Remember how difficult I found it to fill out last week's BlogPoll ballot? Well, consider this the second verse, which is the same as the first. Arizona State lost and Boston College was upset, provided that the term "upset" has any real meaning in a season as strange as this one.
As always, I did not look at the A.P. or coaches' polls, the B.C.S. standings or any component thereof, or any other weblogger's ballot before compiling my rankings. Accordingly, all blame should be directed solely and exclusively at me for my having cast the following ballot:
At this point, I'd be surprised if anyone's top five consisted of any teams other than Kansas (9-0), Louisiana State (8-1), Ohio State (10-0), Oklahoma (8-1), and Oregon (8-1), but the sequence in which they are ranked is a matter of considerable debate. Here is my rationale for arranging them in the order in which I did:
- The losses by the Bayou Bengals, the Ducks, and the Sooners all are forgivable. Each of the three of them was close. In my estimation, L.S.U. should take the smallest hit for its loss, since the Fighting Tigers fell on the road in triple overtime against a bowl-eligible team. Oregon's loss, while coming against a bowl-eligible opponent, was at home, while Oklahoma's loss, while coming on the road, was against a .500 team.
- The Buckeyes and the Jayhawks lost a little ground---or, at least, a little respect---by playing Division I-AA opponents. Kansas's win over Southeastern Louisiana and Ohio State's win over Youngstown State earned no points for either contender.
Why would Jim Tressel want to dredge up memories of his ties to Youngstown, anyway?
- As always in resume ranking, strength of schedule carried considerable weight. By this reckoning, Louisiana State clearly came out ahead of the other four national heavyweights. Only one of L.S.U.'s opponents has a losing record (Tulane) and only one has a .500 record (Middle Tennessee). Six of the Bayou Bengals' victories have been over teams with winning records and five of those opponents already are bowl eligible. The fact that three of those wins have been close may be cause for concern, but that datum was inadequate to dislodge the Tigers from the top spot, however much their grasp on the No. 1 ranking may have loosened in recent weeks, because Louisiana State's four best wins (over Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Virginia Tech) are the best quartet of victories owned by any team in the country.
- It was a close contest between the Ducks and the Sooners for the second spot. Neither team has faced a Division I-AA opponent; both teams have beaten three opponents with losing records; neither team has beaten an opponent with a .500 record; both teams have beaten five opponents with winning records; both teams have won one close game. In the end, Oregon won out for a variety of reasons:
- The Ducks' three weakest wins were over Stanford, Washington, and Washington State, all of which are conference opponents, all of which are 3-6, and two of which Oregon faced on the road. The Sooners' three weakest wins were over Iowa State (2-8), North Texas (1-7), and Utah State (0-9), only one of which is a league opponent and only one of which Oklahoma played outside of Norman. The dregs of the Sooners' schedule simply are lower than the bottom-dwellers on the Ducks' slate.
- In Big 12 play, Oklahoma's two best wins were over Missouri (8-1) and Texas (8-2). In Pac-10 play, Oregon's two best wins were over Arizona State (8-1) and Southern California (7-2). Those would seem to be fairly comparable, as the Tigers and the Sun Devils are solid but the Longhorns and the Trojans are overrated.
- The Sooners' best non-conference win was over . . . whom, exactly? A Tulsa squad that now stands at 6-3, perhaps? A Miami (Florida) unit that languishes at 5-4 and is going nowhere? The Ducks' best non-conference win was a throttling of Michigan in Ann Arbor, giving Oregon a substantially better out-of-conference victory than Oklahoma can claim. We'll find out on Saturday whether Houston (whom the Ducks defeated) is better than the Golden Hurricane, but, in addition to Oregon's win over the Wolverines, Mike Bellotti's squad has a victory over resurgent Fresno State, as well, giving the Ducks five wins over bowl-eligible opponents to the Sooners' four.
- Despite their sparkling 10-0 ledger, the Buckeyes checked in at No. 4, behind a trio of once-beaten teams, because the critics who say Ohio State hasn't played anyone are, quite frankly, quite right. The Buckeyes' ten victims include the aforementioned Division I-AA Youngstown State, four teams with losing records (Akron, Kent State, Minnesota, and Washington), and two teams standing at .500 (Michigan State and Northwestern). The only three respectable wins on Ohio State's resume came against Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions, the Boilermakers, and the Badgers all are 7-3 and they have beaten no one of note except one another.
- As meager as the Buckeyes' unblemished resume may be, though, Ohio State has a far more meaty record of achievement than the unbeaten Jayhawks. Kansas's nine victims include the aforementioned Division I-AA Southeastern Louisiana, three teams with losing records (Baylor, Florida International, and Nebraska), and two teams standing at .500 (Colorado and Toledo). The Jayhawks' big win over the Cornhuskers counts for next to nothing because everyone is hanging points on the erstwhile blackshirts and, if you're reading this, it means you're young enough to be able to work the internet, so it literally is true that the 2007 club is the worst Nebraska team of your lifetime. Kansas's three best wins were over Central Michigan (5-4), Kansas State (5-4), and Texas A&M (6-4). The Jayhawks' three road wins (over the Aggies, the Buffaloes, and the Wildcats) all came by final margins tighter than Mark Mangino's girdle and Kansas has beaten only one bowl-eligible team . . . and that squad is by no means assured of a berth in the postseason; in fact, its head coach is likely to be fired at season's end. Kansas is Hawaii with a B.C.S. conference membership card and significantly worse-looking scenery.
It would be easier for the Jayhawks' head coach to fit through the eye of a needle than for Kansas to earn a berth in the national championship game.
My top five thus having been delineated in detail, I will now run through the muddled jumble that is the remainder of my top 25. Missouri (8-1) edged out West Virginia (7-1) for the No. 6 spot because the Tigers' best wins (over Colorado, Illinois, and Texas Tech) surpass the Mountaineers' best wins (over Maryland, Mississippi State, and Rutgers) and W.V.U.'s lone loss (at South Florida by eight) now appears significantly worse than Mizzou's (at Oklahoma by ten).
Arizona State (8-1) fell to eighth after a loss at Oregon that was not as close as the final score indicated because the Sun Devils' only ballast (wins over California, Colorado, and Oregon State) had too little heft to keep them from falling this far. Boston College (8-1) met a similar fate after a far more embarrassing loss (to faded Florida State at home) served to remind us that the Eagles' best victims were Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Michigan (8-2) held fast at No. 10 after dispatching the Spartans in typically heart-rending fashion. The Wolverines' loss to Oregon appears increasingly more understandable and the Maize and Blue boast wins over Illinois, Penn State, and Purdue. That may not amount to much, but it's been the sort of season where winning consistently over one's mediocre conference coevals will suffice.
Connecticut (8-1) cemented its grip on the No. 11 ranking by adding a convincing win over Rutgers to a ledger that included victories over Louisville and South Florida. The Huskies' one-point loss at Virginia isn't looking as bad as it did earlier, either. Georgia (7-2) inched up a spot to No. 12 after adding Troy to a list of victims that already included Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma State.
Auburn (7-3) inched up a notch, too, after varying degrees of additional luster were added to the Plainsmen's wins over Arkansas and Florida, as well as to the Tigers' loss to L.S.U. The No. 14 ranking devolved upon Virginia (8-2), which added Wake Forest to a list of victims that already included Connecticut and thereby put the Wahoos' inexplicable loss to Wyoming behind the Cavaliers even more.
I can't help thinking I haven't docked Virginia nearly enough points for losing to N.C. State, but I didn't want Al Groh to yell at me, so I went ahead and ranked his team, even though I didn't feel good about it.
Cincinnati (7-2) sneaked into the top 15 by beating the Bulls to improve a record of achievement that already included wins over Oregon State and Rutgers. The Bearcats have lost to two unimpressive teams in Louisville and Pittsburgh, but both were by narrow margins. While a win over San Jose State was not enough to advance Boise State (8-1) past its previous No. 16 spot, the Broncos maintained their poll position on the strength of their previous victories over Fresno State, Southern Miss, and Wyoming.
Because a 27-point win over Vanderbilt counts for more than a 27-point win over Minnesota these days, Florida (6-3) leapt over Illinois (7-3) to claim the No. 17 ranking. The Fighting Illini's win over Wisconsin counts for less than it did before and the Gators' close loss to L.S.U. appears increasingly less shameful. While a three-point home win over Washington State enabled California (6-3) to snap a three-game skid, the Golden Bears dropped two spots because the three teams to whom Cal previously lost (Arizona State, Oregon State, and U.C.L.A.) all suffered setbacks on Saturday.
Virginia Tech (7-2) crept back into the top 20 after adding a throttling of the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta to the Hokies' prior throttling of the Tigers in Clemson. Although losing to top-ranked Louisiana State, even by such a wide margin, appears understandable, V.P.I. saw its quality loss to Boston College diminished by the Eagles' ensuing setback. Another loss dropped South Florida (6-3) to No. 21, but the Bulls remained in the top 25 on the strength of their wins over Auburn and West Virginia.
Kentucky (6-3) held fast at No. 22 following the Wildcats' open date. U.K.'s wins over Arkansas and L.S.U. improved over the weekend. A seven-point home win over the Boilermakers enabled Penn State (7-3) to inch up from No. 25 to No. 23 but the Nittany Lions advanced only incrementally because Joe Paterno's squad has lost to the only three good teams in the Big Ten (Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio State) while beating teams like Purdue and Wisconsin, which are only borderline-rankable squads.
Alabama (6-3) slipped a notch to No. 24 after losing narrowly to the top team in the land because the Crimson Tide's victory over Arkansas now has heightened value and the Red Elephants' losses to Georgia and Florida State likewise appear more understandable. The top 25 was rounded out by Texas (8-2), which dropped a spot after a comeback victory at Oklahoma State because the Longhorns' narrow win over Nebraska now is essentially worthless and the Burnt Orange's loss to Kansas State now appears even more shameful than before.
Two years removed from Vince Young, Texas is about where Georgia was two years removed from Herschel. When you read "2007 Longhorns," think "1984 Bulldogs" and you'll be about right.
Consideration also was given to ranking Air Force, Brigham Young, Clemson, Florida State, Purdue, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin, but, as before, various combinations of weakened wins and head-scratching losses prevented them from making the grade. Of these, the Seminoles came the closest to cracking the top 25, on the strength of wins over Alabama, Boston College, and Colorado, all of which were in venues other than Doak Campbell Stadium. Even though F.S.U.'s three losses all were by single-digit margins, those setbacks were suffered on the road against Clemson and Wake Forest, which are just slightly better than mediocre, and at home against a decidedly poor Miami (Florida) squad. While a Seminole win in Blacksburg next weekend likely will put Florida State in the top 25, their victories are not yet impressive enough to overcome their embarrassing losses.
So it was, as well, with the Falcons (whose somewhat dubious wins over Texas Christian, Utah, and Wyoming were offset by road losses to Brigham Young, Navy, and New Mexico), the Cougars (whose somewhat dubious wins over Air Force, Arizona, and New Mexico were offset by road losses to Tulsa and U.C.L.A.), the Tigers (whose best road win was over Maryland who lost badly at Georgia Tech), the Boilermakers (whose best wins were against Iowa and Northwestern), the Trojans (who captured their first even remotely impressive win on Saturday, just as the last of the luster from the Nebraska victory was being stripped away, and who lost at home to Stanford), the Volunteers (whose win over South Carolina now has diminished value and none of whose three road losses to Alabama, California, and Florida were competitive), the Red Raiders (whose best win was over Texas A&M and who lost to Colorado and Oklahoma State), the Demon Deacons (who were unable to remain ranked after their loss to Virginia because they already were weighted down by their loss to Nebraska), and the Badgers (whose best win was over Michigan State, who have not played well in any of their four road games, and whose losses to Ohio State and Penn State were not competitive).
Meanwhile, June Jones's undefeated Hawaii Warriors had a bye on Saturday. As Sunday Morning Quarterback has explicated admirably, not having an opponent at all was only marginally different from any other game day on the Aloha State Adventurers' shameful slate.
After watching the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech and Nevada-New Mexico State games on Thursday and Friday, respectively, I attended the Georgia-Troy game on Saturday. After returning home from Athens, I watched the fourth quarter of the Alabama-Louisiana State game, followed by the fourth quarter of the Arizona State-Oregon game, followed by the second half of the Arkansas-South Carolina game, followed by the final few minutes of the Boston College-Florida State game. Earlier this evening, I capped off my weekend by watching the Houston-Southern Methodist game.
I am quite comfortable with my top five and fairly well at ease with my top ten. Once you get past No. 12 or 13, though, my confidence level in the remainder of my ballot diminishes sharply and rapidly. The bottom seven or eight spots are an absolute mess in which I express no faith whatsoever. Your incredulous animadversions upon my top 25 are not only welcome, but invited.