us knows the first thing about which way is up in this spectacularly nonsensical season, so your guess is as good as mine and your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.