I was a little pressed for time when compiling this week’s BlogPoll ballot, so I welcome your constructive criticisms in the short span of time separating the publication of this posting from the submission deadline. In particular, if you know of any four-loss teams that are worthy of inclusion (or if you wish to state a case for three-loss Hawaii or Tulsa), by all means, let me know in the comments below. As matters stand, here are the top 25 teams in the land from my perspective:
I will be happy to answer any questions or consider any feedback left in the comments, but, generally speaking, these are my reasons for ranking the teams as I have:
- Finally, the official rankings state what I have said all along: Auburn is a more accomplished team than Oregon. The Ducks and the Plainsmen both are 8-0 in conference play, but Auburn has beaten No. 5 Arkansas, No. 7 Louisiana State, No. 15 South Carolina, No. 16 Alabama, and eight-win Mississippi State, whereas Oregon has defeated No. 8 Stanford, seven-win Arizona and Southern California, Division I-AA Portland State, and six Division I-A squads with losing records. I considered ranking Texas Christian ahead of the Pac-10 champions, since the Horned Frogs have bested five teams above .500, but TCU’s best win (over No. 22 Utah) was markedly inferior to the Ducks’ best triumph.
- While I understand the argument for letting margin of victory break the Big Ten deadlock, I am much less inclined to reward Bret Bielema for being a smirking jackass who runs up scores than I am to recognize the simple reality of head-to-head competition: Michigan State beat Wisconsin, and Wisconsin beat Ohio State, and all three teams finished with identical records, overall and in conference play, while none secured a marquee (or even particularly meaningful) out-of-conference win. (The Spartans’ three Division I-A non-conference opponents have a combined 17-18 record, the Badgers’ three Division I-A non-conference opponents have a combined 8-27 record, and the Buckeyes’ four Division I-A non-conference opponents have a combined 22-26 record.) All other things being equal---and all other things are---what ought to matter most is who beat whom.
- Six wins over teams with winning records (including No. 6 Wisconsin) earned the Spartans the No. 4 spot ahead of the Hogs, who rode a trio of quality victories (over No. 7 LSU, No. 13 Texas A&M, and No. 15 South Carolina) and a pair of respectable losses (to No. 1 Auburn and No. 16 Alabama) to the No. 5 ranking. The Badgers edged out the Bayou Bengals on the strength of Wisconsin’s win over No. 9 Ohio State, but Louisiana State earned the No. 7 spot with wins over No. 16 Alabama and No. 21 West Virginia, coupled with quality losses in close road contests against a pair of top five teams. For all the sparkle and glitter of the Cardinal’s stellar record, eight of Stanford’s eleven wins came against Division I-AA opposition or teams with losing ledgers, and Jim Harbaugh’s outfit has yet to defeat a team with more than seven wins to its credit. The Buckeyes likewise have beaten only one team with a record better than 7-5, and that team is 8-4 Ohio (Ohio).
- Then begins a tangled muddle of massed Big 12 teams. The Sooners finished at the head of the pack with the No. 10 ranking by virtue of beating No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 20 Florida State while dropping road contests to a pair of top fifteen teams. The Cowboys sport the same record as the Sooners, but Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma at home. Nevertheless, the Pokes finished in front of Mizzou because Mike Gundy’s club lost only to 10-2 division champions, whereas the Tigers lost to seven-win Texas Tech. A better record and a head-to-head win still kept Missouri ahead of the Aggies, but victories over both Nebraska and Oklahoma (along with losses to a trio of 10-2 teams in the top twelve) kept Texas A&M ahead of a Cornhusker unit that lost at home to a Texas outfit with a losing record.
- The Gamecocks might have edged Nebraska for the No. 14 spot, but the Palmetto State Poultry were embarrassed by Arkansas at home and fell to a .500 Kentucky club on the road. In addition, South Carolina’s best win (over No. 16 Alabama) was not of the same caliber as the Cornhuskers’ (over No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 12 Missouri). The head-to-head result still kept the ‘Cocks in front of the Crimson Tide, but a quality win over the Razorbacks and a losses to three top fifteen teams kept Alabama ahead of the Wolf Pack, whose second-best victim after Boise State was a Fresno State club sporting a 7-4 ledger. The Broncos dropped behind the Nevada team that just bested BSU, as Boise State’s resume (featuring wins over six teams below .500, including three-win Wyoming, two-win New Mexico State, and one-win San Jose State) lacks the heft to survive a blemish. The Broncos remain in front of their most accomplished victim, a ten-win VPI team with only one win over a team with a record better than 7-5 and a loss to Division I-AA James Madison.
- The pickings get rather slim thereafter. The Seminoles, whose best win is over eight-win Maryland and whose losses came to three teams with a combined 25-11 record, narrowly beat out the Mountaineers, whose best win is over eight-win Maryland and whose losses came to three teams with a combined 24-11 record. The Utes cling to close wins over Air Force, Pittsburgh, and San Diego State to validate their 10-2 ledger, and the Huskies likewise point to victories over a pair of 8-4 outfits to justify their inclusion. The Midshipmen’s wins over Notre Dame and Southern Methodist barely allowed them to overcome a close loss to three-win Duke, and a dearth of otherwise acceptable options was all that allowed the Knights to sneak into the poll, despite UCF’s failure to beat so much as a single team with a winning record in the course of its 9-3 campaign.
I watched all or part of Miami (Ohio)-Temple on Tuesday, Texas-Texas A&M on Thursday, and Alabama-Auburn, Arizona-Oregon, and Boise State-Nevada on Friday before viewing much of Kentucky-Tennessee and attending Georgia-Georgia Tech on Saturday.
As always, your questions and constructive criticisms are most welcome in the comments below.