It is time once again for me to rank the top 25 teams in the land in my BlogPoll ballot. As always at this point in the season, I did not look at any other college football rankings, including my own ballot of one week ago, but instead started from a blank piece of paper (several, actually) and cobbled together the following:
As always, I am happy to explain any oddities or inconsistencies, or to change my vote in the face of sufficiently persuasive arguments, so I welcome your feedback in the comments below, but here, in a nutshell, is the explanation for the foregoing rankings:
- It continues to be the case that, despite Auburn’s suspect defense, the Plainsmen have a more impressive resume than the Ducks. The Tigers have beaten six teams with winning records, whereas Oregon has beaten only two. Although the Pac-10’s extra conference game disadvantages the league’s teams over the course of the season, Auburn and Oregon both are 7-0 in conference play, and, if you moved one loss by each of the Pac-10 foes the Ducks have vanquished over to the left-hand side of their respective ledgers, Oregon still would have beaten only three teams with winning records. The Ducks’ best win (over No. 8 Stanford) compares favorably to the Tigers’ best win (over No. 5 Louisiana State), but, after that, there’s no comparison: No. 13 Arkansas provides a considerably better scalp than 7-4 Southern California, and Oregon’s eight other victims all are either Division I-AA teams or Division I-A teams with losing ledgers. The Plainsmen, meanwhile, have wins over No. 16 South Carolina and 7-4 Mississippi State to their credit. Oregon might beat Auburn on a neutral field, but the Tigers have a substantially more impressive resume than the Ducks.
- The call between the Broncos and the Horned Frogs was a close one, and there are solid arguments to be made for Texas Christian. I went with Boise State because the Broncos’ best win (over No. 19 Virginia Tech) has marginally more value than the Frogs’ (over No. 21 Utah). The margin between the two is razor-thin, though, and I couldn’t conscientiously quarrel with anyone who went the other way on that call.
- The Bayou Bengals and the Spartans have nearly identical resumes; both have lost once on the road, and both have bested one Division I-AA opponent, four Division I-A teams below .500, and five Division I-A teams with winning records. Although Michigan State’s best win (over No. 7 Wisconsin) is superior to LSU’s (over No. 11 Alabama), the Tigers got the nod for two reasons. First of all, Louisiana State’s lone loss came in a close contest against my No. 1 team, while Michigan State’s was in a blowout at 7-4 Iowa. Secondly, the Bayou Bengals have a respectable out-of-conference schedule that includes victories over 7-3 West Virginia and 6-5 North Carolina. The Spartans’ non-Big Ten slate consisted of 6-5 Notre Dame, 5-6 Western Michigan, 4-6 Florida Atlantic, and Division I-AA Northern Colorado.
- The three otherwise indistinguishable 10-1 Big Ten teams were arranged according to head-to-head result: Michigan State, which beat Wisconsin, is ranked sixth; Wisconsin, which beat Ohio State, is ranked seventh; and Ohio State checks in at No. 9. In between the Badgers and the Buckeyes are the Cardinal, which was unable to rise higher than eighth because Stanford’s best win was over No. 23 Arizona and seven of the Cardinal’s other nine wins were over Division I-AA Sacramento State and six teams with losing records. Even if you were to offset the extra conference game played by Pac-10 teams by moving one loss into the win column for each of Stanford’s seven league victims, Jim Harbaugh’s club still would have beaten only four teams above .500.
- Alabama edged Missouri because the Crimson Tide have better losses (‘Bama fell twice on the road to teams with a combined 18-4 record; Mizzou fell twice on the road to teams with a combined 15-7 record), the Crimson Tide have the better win (over No. 13 Arkansas, as opposed to No. 15 Oklahoma), and the two teams otherwise are equal (both have beaten four teams with ledgers of 7-4 or better).
- Head-to-head results heavily influenced the placement of the next three squads, all of whom sport similar ledgers and quality losses. No. 13 Arkansas beat No. 14 Texas A&M, who beat No. 15 Oklahoma.
- The Gamecocks, though buoyed by their win over the Tide, were dinged for their close road loss to 6-5 Kentucky, but not as much as N.C. State was dinged for the Wolfpack’s close road losses to 6-5 East Carolina and 6-5 Clemson. Likewise, the Cornhuskers continue to suffer for the shame of losing at home to 5-6 Texas, while the Hokies still are haunted by the ignominy of losing at home to Division I-AA James Madison.
- The Seminoles were hurt by their close home loss to 6-5 North Carolina and their blowout road loss to the Sooners, but what really harmed Florida State was the lack of a marquee win: FSU’s five victories over teams above .500 feature two road wins over 7-4 outfits and three home triumphs over 6-5 clubs.
- A lack of suitable alternatives and the ill-formed idea that we should rank 25 teams instead of only 20 account for the inclusion of the Utes (who are 9-2 with five wins over teams with nine or more losses), the Wolf Pack (whose best win was a nailbiter over a 6-4 Fresno State squad that Boise State hammered), the Wildcats (who lost at home to a 5-5 team and whose best victory was a close call at home against a 7-4 squad), the Huskies (who are 9-2 with five wins over teams with eight or more losses, and whose best win was over a Temple team we watched lose by double digits earlier this evening), and the Midshipmen (who lost to a 3-8 Duke team, and who have not beaten a Division I-A opponent with a record better than 6-5). If I hadn’t included any of those teams, though, I’d have been forced to go with a four-loss team or one of three indistinguishable 8-3 Conference USA outfits.
I watched the second halves of the Alabama-Georgia State and UCLA-Washingon games on Thursday night, the Boise State-Fresno State game on Friday night, and portions of the South Carolina-Troy, LSU-Ole Miss, Miami-Virginia Tech, and Florida State-Maryland tilts on Saturday. As always, your questions and constructive criticisms are welcome in the comments below.