Last night, I posted the preliminary draft of my final 2010 BlogPoll ballot. As promised, here are a few words of explanation for my rankings, which, as always, are based on each team’s actual resume rather than my thoroughly unreliable opinion of who would beat whom on a neutral field next Saturday:
- For the benefit of those contrarians determined to argue that TCU has a valid claim to the No. 1 ranking, Auburn is Division I-A college football’s national champion, and it isn’t close. Texas Christian defeated No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 25 Utah, and a pair of 9-4 clubs in Air Force and San Diego State, and that’s it; the Horned Frogs’ other two victims with winning records (Baylor and Brigham Young) both went 7-6, and four of the five teams with losing records bested by TCU suffered nine or more losses apiece. While the Frogs had an impressive season, it simply isn’t on the same
planeplain as Auburn’s victories over No. 3 Oregon, No. 8 Louisiana State, No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 23 Mississippi State, and a South Carolina squad that went 9-3 against everyone else except the Tigers. Although the Plainsmen beat six teams that finished below .500, three of those opponents (Clemson, Georgia, and Kentucky) went 6-7, falling just one win shy of a winning record. No Auburn victim lost more than eight games, in stark contrast to such Texas Christian schedule fodder as Colorado State (3-9), Wyoming (3-9), UNLV (2-11), and New Mexico (1-11). I take nothing away from the Horned Frogs---they earned the No. 2 ranking with their undefeated Rose Bowl run---but the Tigers compiled far and away the most impressive resume of achievement in the 2010 campaign. Anyone who says differently is casting a thinly-veiled protest vote against the BCS or is an unabashed Auburn hater, and, as an unabashed Auburn hater myself, I have no patience for voters who allow such extraneous considerations to influence their ballots, which are supposed to be cast conscientiously without passion or prejudice. (I hate Auburn.)
- I thought seriously about dropping the Ducks behind the Buckeyes, in light of the fact that Oregon beat only four teams with winning records, two of whom (Arizona and Washington) went 7-6, but I gave Chip Kelly’s club the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that the Pac-10 plays an extra regular-season conference game and the Ducks played the Plainsmen exceedingly close. Nevertheless, I left Ohio State out in front of Stanford, since Jim Tressel’s team got to 12-1 without facing a Division I-AA opponent, had a better "best" win (No. 12 Arkansas, as opposed to the Cardinal’s No. 16 Virginia Tech), defeated seven teams that finished over .500 (Jim Harbaugh’s squad beat five), and, yes, negotiated a tougher non-conference slate. It’s a fact!
- Despite posting the same 12-1 record and facing an identical number of teams that finished with winning seasons, Boise State checked in behind Stanford because the Cardinal beat their two common opponents (Oregon State and Virginia Tech) by a larger margin (78-12) than did the Broncos (70-54). Boise State finished well in front of Nevada, despite the head-to-head result, because the Broncos triumphed over three ranked teams (Virginia Tech, Hawaii, and Utah), while the Wolf Pack bested only BSU. Nevada’s other dozen victims included Division I-AA Eastern Washington, three Division I-A teams that ended the autumn above .500 (two of whom went 7-6), and eight Division I-A teams that concluded the campaign with losing records (four of whom lost nine or more games).
- The Sooners led among twice-beaten teams because their two losses both came on the road to teams that won nine or more games, and because Oklahoma’s seven victories over teams that finished over .500 included wins against No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Nebraska, No. 19 Florida State, and Air Force. Coupled with a conference championship, that gave Bob Stoops’s troops a narrow edge over Les Miles’s crew, which defeated No. 11 Alabama, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 21 West Virginia, and No. 23 Mississippi State while falling twice on the road by eight or fewer points to a pair of clubs that each amassed a double-digit win tally. Admittedly, though, this was a close call---as were both teams’ seasons; six of LSU’s wins and six of Oklahoma’s wins were by eight or fewer points---and I could be convinced to switch the two.
- The Cowboys matched the Bayou Bengals’ record, but not the quality of their victories, as Oklahoma State’s best win was over No. 17 Texas A&M, but the Pokes’ two setbacks were respectable, even if they came at home. Likewise, the Tigers’ 10-3 campaign was slightly more impressive than the Tide’s, since Missouri bested the seventh-ranked Sooners and the 17th-ranked Aggies, as well as San Diego State and Miami (Ohio), while Alabama’s best triumphs came against the 12th-ranked Razorbacks, the 14th-ranked Spartans, and the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs. The Hogs also finished 10-3 and lost to ‘Bama head-to-head, but Arkansas was buoyed by wins over Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.
- Michigan State’s 11-2 record would have earned the Spartans a ranking higher than 14th if their two losses hadn’t been by a combined 86-13 margin, but their win over Wisconsin landed Sparty in front of the Badgers. Bret Bielema’s outfit won eleven games and lost two by a total of twelve points, but only four of Wiscy’s victims finished above .500, and two of those went 7-6. Fortunately for the Badgers, one of the others was No. 4 Ohio State.
- The Hokies benefited from wins over No. 19 Florida State and No. 20 N.C. State, plus a quality loss to No. 6 Boise State, but VPI was dragged down by its blowout loss in the Orange Bowl and its narrow loss to a Division I-AA opponent.
- Texas A&M finished ahead of any other four-loss team because the Aggies’ quartet of setbacks were sustained at the hands of teams who all finished with double-digit win totals. Texas A&M’s five victories over teams with winning records included triumphs over Big 12 division champions Nebraska and Oklahoma, which landed the Cornhuskers (who also lost four games, including one at home to a 5-7 Texas team the Aggies beat on the road) behind Texas A&M. Wins over the ninth-ranked Cowboys and the tenth-ranked Tigers, however, put Nebraska ahead of a Seminole squad with an identical 10-4 ledger but no win over an opponent better than the 22nd-ranked Terrapins.
- N.C. State beat Florida State in North Carolina, but the Wolfpack also lost on the road to Clemson and East Carolina, each of whom finished 6-7. A convincing win in the Champs Sports Bowl landed N.C. State ahead of a West Virginia squad with the same 9-4 record. The Mountaineers’ head-to-head win over Maryland likewise put them in front of the Terps, who also finished 9-4.
- As solid a season as Mississippi State had, the Bulldogs beat only two teams that ended the season with winning records, the best of which was Urban Meyer’s worst Florida team.
- After that, the pickings got pretty slim. Hawaii’s win over No. 13 Nevada got the Warriors into the poll, even though their ten victories included as many triumphs over opponents that lost at least ten games as over clubs that won at least seven games. The Utes grabbed the last spot in the top 25 with a ten-win season that included victories over the Aztecs and the Falcons, but Utah was stranded in the lower reaches of the poll by virtue of three losses by a cumulative 101-13 margin.
- Among the teams I considered but did not include were, in order of their finish, Tulsa (which won ten games and beat Hawaii but lost close games to seven-loss East Carolina and Southern Methodist), San Diego State (which went 9-4 and lost four close games but beat six teams that all lost eight or more outings), Air Force (which beat Navy and lost to four good teams but beat four opponents who all lost at least nine contests), Navy (which went 9-4 and lost to three teams who also went 9-4, but also lost to three-win Duke and claimed its best win over Notre Dame), Northern Illinois (which won eleven games against a schedule that included no wins over teams with more than eight victories but six wins over teams with eight or more losses), Miami (Ohio) (six of whose ten wins came against opponents with at least nine setbacks apiece), and Central Florida (which went 11-3 but beat no teams with winning records). I did not consider ranking any teams with more than four losses.
Except where work or family obligations took precedence, I watched almost all of the college football postseason, including every bowl of any significance, although our trip to Memphis caused me to miss some of the Division I-A action that week and on the morning of January 1. As always, your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are solicited.