After casting a tentative BlogPoll ballot last week, I elected to "throw havoc to the wind" and promised to start from square one this week. This I did, casting aside completely my previous top 25 and beginning anew with a clean white sheet of paper. That effort produced this ballot:
It is important to remember that this is not a power poll; rather, my top 25 was selected through the process known as resume ranking, which is not an attempt to project which teams will be ranked where at the end of the season. (If that were the case, teams like Auburn, Louisville, Nebraska, and Ohio State certainly would have been included, whereas squads such as Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Missouri, and South Carolina very well might not have been.)
The premise of resume ranking is that a team's on-field achievement---what it has done, not what I believe it will do---ought to dictate its poll position. Consequently, the Trojans check in at No. 16, even though I believe U.S.C. probably will prove to be one of the top two teams in the country, because Southern California's entire record of accomplishment for 2007 consists of a relatively lackluster home win over Idaho, followed by a bye week.
Upon that basis, I had to give the first two spots in the poll to Louisiana State and Oklahoma. The Bayou Bengals went on the road and beat a conference opponent---granted, it was Mississippi State---by a 45-0 margin before handing Virginia Tech the 48-7 whipping that I told you was coming. The Sooners followed up a 79-10 thrashing of North Texas with an impressive 51-13 manhandling of Miami.
U.C.L.A. earned the No. 3 spot by going on the road and beating a conference opponent---granted, it was Stanford---by a 45-17 margin before taking care of business against a solid B.Y.U. squad. Washington defeated Syracuse by 30 points in the Carrier Dome in the easternmost game ever played by the Huskies prior to defeating Boise State by two touchdowns.
I consider a victory over the Broncos a legitimate achievement.
Although the Tigers have yet to play a home game, Missouri has beaten two B.C.S. conference opponents. Boston College has beaten two league rivals by double-digit margins and South Carolina secured its position in the top 10 by defeating the 'Dawgs.
Colorado's victories over in-state rival Colorado State and ascendant Arizona State vaulted Dan Hawkins's squad to the No. 8 spot. The Buffaloes beat out Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes, who trounced Syracuse by five touchdowns, and the top 10 was rounded out with South Florida, owner of an overtime road victory over Auburn. (I hate Auburn.)
Clemson missed out on a spot in the top 10 because the Tigers had to hang on to win against Florida State and they allowed 26 points to Louisiana-Monroe. Texas made up for its lackluster win over Arkansas State by posting a 21-point win over T.C.U. Rutgers wound up at No. 13 because the Buffalo win counted for little but the Navy win earned considerable credit for the Scarlet Knights, an efficient club that has learned how to put teams away.
Oregon improved upon its win over Houston by throttling Michigan in Ann Arbor, while Wisconsin followed up on its home victory over Washington State by defeating narrowly an inferior U.N.L.V. squad on the road. Cincinnati made a splash with its convincing win over Oregon State, but the Bearcats' ascent was hampered by the millstone of an opening game against Southeast Missouri State.
Les Nessman broke into Dr. Johnny Fever's drive-time radio show with the news that Dawg Sports had ranked the hometown team 17th.
Penn State probably will prove better than its No. 18 ranking suggests, but the Nittany Lions' two victories have come against Florida International and Notre Dame squads of questionable quality. The same considerations conspired against No. 25 Georgia Tech, inasmuch as the Yellow Jackets' wins were over Notre Dame and Samford. (Why such a gap between the Ducks, who beat 0-2 Michigan, and the Ramblin' Wreck, which beat 0-2 Notre Dame? Oregon's other win, over a respectable Houston club rather than over a Division I-AA opponent, was substantially more impressive and blowing out the Fighting Irish in South Bend when the Golden Domers are rebuilding on both sides of the ball is a less distinguished accomplishment than blowing out the Wolverines in Ann Arbor when Michigan came into the game sporting much offensive firepower and was held completely in check.)
Alabama's 14-point victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville appears meaningful, but the Crimson Tide's home win over Western Carolina is of negligible importance. West Virginia lost credibility when it held only a 27-23 lead over Marshall after three quarters. California lost still more credibility when the Golden Bears narrowly escaped against Colorado State and their win over Tennessee lost some luster when the Volunteers struggled with Southern Miss for two and a half quarters.
The Spartans got in by beating convincingly opponents of dubious quality, although the clock assuredly is ticking on Michigan State's imminent collapse, and the Gators look far better than their No. 23 ranking implies, but how would we know that when Florida's wins came against Western Kentucky and Troy? Until the defending national champions actually get around to playing someone, the most noteworthy line on the Orange and Blue's resume indicates that they gave up 31 points to the Trojans (no, not those Trojans), which was not reassuring to those of us who doubt the Gators' rebuilt defense.
Perhaps homerism accounts for the fact that the Bulldogs are the lone 1-1 team in my top 25, but, of the credible once-beatens, the Red and Black have the most impressive win and, arguably, the least embarrassing loss, so it seems more fair to credit a Georgia squad with a quality win (35-14 over Oklahoma State) and a quality loss (16-12 to South Carolina) than to reward an Auburn team that needed a comeback against Kansas State at home, a Boise State squad whose lone win came against Weber State, a T.C.U. team who took it to Baylor at home, a Tennessee team who struggled with the Golden Eagles and played Cal less closely than did the Rams, or a Virginia Tech team who played unimpressively against East Carolina and got blown out by Louisiana State.
The Hokies also lose points for having recruited this chump.
Louisville lost ground by conceding a whopping 42 points to Middle Tennessee State at home, a defect which was not ameliorated by the Cardinals' victory over Murray State. The impact of Nebraska's solid thrashing of Nevada at home was diluted substantially by the Cornhuskers' surprising failure to beat Wake Forest by more than a field goal.
Ohio State followed up a 32-point margin of victory over Youngstown State with a 20-2 win over Akron. The Buckeyes have played competition on a par with Florida's but have not been nearly as impressive at putting weak teams away, so the Buckeyes got an "incomplete" and fell out of the top 25 until I get to see them in competition against a squad from somewhere other than the lower rungs of the Ohio football food chain.
In addition to the squads listed above, Kansas and Kentucky managed to make it onto my radar screen, but they failed to make the grade due to facing only highly suspect competition. A Wildcat win over Louisville next Saturday certainly would get the Blue and White into the top 25; barring a glut of upsets, the Jayhawks likely will have to get to 5-0 before standing a reasonable chance of being ranked on my ballot.
Three teams decidedly not receiving consideration from me were Hawaii, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, none of which has done anything to augment its reputation in my book.
When you go on the road and beat Louisiana State in overtime, we'll talk about you getting a B.C.S. bowl berth. As long as you're going on the road and beating Louisiana Tech in overtime, however, you're not getting anywhere near the top 25.
On Thursday evening, I watched Cincinnati-Oregon State, with Louisville-Middle Tennessee State on the flipback. On Friday evening, I watched Navy-Rutgers. On Saturday, I attended Georgia-South Carolina, catching snippets of Auburn-South Florida, Marshall-West Virginia, and Michigan-Oregon along the way.
So far, 2007 is shaping up like 1990, when no college football teams really appeared to be all that great. Maybe it's just the regular-season dominance displayed by Southern California in 2004 and 2005 and by Ohio State in 2006, but no squad really seems to stand head and shoulders above its conference coevals, much less over the sport as a whole. Some teams look better than others, but no team looks outstanding . . . hence, the presence of some unlikely contenders in my top 10.
Events will shake themselves out as the season wears along, and next week's BlogPoll ballot likely will look completely different from this week's, but, until then, the large number of question marks certainly seems likely to keep this season interesting.