This week, I did my duty as a conscientious BlogPoll voter, carefully parsing the resumes of the respective contenders and, quite frankly, finding most of them wanting in a big way. Such glaring flaws notwithstanding, I have done my best to assemble a sensible top 25 based on what the teams have accomplished on the field. Here are the results of my efforts:
The first-place vote for Louisiana State should be fairly self-explanatory, as the Bayou Bengals are undefeated and own wins over No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oregon. The Cowboys, while a distant second, nevertheless are 10-0, with victories over No. 20 Kansas State and No. 22 Baylor.
The Crimson Tide, whose only loss was to No. 1 LSU by a field goal in overtime, are the country’s top once-beaten team, as Alabama demonstrated in triumphs against No. 7 Arkansas and No. 25 Penn State. The Ducks’ loss to the Tigers was not as close, and Oregon’s only quality win was at No. 9 Stanford, but that still trumps the resume offered by the Country Gentlemen, who beat the tenth-ranked Hokies and fell to the 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets. The Sooners, who bested the 20th-ranked Wildcats, beat Florida State more convincingly than Clemson did, but Oklahoma is harmed by the loss to 5-5 Texas Tech.
The one-loss Hogs edged out the one-loss Broncos by virtue of the fact that Arkansas’s best win (over No. 14 South Carolina) came against a team that claimed a head-to-head win against Boise State’s best victim (No. 16 Georgia). The Cardinal likewise trail BSU because Stanford’s best win (an overtime escape against No. 18 Southern California) was less impressive than the Broncos’ win in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. (Incidentally, Boise State lost to an 8-2 team by one point, beat another 8-2 team in that opponent’s back yard, and otherwise faced a slate with a combined 32-35 record. Stanford lost to a 9-1 team, beat an 8-2 team on the road, and otherwise faced a slate with a combined 27-54 record. Let’s keep the bashing of the Broncos’ schedule in perspective; if you multiplied every Boise State player’s SAT score by two, the Broncos would be the Cardinal.)
As evidenced by the fact that Boise State and Stanford, who are basically 1-1 against teams with a pulse, are ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, the pickings get pretty slim by the time we get to No. 10. The Hokies beat No. 19 Georgia Tech in Atlanta to earn their top ten ranking, beating out teams with shiny records against suspect slates: Houston is 10-0 against a schedule featuring Division I-AA Georgia State, nine-loss Tulane, eight-loss UAB, seven-loss Rice, six-loss East Carolina, Marshall, and North Texas, .500 clubs UCLA (by four) and UTEP (by seven), and six-win Louisiana Tech (by one); meanwhile, Southern Miss is 9-1 with a six-point road loss to six-loss Marshall but a respectable road win over de facto No. 26 Virginia.
Even though the Gamecocks had the better pair of setbacks, Texas Christian edged South Carolina for the No. 13 spot as the country’s top twice-beaten team because the Horned Frogs’ best victory (by one on the road against No. 8 Boise State) came against a team that beat the Palmetto State Poultry’s most impressive victim (No. 16 Georgia, whom the Gamecocks beat on the road by three). The Cornhuskers’ resume, though bolstered by wins over a couple of 8-2 teams (every team in the Big Ten seems to be either 8-2 or absolutely abysmal), is dragged down by a blowout loss at Wisconsin and a three-point setback at home against 5-5 Northwestern.
The Bulldogs check in at No. 16. The Red and Black’s two losses came against teams with a combined 16-3 ledger, and, while Georgia has yet to beat a really good team, none of the Classic City Canines’ last six wins has come against a truly terrible team; the Athenians’ last half-dozen victims all had records between 4-6 and 6-4. Also, Georgia beat Auburn by a wider margin than No. 7 Arkansas, No. 5 Clemson, or No. 1 LSU did. That gave the Bulldogs more on which to hang their hats than the Spartans could claim, as Michigan State beat two 8-2 teams, but Sparty also beat a 3-8 team (Central Michigan), a 2-8 team (Minnesota), an 0-9 team (Florida Atlantic), and a Division I-AA team (Youngstown State) to account for half of MSU’s victories. Also, the Spartans were not competitive in either of their losses, which were to No. 15 Nebraska and No. 24 Notre Dame, as opposed to Georgia’s losses to No. 8 Boise State and No. 14 South Carolina.
The Men of Troy topped a trio of two-win teams (Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota by two points), and that loss to the Sun Devils looks worse every week, so USC only earned a No. 18 ranking by virtue of having beaten the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish. The Yellow Jackets also have wins over three two-win teams (Kansas, Maryland by five points, and Middle Tennessee), and only one of the Engineers’ three losses is a bad one (to 5-5 Miami), but the Ramblin’ Wreck has by far the best victory of any of the thrice-beatens; namely, the Golden Tornado’s impressive triumph over No. 5 Clemson.
Kansas State beat No. 22 Baylor by one point and lost to two teams with a combined 18-1 record, while Wisconsin continues to get a bounce from having beaten No. 15 Nebraska, though it cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how unimpressive it truly is that the Badgers have battered their way through their shameful slate. Wiscy fell to a mediocre Ohio State club and carded five of its eight victories against 2-7 UNLV, 2-8 Minnesota, 2-8 Oregon State, 1-9 Indiana, and Division I-AA South Dakota. The Badgers’ second-best win was over Northern Illinois. Again, anyone who has Wisconsin in the top 20 needs to quit giving Boise State grief for the Broncos’ soft schedule.
By the time we get to resumes as suspect as the Badgers’, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel, which is why we are left with the likes of Baylor (due to a two-point win over No. 13 TCU), Michigan (due to a four-point win over No. 24 Notre Dame), Notre Dame (due to a win over No. 17 Michigan State), and Penn State (due to wins over four 6-4 teams and two 5-5 teams, as well as losses to two teams with a cumulative 17-3 record).
On the outside looking in were the Cavaliers (Virginia’s three-point win over No. 19 Georgia Tech gave the Wahoos their only victory over a Division I-A opponent with a winning record, but the V-Men were dragged down by two losses to teams with six or fewer wins), the Seminoles (two of whose three losses were to one-loss teams, but who have yet to beat a Division I-A team above .500), the Longhorns (Texas beat Brigham Young, but also lost to Missouri), the Cougars (BYU lost to three teams with a collective 20-9 ledger, but Brigham Young hasn’t beaten a Division I-A team with a winning record, nor have the Cougars beaten by more than a touchdown a Division I-A opponent with more than three victories to its credit), and the Bearcats (Cincinnati lost to 4-6 Tennessee and has beaten six Division I-A clubs with five or fewer wins, but, basically, the Bearcats are a two-loss team from an automatically-qualifying BCS conference, so Cincy got a look).
Frankly, college football is having a bit of a down year. There aren’t remotely close to being 25 teams that deserve to be ranked; even a top 20 is stretching it by a tad. I have, to the best of my ability, arranged in an orderly fashion the dogs (or ‘Dawgs) with the fewest fleas, but, as always, your feedback is invited in the comments below.