Although I have not not yet cast this week’s BlogPoll ballot, I have compiled my preliminary top 25, which I wanted to submit for your review and comment. I used last week’s ballot as a guide, but there has been considerable movement, as six teams dropped out, six teams jumped in, two teams moved into the top ten, and the top spot changed hands.
The first three weeks of the season are the toughest in which to cast a ballot, because the small sample sizes make straight resume ranking wildly erratic, yet preseason expectations already have been exposed as unreliable. Consequently, there are apt to be some placements that make you think, "Really?" I welcome your constructive criticisms, as there are some rankings with which I am not pleased, and I am very much open to suggestions as to how this ballot might be improved.
Here are the top 25 teams in the land, as I now see them:
- Ohio State
- Texas Christian
- Boise State
- South Carolina
- Miami (Florida)
- Fresno State
- Penn State
- Air Force
- Texas A&M
I’ll try to justify as best I can any particular placements upon request, but, overall, here is my rationale:
- The Broncos dropped because, even though I still believe they are a very good team, they did not play this weekend and their Labor Day night win over VPI has lost virtually all of its luster. The Hokies, naturally, dropped out of the poll altogether after losing to James Madison, who, in addition to playing in Division I-AA, is just one guy and who has been dead for nearly two centuries.
- The Crimson Tide, Buckeyes, Ducks, and Horned Frogs all moved up a notch because nothing in any of their performances this weekend gave me cause to doubt that they were as good as I gave them credit for being.
- I regretted dropping the Cornhuskers a notch after they built up a 31-3 halftime lead on Idaho, but the Sooners’ performance against the Seminoles was impressive enough to warrant vaulting them past their former Big Eight rivals. Florida State, of course, dropped from the top 25 entirely, as did every ACC team other than the Hurricanes, who lost but still put up 24 points on Ohio State.
- The Hawkeyes and the Gamecocks moved ahead of the Longhorns by virtue of impressive wins in rivalry games while Texas largely only held serve against inferior opposition.
- The Utes stayed put at No. 11 and the Bulldogs held fast at No. 16 because I was given no particularly good reason to move either of them. I believe both teams are ranked a bit high, but I lacked adequate alternatives to rank ahead of them.
- The Cougars, Wildcats, Aggies, and Razorbacks all inched upward. This was due primarily to attrition, although the first three at least performed appreciably well. I can’t really justify ranking Arkansas after the Hogs led Louisiana-Monroe 7-0 at the break, but the dearth of quality teams has gotten so bad that the Badgers sneaked into the top 25 after a lackluster 27-14 win over San Jose State. Who else was I going to rank, though? Louisiana State? Clemson?
- The Cardinal’s, Golden Bears’, Wolverines’, and Plainsmen’s wins over UCLA, Colorado, Notre Dame, and Mississippi State, respectively, weren’t remotely good enough to justify ranking any of them as high as I did, but, once again, a lack of quality options forced my hand. Stanford and Cal demonstrated dominance over currently weak but not historically bad teams from automatically-qualifying conferences. If you asked me to defend the proposition that beating Notre Dame by four points in South Bend was more impressive than beating Mississippi State by three points in Starkville in 2010, I couldn’t do it with a straight face, but I saw more of Auburn’s game than I saw of Michigan’s, so I had more first-hand knowledge upon the basis of which to downgrade them. Also, I hate Auburn, so there’s that.
- The Falcons crept in by claiming a 35-14 win over a BYU team I only had ranked because the Cougars previously defeated a Washington team I erroneously had ranked at the time. I am open to arguments for or against Air Force.
- The Gators dropped to No. 18 because they’ve looked lousy against a bad MAC team and a Big East also-ran. The Sunshine State Saurians ultimately won out on talent, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were tied with the Bulls at halftime. The Florida team that played yesterday would’ve gotten rolled up and smoked by the South Carolina team that played yesterday.
- The Cowboys dropped out of the top 25 because that’s what happens to teams that beat Troy 41-38 after trailing the Trojans by a touchdown at intermission.
- Speaking of the Trojans, if you even allow the thought of ranking Southern California in the top 25 to get within 18 inches of your head, you’re as dumb as Lane Kiffin.
Given the outstanding level of participation in the comment threads lately, I know I don’t have to ask for your feedback, but I will solicit constructive criticisms, anyway. Where am I right? Where am I wrong? Which teams need to be moved up, which ones need to be moved down, which ones need to be moved out, which ones need to be moved in, and which ones need to be explained further?