A week ago, I allowed as how it sometimes was tough to fill out my BlogPoll ballot. This is one of those times.
Let's not mince words here: Saturday was sheer carnage. Friday night's upset in Tampa was but the opening act for a weekend of seismic tremors and total chaos. Where we stand in the aftermath of it all is anybody's guess, but here is where we are left, in my humble estimation:
Despite holding only a 10-9 halftime lead over Tulane, Louisiana State retained a firm grip on the top spot by winning convincingly . . . or, heck, by just plain winning. As an added bonus, the Bayou Bengals' victories over South Carolina and Virginia Tech continued to gain value.
The Golden Bears leapt up into second place following their victory over Oregon. The Ducks are a good football team and Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play, as Jeff Tedford knows from experience. Cal gets major points for yesterday's victory and the Berkeley Bears are the owners of two other fairly respectable wins, over Colorado State and Tennessee.
The Trojans did not ascend from No. 3 because California's custody of Oregon's scalp gave Jeff Tedford's team a better "best win" than Pete Carroll's possesses. Nevertheless, wins over Nebraska, Washington, and Washington State, two of which came on the road, give Southern California a record of achievement adequate to keep the Men of Troy in the top three. Obviously, U.S.C. will have the opportunity to say something about this in Berkeley on November 10, but there is a lot of football to be played before then.
Ohio State held fast at No. 4 after throttling Minnesota, but the Buckeyes will not rise until acquiring more pelts equal to or better than O.S.U.'s road win over the Huskies. South Florida makes the jump to No. 5 by virtue of a win over West Virginia that certainly was no fluke. The Bulls' road win over Auburn now looks a great deal better than it did before, as well.
The Badgers' win in their shootout with the Spartans bumped them up to the sixth spot. Wisconsin's win over Washington State was approximately equivalent to Southern California's and Wiscy defeated Iowa, as well. It ain't much, but, with the pool of unbeatens steadily shrinking, it's enough to get the Badgers on the verge of the top five.
Were I ranking the 25 freakiest mascots in college football, Wisconsin clearly would be a top five team . . . but the Badgers would not be ranked above the team they beat yesterday.
I had no reason to elevate the Eagles above their previous No. 7 ranking after Boston College beat a Division I-AA opponent by ten points, but the squad from Chestnut Hill remains the team to beat in the A.C.C. and that win over Georgia Tech appears more impressive after the Yellow Jackets' victory over Clemson.
I could no longer justify keeping Arizona State out of the top ten. The Sun Devils throttled Stanford to improve to 5-0 and Dennis Erickson's squad has wins over Colorado and Oregon State to its credit. Kentucky ascended through attrition after winning by the expected margin over F.A.U. It remains open to debate what precisely we ought to make of the Wildcats' wins over Arkansas and Louisville, but, as the lone unbeaten team in the S.E.C. East, the 'Cats deserve some credit.
The Sooners skidded to a stop at No. 10, earning the distinction of being the highest-ranked once-beaten team by virtue of Oklahoma's previous wins over Miami (Florida) and Tulsa. Losing a close conference game on the road against a fallen former power on the rise again knocked O.U. out of national title contention, but it is at least a somewhat forgivable sin, in spite of Bob Stoops's postgame whining.
Likewise, the Ducks dropped to No. 11 after losing a down-to-the-wire battle with an extremely good California team. Oregon's win at Michigan continues to age like a fine wine and the closeness of the contest with Cal kept the squad from Eugene from falling too far.
West Virginia fell to twelfth because, even though the Mountaineers have won their previous games convincingly, they did so against suspect competition. What kept W.V.U. in my top 15 was the fact that Rich Rodriguez's squad came back to make a game of it against a U.S.F. team that had dominated the 'Eers completely, coupled with the fact that the Maryland win now looks better than it did before.
Rich Rodriguez was so pleased to learn that West Virginia was ranked No. 12 on the Dawg Sports BlogPoll ballot that he ran right home to the Ponderosa and told Pa, Adam, and Little Joe.
The Gamecocks inched up to 13th after pulling away late from a Mississippi State squad that had kept it close for a while. South Carolina's win over Georgia continues to operate in the Palmetto State Poultry's favor, as the Classic City Canines put away a pesky Ole Miss squad that nearly exposed the Gators one week before Auburn finished the job. Consequently, Georgia remained one notch in South Carolina's wake.
Florida fell to 15th after losing at home to the Plainsmen because the Gators really had very little to their credit except some thorough beatdowns of some less than impressive competition. The Volunteers made a fine second-best victim for the Golden Bears, but, when Tennessee's is a team's most impressive scalp, that squad is apt to drop a lot following a loss. (Urban Meyer's postgame whining didn't help matters, either.) I hope both Cal and Florida will have even less cause to brag about their respective wins over Tennessee a week from now.
The enigmatic Missouri Tigers did not play yesterday, so I am no more clear concerning the quality of this squad than I was before. They're 4-0, which is a plus, but they play in the Big 12 North, which is a minus. Their win over Illinois now looks a little bit better, but their win over Mississippi now looks a little bit worse. Mizzou inched up one notch, but I continue to await compelling evidence of how good or bad this team is.
The Bearcats went west and throttled San Diego State to run their record to 5-0. Cincinnati continues to get a bit of a boost from its win over Oregon State. I hated to move the Boilermakers up as far as No. 18 after Purdue was outscored by a 19-10 margin in the second half against Notre Dame, but Joe Tiller's squad is 5-0. Given that the Cornfield Sailors' best win is over Minnesota, though, Purdue has no margin for error with me. One loss and they're gone.
The Seminoles made it into the top 20 with wins over Alabama and Colorado, neither of which took place in Tallahassee. The Bruins jumped five spots after a 40-14 win over Oregon State on the road. Although the big loss at Utah continues to weigh down Karl Dorrell's team (as, for the matter of that, does Karl Dorrell himself), U.C.L.A.'s other wins over Brigham Young and Washington gave the Bruins a boost.
Karl Dorrell was flabbergasted that any team coached by him could be ranked in the top 20.
Kansas State enters the poll at No. 21 on the strength of two factors: the Wildcats' win over Texas in Austin and the Plainsmen's win over Florida in Gainesville, the latter of which rendered K-State's close loss at Auburn somewhat less embarrassing. Although a close home win over Duke counts for little in my eyes, the Hurricanes' hammering of a Texas A&M team that now stands at 4-1 helps atone for the drubbing Miami (Florida) absorbed from Oklahoma earlier in the season.
Clemson fell to No. 23 after failing to impress in a loss to Georgia Tech because the Tigers lacked the resume to overcome their setback at The Flats. Only a narrow home victory over ascendant Florida State kept Tommy Bowden's team in the top 25 at all.
Likewise, the Longhorns plummeted to No. 24 after a 20-point home loss to Kansas State because Mack Brown's squad was without an offsetting quality performance. Texas took a while to get going against overrated T.C.U. and the Burnt Orange played poorly in games against Arkansas State and Central Florida in contests Texas easily could have lost. A hometown beatdown of winless Rice provided little meat to the Longhorns' resume, giving me scant reason to rank them any higher.
The final spot in my top 25 went to Virginia. Although the Wahoos opened the season with a 23-3 loss at Wyoming, the Cavaliers have made up for that early debacle by beating Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh. That isn't much, but it's more than many other teams can claim. Consequently, Mr. Jefferson's academical village made the grade.
Boise State, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Virginia Tech had nothing comparable to Virginia's win over Georgia Tech to bolster their resumes after they sustained early losses. In particular, setbacks by convincing margins sustained by the Aggies, the Cornhuskers, and the Hokies conspired to prevent those teams' ascent and none of them has a win on a par with the Hurricanes' skunking of Texas A&M to counterbalance a big beating.
On top of that, the Aggies' ascent is hampered by what might be characterized as "The Fran Factor."
Connecticut, Hawaii, and Kansas all received a look, as each of them remains undefeated, but, quite frankly, I saw nothing there to impress me. Between them, the Huskies, the Jayhawks, and the Warriors have beaten Akron, Central Michigan, Charleston Southern, Duke, Florida International, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Maine, Northern Colorado, Pittsburgh, Southeast Louisiana, Temple, Toledo, and U.N.L.V., only one of which could be characterized as even slightly impressive. Margin of victory is meaningless until any of these teams actually plays someone.
Likewise, no teams with two or more losses were given consideration, no matter how large the upsets scored by them, because it's simply too early in the campaign for a twice-beaten team to be ranked in the top 25. There are some I might consider including at 4-2; more likely, they'll have to get to 5-2 before getting a serious look.
I attended the Georgia-Ole Miss game. I watched the Auburn-Florida, Boise State-Southern Mississippi, and South Florida-West Virginia games in their entirety. I watched meaningful portions of the Clemson-Georgia Tech, Michigan State-Wisconsin, Notre Dame-Purdue, and Southern California-Washington games.
As always, I invite your feedback on the reasonableness, vel non, of my rankings, but I also am curious about your thoughts upon the following observations, which are offered for whatever they might be worth:
- I hate to say it, but Tommy Tuberville was right: if the return man catches the ball, the kicking team shouldn't be flagged for kick catch interference.
- The only thing holding down the U.S.F. program is the fact that Jim Leavitt has the worst hair of any Division I-A head football coach in Sunshine State history. Granted, that is a heritage that includes the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Howard Schnellenberger, and Steve Spurrier, so the bar is set rather high, but, seriously, shouldn't Jim Leavitt be able to afford a decent haircut by now?
- For what it's worth, Charlie Weis is now 19-11 at Notre Dame. After 30 games with the Fighting Irish, Tyrone Willingham was 18-12. How, precisely, do dictionaries in use in South Bend define the terms "genius" and "incompetence" if the gap separating the practical expressions of those concepts is so small?