As the curse of being No. 1 continued, another wild weekend of college football produced more than a few changes in my BlogPoll ballot. As always, I ranked by resumes and began with a blank sheet of paper without looking at last week’s ballot, although I was pleased that my effort of a week ago largely matched that of Matt Hinton, the patron saint of resume ranking. Here is how this week’s top 25 breaks down:
While I will be happy to answer any specific questions or constructive criticisms in the comments, here is a brief defense of the placement of teams in my top 25:
- The Plainsmen clearly boast the country’s best resume. Although five of their eight victories came by margins of eight or fewer points, the Tigers have beaten a quintet of Division I-A teams with winning records, including No. 7 Louisiana State, No. 18 South Carolina, No. 21 Mississippi State, and No. 22 Arkansas. No team in the country has beaten a better batch of opponents than Auburn. (I hate Auburn. I know it’s the wrong week for that, but I do.)
- The Spartans had little to show for the first half of the fall; their first four victims were a Division I-AA opponent, two non-conference teams who currently sport losing ledgers, and a .500 Notre Dame outfit Michigan State beat on a fake field goal in overtime. Since then, though, Sparty has topped four straight opponents with winning records, besting a pair of them on the road and claiming all four victories by at least eight points. No. 9 Wisconsin was one of Michigan State’s victims, as well as a pair of 5-2 squads in Michigan and Northwestern. That vaulted MSU into the second spot ahead of Missouri, whose second-best win was a ten-point triumph over an Illinois team that fell to the Spartans by a 20-point margin. Single-digit wins over Oklahoma and San Diego State at home helped provide the Tigers with four victories over opponents with records above .500, but Mizzou’s opponents other than the Sooners have tended to be rather middling, with four of the Tigers’ six Division I-A wins coming against teams with records between 3-4 and 4-4.
- Texas Christian, Boise State, and Oregon were lumped together in a largely indistinguishable mass, because, quite frankly, they’re pretty much the same team, boasting one signature win and a bunch of blowouts over bad teams. The Horned Frogs got the nod over the Broncos, even though BSU’s best win (over No. 23 Virginia Tech) came against a team I have ahead of TCU’s most accomplished victim (Baylor), because Texas Christian has a win over Air Force to complement its victory over Oregon State, who gave the Broncos their third-best scalp. As dominant as the Ducks have looked, the simple fact is that their seven wins have come against No. 17 Stanford, Division I-AA Portland State, and five Division I-A opponents who sport losing ledgers, including three-win Arizona State and UCLA, two-win Tennessee, one-win Washington State, and winless New Mexico. I like Oregon, and I think they’re a very good football team, but, as a resume ranker, I am forced to acknowledge that the Ducks have compiled a mid-major record. No, that isn’t East Coast bias; I’d feel the same way about a 7-0 SEC team with six Division I-A wins, five of which came against opponents with a combined record of 9-27. Oregon is a quality club with only one win of any value, and this is not a power poll. I believe the Ducks would beat four of the five teams I have ranked ahead of them, but they’ve played the schedule they’ve played, and, so far, they’ve beaten one team of note.
- While I believe the Crimson Tide will beat the Bayou Bengals head-to-head, Louisiana State has compiled the better 7-1 record. LSU’s best win (over No. 21 Mississippi State) is marginally better than Alabama’s (over No. 22 Arkansas), the Tigers have more wins over teams with winning records (4) than the Tide (3), ‘Bama has beaten more tomato cans (one-win Duke and San Jose State), and Louisiana State’s lone loss (on the road in a one-score game against No. 1 Auburn) was significantly more respectable than the Crimson Tide’s (on the road by a larger margin against No. 18 South Carolina).
- The Badgers’ resume is buoyed by wins over No. 12 Ohio State and No. 19 Iowa, but Wisconsin is dragged down by the fact that three of the squad’s six Division I-A victories came against teams with only one win (Minnesota, San Jose State, and UNLV). I strongly suspect that the Sooners are not a legitimate top ten team---four wins by eight or fewer points over teams with records between 2-5 and 5-3 suggest as much---but Bob Stoops’s troops still are able to hang their hats on their demolition of No. 16 Florida State. That, and a much more respectable loss, enabled Oklahoma to edge a Nebraska unit whose best win was over No. 14 Oklahoma State, but who fell at a home to a reeling Texas team the Sooners beat at a neutral site.
- The Buckeyes are imposing their will upon subpar opposition, besting one-win squads Eastern Michigan and Marshall while defeating Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue clubs who all sit at 4-3. A signature win over Miami gave Ohio State the best of its five victories over teams with winning records, but the Bucks were not competitive in their loss to No. 9 Wisconsin. Even that setback was better than Arizona’s loss to .500 Oregon State at home, though.
- The Cowboys have not beaten a team with more than four wins, and the Pokes struggled in half of their four wins over teams with more than a pair of victories to their credit. The Utes are undefeated, but their schedule is atrocious: Utah’s only win over a team with a winning record came at home in overtime against a Pitt outfit that now sits at 4-3. The rest of the Utes’ record was compiled against .500 Iowa State, two 2-6 teams (Colorado State and Wyoming), two one-win teams (San Jose State and UNLV), and winless New Mexico. Yeah, they’re undefeated, but, against a slate of opponents with a combined 14-39 record, who wouldn’t be?
- The Seminoles are weighed down by the facts that Miami is their only Division I-A victim with a winning record and Oklahoma skunked them in Norman. The Cardinal, who likewise fell by a double-digit margin on the road and whose only win over a team above .500 was a close call at home, stand a step behind Florida State in the rankings. The Gamecocks boast the best resume of the two-loss teams, owing primarily to their win over Alabama, but quality losses to No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 13 Arizona allowed the Hawkeyes to trail the Palmetto State Poultry by a single poll position.
- Nevada still clings to the last vestiges of value contained in the Wolf Pack’s win over Cal, Mississippi State has a respectable loss to Auburn but no win over a Division I-A opponent with more than four wins, and Arkansas has a respectable loss to Alabama but four wins over Division I-A opponents with records between 3-4 and 4-3.
- The paucity of worthy teams is attested to by the fact that the Hokies were able to overcome their loss to a Division I-AA opponent and make it into the top 25. VPI is ranked ahead of East Carolina and N.C. State because Virginia Tech beat both the Pirates and the Wolfpack; ECU is ranked ahead of N.C. State because the Pirates beat the Wolfpack (as well as Southern Miss); N.C. State made the cut because the Wolfpack’s win over Georgia Tech gave them a better resume than that offered by the Hurricanes (who have one-sided losses to Ohio State and Florida State), the Trojans (who lost to three-win Washington and have beaten no one more noteworthy than Hawaii), the Bears (who lost to four-win Texas Tech and have beaten no one more noteworthy than Kansas State, three two-win teams, and Division I-AA Sam Houston State), the Warriors (who upset Nevada yet fell at three-win Colorado), or the Midshipmen (who have not beaten a Division I-A team above .500).
What I watched: All of Oregon-UCLA on Thursday night; all of Georgia-Kentucky on Saturday night; significant percentages of Arkansas-Ole Miss, Auburn-LSU, and Clemson-Georgia Tech; parts of Alabama-Tennessee, Arizona-Washington, Iowa-Wisconsin, Michigan State-Northwestern, Missouri-Oklahoma, and Navy-Notre Dame.
As always, this is a draft ballot, so your questions, constructive criticisms, and arguments for or against particular placements or specific teams are welcome in the comments.