If you’ve never tried compiling a top 25, I strongly encourage you to give it a whirl; it’s harder than it looks, even if you are able to articulate a semi-coherent voting philosophy (which I hope is true in my case; I am a resume ranker). On Monday, I cast this week’s BlogPoll ballot, and here is how I ranked the best teams in college football:
The toughest call in the top 25 was between Nos. 1 and 2; which 6-0 SEC West team now or formerly coached by Nick Saban deserved the top spot more? I went with ‘Bama, for the following reasons:
- LSU has played a Division I-AA opponent; Alabama hasn’t.
- Both teams obliterated the Gators, but the Bayou Bengals did it in Death Valley and the Crimson Tide did it in the Swamp.
- The Tide’s best win (over No. 11 Arkansas) trumps the Tigers’ best win (over No. 24 Oregon).
- Alabama’s second-best win (over No. 16 Penn State) trumps Louisiana State’s second-best win (over unranked West Virginia, which was among the "others receiving consideration").
The Sooners narrowly edged the Country Gentlemen for the No. 3 spot, largely because Oklahoma’s resume was enhanced by Saturday’s neutral-site thumping of once-beaten Texas, while Clemson’s resume was watered down by Saturday’s win over one-win Boston College. Also, the Tigers’ five-point win over fading Florida State looks a little bit worse with each passing week, and that eight-point win over Division I-AA Wofford has never looked good.
After the top four, they’re all dogs with lots of fleas. The Badgers continue to get traction from their win over Nebraska, but wins over .500 Northern Illinois, Division I-AA South Dakota, and a pair of 1-4 outfits (UNLV and Oregon State) make it very difficult to consider Wisconsin anything more than Boise State with a significantly smarmier head coach. A three-point win over No. 19 Arizona State allowed the Fighting Illini to earn the nod over the Yellow Jackets, whose best win was a seven-point victory over No. 20 North Carolina.
I believe the Broncos are better than No. 8, but their five wins, while convincing, all came against teams with records between 2-4 and 4-2. The paucity of acceptable candidates is attested to by the fact that the Cornhuskers were able to ride a win over Washington and a seven-point escape against .500 Ohio State to a No. 9 ranking, despite being punked by the No. 5 team.
A one-point win over Baylor, a four-point win over Texas A&M and a throttling of Auburn, a one-point win over Texas A&M, a four-point win over Notre Dame, a one-point win over BYU, and a two-point win over TCU landed Kansas State, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Texas, and Baylor, respectively, in the next six spots. After that, frankly, it was just an effort to come up with ten more teams, which is how the Nittany Lions ended up at No. 16 with a resume that consists of a home win over Iowa, road wins over Temple and Indiana by a combined ten points, and a loss to Alabama in Happy Valley.
Two of the Cardinal’s five wins were over 1-5 clubs, and Stanford’s best victory was a road win over Duke. Three of the Gamecocks’ wins were over teams with losing records, and that three-point home loss to the Plainsmen still stings. The Sun Devils get points for beating the Trojans, though I’m not entirely sure why, because half of Southern California’s wins were over 1-5 teams, one of which the Men of Troy beat by two points. In between the two Pac-12 squads are the Tar Heels, who have a quality loss to Georgia Tech, but otherwise are able to boast nothing more than a two-point win over Rutgers.
The Cougars’ season has been a lesson in how to get to 6-0 while accomplishing as little as humanly possible. Houston reached bowl eligibility by defeating .500 UCLA (by four), 2-4 North Texas, 2-4 Louisiana Tech (by one), Division I-AA Georgia State, 2-3 UTEP (by seven), and 1-4 East Carolina. An overtime win over Texas Christian got Southern Methodist into the top 25, and the Ducks and the Hokies sneaked in mainly by losing badly to 6-0 Tiger teams. Hey, it’s better than what Auburn, Michigan State, Southern Mississippi, Wake Forest, Washington, and West Virginia had to offer.
I watched as much of the Cal-Oregon and Boise State-Fresno State games on Thursday and Friday nights as my sleep-deprived state would permit, and I saw parts of the Oklahoma-Texas, Florida State-Wake Forest, and Florida-LSU games before watching the Georgia-Tennessee game in its entirety.
As always, your questions, constructive criticisms, and insights are welcome in the comments below.