Now that we are three weeks into the season, essentially every major college football team has played at least one "real" game, which is fortuitous timing, inasmuch as my most recent previous BlogPoll ballot drew sharp criticism (even after I corrected it), which necessitated a defense of my top 25 based upon resume ranking.
This week's additions to the information available, which represented a 50 per cent increase in data with respect to most teams and a 100 per cent improvement in our knowledge of U.S.C., enabled me to even out my rankings considerably, even though only a tiny handful of teams genuinely appear to be all that good.
The BlogPoll ballot cast by me earlier this evening was as follows:
Louisiana State held off Southern California for the top spot because the Bayou Bengals have played three games, all of them against Division I-A teams, and registered a pair of shutouts. One came on the road against a Mississippi State team that since has knocked off Auburn on the Plains; the other came against a Middle Tennessee squad that hung with high-octane Louisville for a while. Add to that the Fighting Tigers' 48-7 throttling of a respectable Virginia Tech squad that rebounded to beat defending M.A.C. East champion Ohio (Ohio) by three touchdowns and you have all the reason you would ever need for ranking L.S.U. No. 1.
The Trojans, meanwhile, built up a 42-10 lead over Nebraska in a game played in Lincoln against a Cornhusker squad that was emotionally ready for the game. Although U.S.C. allowed the home team to make up some lost ground, the Men of Troy still won by 18 points on the road, rocketing Southern California back up in the standings.
Oklahoma's 51-13 dismantling of Miami (Florida) remains an impressive achievement and the Sooners continued to pour it on in a 54-3 rout of Utah State. The Gators' win over Troy suddenly looks more impressive than it did before and Florida's 59-20 blowout of the Volunteers confirmed that the defending national champions' assault on the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium scoreboard in their first two games was no mirage.
The top four teams in the land clearly stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field, as the gap separating the Saurians from the Buckeyes remains as large today as it was on January 8. Nevertheless, Ohio State earned the No. 5 ranking by traveling to Seattle and manhandling the surging Huskies on the West Coast.
Boston College ran its conference record to 3-0 with a 24-10 whitewashing of Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field that made the Eagles the team to beat in the A.C.C. The Golden Bears answered some questions about their suspect defense by limiting Louisiana Tech to 12 points in a 30-point victory over the team that took Hawaii to overtime in a shootout. California's quality win over Tennessee took a bit of a hit, but Jeff Tedford's team appears to be improving on both sides of the ball after posting an impressive victory straight out of the gate.
Do not trifle with Jeff Tedford.
West Virginia is methodical without being particularly daunting, winning convincingly but not spectacularly. Maryland became the latest Mountaineer victim to be beaten by a solid margin that somehow seemed less than it ought to have been. Arguably, the Ducks have beaten teams with better name recognition than talent (Houston, Michigan, and Fresno State), but Oregon has not crossed paths with a Division I-AA opponent and, as is the case with the boys from Berkeley, the team from Eugene appears on the upswing defensively; after giving up 27 points to the Cougars in their season opener, the Ducks have surrendered 28 combined to the Wolverines and the Bulldogs.
While the Tigers remain something of an enigma (which is a polite way of saying that I know they're overrated), the fact is that Missouri is 3-0, has not faced a Division I-AA opponent, has beaten two B.C.S. conference opponents (albeit bad ones) on fields other than its own, averages over 43 points per game, and has given up fewer points in each outing than in the one before. The muddled middle then begins.
The Sun Devils have been burying opponents, scoring 33 or more points in each of their first three outings and giving up a touchdown and a field goal per contest. However, Arizona State's victims have included a Colorado team that appears less impressive with each passing week, a San Jose State team that subsequently lost to Stanford, and, most recently, San Diego State. A.S.U. will have to lurk around for at least another week before cracking the top 10.
Penn State is the East Coast Arizona State, as the Nittany Lions have beaten handily three Division I-A opponents (Florida International, Notre Dame, and Buffalo) which simply are not that good. P.S.U. took a while to get going against the Bulls yesterday before giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns; neither datum was a factor in favor of Joe Paterno's squad.
The Crimson Tide may be underrated at No. 13. 'Bama throttled Western Carolina by at least the anticipated margin (52-6), beat Vanderbilt convincingly on the road (24-10), and staged a thrilling comeback against a rested Arkansas team last night, pulling off the 41-38 victory. It remains to be seen how much that all means, but, right now, that looks pretty solid. I hope I am not given reason for greater faith in the Red Elephants next Saturday night.
Here's hoping the 'Dawgs duplicate Mark Richt's 2004 meeting with Nick Saban and not either of Coach Richt's 2003 meetings with the Armani Bear.
The Spartans almost certainly are overrated at No. 14. However, Michigan State has eschewed Division I-AA opposition and beaten U.A.B., Bowling Green, and Pitt in succession. The achievement is what it is---which isn't much, a fact that attests to the comparative weakness of the field at this stage---but the margins of victory have been shrinking as the quality of the opposition has been increasing, so I am awaiting the inevitable M.S.U. meltdown any day now.
Clemson and Rutgers hold down the 15th and 16th spots, respectively. In my heart of hearts, I believe both teams are better than that, but neither team's resume---wins over Florida State, Louisiana-Monroe, and Division I-AA Furman for the Tigers; victories over Buffalo, Navy, and Division I-AA Norfolk State for the Scarlet Knights---gives me much to go on when arguing that they are better than their on-field achievements. Wins in Clemson's next three games (at N.C. State, at Georgia Tech, and against Virginia Tech) would vault Tommy Bowden's Tigers into the top 10. Outside of an October 6 date with Cincinnati, the State University of New Jersey will have fewer short-term chances to prove itself, but upcoming tilts with South Florida on October 18 and West Virginia on October 27 will give Greg Schiano's crew the opportunity to earn respect.
I don't yet know what to make of Kentucky, but the Wildcats followed up consecutive season-opening drubbings of Eastern Kentucky and Kent State by a combined 106-30 margin with a shootout victory over in-state rival Louisville. That earned U.K. a No. 17 ranking.
The Badgers and the Longhorns simply have not looked good. Since pulling away from Washington State in the season opener, Wisconsin has posted lackluster wins over U.N.L.V. and The Citadel, the Division I-AA opponent with which the club from Madison was tied at halftime. Texas has looked good in the second half against what we now have reason to believe was an overrated T.C.U. team, but, otherwise, Mack Brown's squad has beaten Arkansas State by eight and Central Florida by three. Both teams' top 20 resumes are extremely sketchy at this juncture.
The Bearcats, by contrast, look like they're going places. Cincy's three wins have come by a cumulative tally of 140-16. It's hard to argue with that kind of success, even though one of those wins came against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State. Wins over Oregon State and at Miami (Ohio) got the 'Cats into the top 20, but it will take better victories against Big East foes to keep them there.
Not that I'm not impressed by a road win at Yager Stadium, mind you. . . .
The Gamecocks slipped a bit because there is little to reward in a victory over South Carolina State. The three wins registered by the Palmetto State Poultry were over a Sun Belt team, a Division I-AA team, and an S.E.C. opponent derided by Steve Spurrier as less than a "big, powerful team." If the Evil Genius doesn't think his team has beaten anyone any good, who am I to doubt his word?
Likewise, South Florida dropped a few spots because the idle Bulls' overtime victory over Auburn was devalued by the Plainsmen's subsequent loss to Mississippi State. (I hate Auburn.) Air Force earned a spot in the top 25 by posting wins at Utah and over Texas Christian. Obviously, the victory over the Utes in Salt Lake City was validated by their ensuing shellacking of U.C.L.A., which improved the standing of the squad that now appears to be the Mountain West frontrunner.
The Cornhuskers did not slide altogether out of the rankings because Nebraska fought hard against Southern California and turned a total blowout into a moderately respectable setback after beating the defending A.C.C. champion on the road. That gave the Big Red Machine the best resume of any of the once-beaten teams.
Finally, the Bulldogs fell one notch after beating Western Carolina because a victory over the Catamounts adds next to nothing to a team's record of accomplishment. Furthermore, the victory over Oklahoma State lost some of its luster on Friday night, although the absence of Bobby Reid from the lineup against Troy keeps Georgia's win against the Pokes from being completely undermined.
Florida State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Louisville, Purdue, U.C.L.A., Virginia Tech, and Washington all received consideration for inclusion on my ballot. The Bruins, the Hawkeyes, the Hokies, the Huskies, and the Yellow Jackets lost all credibility due to their respective losses to the Utes, the Cyclones, the Bayou Bengals, the Buckeyes, and the Eagles; four of the five were not competitive contests and the last (Iowa's loss to Iowa State) was to a team that simply is atrocious.
One of these is the Cy-Hawk Trophy. I'm pretty sure it's one of the ones that's not a pig.
The Ramblin' Wreck was dealt the additional blow of seeing the last scintilla of value siphoned from its victory over Notre Dame. It also didn't help matters that, last night, an official was booed on national television for asking politely that the Georgia Institute of Technology student section stop throwing objects at the Boston College bench.
The Cardinals' win over Division I-AA Murray State was meaningless. Their shootout with M.T.S.U., which seemed embarrassing enough at the time, was rendered completely shameful by L.S.U.'s subsequent shutout of the Blue Raiders. That left Louisville with a resume of no significance whatsoever, so the squad's loss to Kentucky sent U. of L. tumbling from the rankings.
The Boilermakers are a Big Ten team with a 3-0 record that is averaging almost 50 points per game. Until Purdue's scalps include one more impressive than Toledo, Eastern Illinois, and Central Michigan, however, Joe Tiller's team is not getting ranked. The Seminoles simply have yet to look like an impressive football team to me. I told you they would not beat Colorado convincingly and they did not.
I watched Maryland-West Virginia on Thursday night and Oklahoma State-Troy on Friday night. On Saturday, I attended Georgia-Western Carolina before returning home and flipping back and forth among and between Alabama-Arkansas, Boston College-Georgia Tech, Colorado-Florida State, and Nebraska-Southern California.
See? I told you resume ranking started to make sense after you gave it a little time! Nevertheless, your constructive criticisms are welcome in the comments below.