If you’re like me, one of the things for which you’ll be thankful this Thanksgiving is the fact that the 2009 college football season is almost over and women’s gymnastics season is almost upon us. Nevertheless, the show must go on, so I guess it’s time I went ahead and cast the first draft of my BlogPoll ballot. This week, I started with a clean white piece of paper and paid no attention either to my own ballot of a week ago or to any current rankings compiled by any individual or organization. Here is the ballot I cast on Sunday evening:
|Last week's ballot|
The Alabama Crimson Tide, the Florida Gators, and the Texas Longhorns all boast similar resumes. All three teams are 11-0 and all three survived one close shave: Alabama narrowly escaped at home against the Tennessee Volunteers (6-5), Florida narrowly escaped at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-4), and Texas narrowly escaped at a neutral site against the Oklahoma Sooners (6-5). Why, then, did I rank these three teams in alphabetical order?
The Tide have beaten seven Division I-A teams with winning records, as have the Gators. The ‘Horns have hooked six such opponents. Five of Alabama’s wins came against squads with records of 7-4 or better, while Florida and Texas each have beaten only four such foes. Finally, the Crimson Tide’s two best wins (over No. 12 Virginia Tech and No. 17 Ole Miss) both are better than the best victories carded by the Gators (over No. 20 Louisiana State) and the Longhorns (over No. 23 Oklahoma State).
The Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0) edged out the TCU Horned Frogs (11-0) for the No. 4 spot, despite the fact that Cincy’s best victory (over No. 16 Oregon State) wasn’t quite as good as Texas Christian’s (over No. 14 Clemson), because five of the Horned Frogs’ triumphs have come against the likes of Wyoming (5-6), San Diego State (4-7), UNLV (4-7), Colorado State (3-8), and Virginia (3-8). Buoyed by their season-opening victory over Oregon, the Boise St. Broncos (11-0) checked in at No. 6 despite a resume including wins against Division I-AA UC-Davis and six teams with losing ledgers.
The seventh spot went to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-1), whose record of achievement improved during the Golden Tornado’s bye week. Three of the Engineers’ wins came against 8-3 ACC opponents Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech, and the Ramblin’ Wreck sustained its only loss to a top fifteen team on the road. Even though the Pittsburgh Panthers (9-1) have beaten exactly as many teams with winning records as Georgia Tech and have defeated fewer teams with losing records than the Yellow Jackets, Pitt lacks a marquee win and the Panthers inexplicably lost to the N.C. State Wolfpack (4-7).
Despite registering quality wins over Iowa and Penn State, the Ohio St. Buckeyes (10-2) were unable to vault past the Oregon Ducks (9-2) because the probable Pac-10 champions have a more forgivable pair of losses than the Big Ten champions. Both of the Ducks’ setbacks were suffered on the road against teams ranked in my top 25, whereas the Buckeyes’ losses include one sustained at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers (5-7). Interestingly enough, the Ducks faced each of the teams that defeated Ohio State . . . and Oregon beat them both.
The Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2) appear at No. 11 on my ballot, one notch behind a Buckeye club with an identical record that beat Iowa by a narrow margin in Columbus. The Virginia Tech Hokies (8-3) captured the No. 12 ranking ahead of the Penn St. Nittany Lions (10-2) because Joe Paterno’s outfit features a resume notably lacking in heft. Penn State has beaten just two Division I-A teams with winning records, one of which was Temple. The Gobblers have bested a pair of 8-3 squads in Miami (Florida) and Nebraska. Moreover, the Lions’ home losses to Iowa and Ohio State were not close, whereas VPI endured all three of its losses outside of Blacksburg in games against teams that I currently have ranked. None of them were blowouts and two of them were settled by a touchdown or less.
Seven straight 8-3 teams follow, and, while the order in which they are arranged is not random, the sequence certainly is subject to revision. The Clemson Tigers claimed the No. 14 slot ahead of the Miami Hurricanes, in part, based upon the head-to-head meeting between the two teams, although the Country Gentlemen’s narrow loss at Maryland (2-9) makes the Fort Hill Felines a very shaky top fifteen pick.
Choosing between the Oregon St. Beavers and the Mississippi Rebels proved exceedingly difficult, as their respective resumes are virtually identical. Their overall records are exactly the same; they both have beaten three teams with winning records; their respective best victories are comparable (Oregon State over No. 19 Cal, Ole Miss over No. 20 Louisiana State); the Beavers’ three losses were to teams with a combined record of 23-7 and the Rebels’ three losses were to teams with a combined record of 24-9. In the end, Oregon State got the nod because Mississippi has played two Division I-AA teams and the Beavers’ second-best win (over No. 24 Stanford) was superior to the Rebels’ (over Arkansas).
The North Carolina Tar Heels also were dragged down by having scheduled a pair of Division I-AA opponents. That, plus UNC’s losses to Florida State (6-5) and Virginia (3-8), kept the Heels at No. 18 despite their victories over Miami and Virginia Tech. The California Golden Bears were held back by the fact that their three losses were not by close margins, but a quality win at Stanford elevated Cal above the LSU Tigers, whose best win was over Auburn at home.
I had no idea what to do with the USC Trojans (7-3). On the one hand, Southern California carded quality victories over No. 10 Ohio State, No. 16 Oregon State, and No. 19 Cal. On the other hand, the Men of Troy were beaten badly by No. 9 Oregon and No. 24 Stanford, barely escaped with wins in road outings against Arizona State (4-7) and Notre Dame (6-5), lost at Washington (3-7), and claimed two triumphs over one-win teams San Jose State and Washington State. At the end of the day, No. 21 seemed suitable, particularly since my No. 20 team beat the Huskies in Seattle, where the Trojans lost.
I know there are plenty of folks who think the Houston Cougars (9-2) have no business being ranked, but here’s the deal: I think the Oklahoma St. Cowboys (9-2) are a top 25 team, and I cannot countenance ranking one without ranking the other. Both have 9-2 records; both have beaten four teams with winning records; both won close contests at home against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-4). However, the Pokes’ best win is over Texas Tech, whereas Houston has a better win (against Oklahoma State). The head-to-head result, plus the lopsided nature of the Cowboys’ loss to Texas, enables the Cougars to overcome their two road losses to stay a spot ahead of Oklahoma State.
Convincing wins over Oregon and Southern California enabled the Stanford Cardinal (7-4) to hang onto a place in the top 25 in spite of their four losses, since three of those setbacks came on the road, three came in close contests, and three came against teams with winning records. My ballot was rounded out by the inclusion of the Auburn Tigers (7-4), whose wins over Ole Miss and West Virginia enabled the Plainsmen to snag the final slot in my rankings ahead of such other contenders as the Kentucky Wildcats (7-4), Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-3), Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-3), South Florida Bulls (7-3), and West Virginia Mountaineers (7-3).
Last week, I watched whichever MAC game was airing on Wednesday night (I honestly can’t recall whether it was Buffalo-Miami (Ohio) or Ball State-Central Michigan), the Colorado-Oklahoma State game on Thursday night, and the Boise State-Utah State game on Friday night before settling in for a sickly Saturday of couch potatodom during which I watched the Michigan-Ohio State, LSU-Ole Miss, Clemson-Virginia, and Georgia-Kentucky games.
If some or all of that makes no sense to you, that might be because I’m sick and under the influence of cold medication, so please, by all means, feel free to offer your feedback, constructive criticisms, questions, and suggestions in the comments below.