Compiling a top 25 this week was particularly challenging, for a variety of reasons, but, as always, I take my responsibilities as a BlogPoll voter seriously. Here, for what it’s worth, is how the best teams in college football stack up on my ballot:
First of all, I am not at all satisfied with this ballot, so please feel free to rip it apart. Secondly, I have reached the point where I so completely disbelieve in the Big Ten that I have downgraded every team in the league based on the understanding that all of their 9-2 and 8-3 records are inflated artificially.
Louisiana State’s No. 1 ranking requires no explanation. The Crimson Tide, who lost to the Bayou Bengals by three points in overtime but otherwise are undefeated, rank second. From that point, there is an enormous drop-off to No. 3, a spot occupied by the Broncos. Yes, that’s right; Boise State is ranked third, because, believe it or not, the Broncos’ resume is more impressive than that of the other once-beaten teams not located in Tuscaloosa.
For all the grief Boise State gets about its schedule strength, the Broncos beat 9-2 Georgia, 8-3 Tulsa, 7-4 Toledo, 6-4 Nevada and San Diego State, and 6-5 Air Force. All of BSU’s wins came over Division I-A competition, only three of the Broncos’ nine victims have losing records, and Boise State’s only loss came by one point to 9-2 Texas Christian. Meanwhile, though the Hogs beat South Carolina and Auburn, they also victimized the likes of Division I-AA Missouri State, 1-10 New Mexico, 2-9 Ole Miss, and 3-7 Troy. The Pokes faced fewer weak sisters (2-9 Kansas and 3-8 Arizona), but Oklahoma State also lost to 6-4 Iowa State, which waters down the Cowboys’ wins over Kansas State and Baylor.
The Ducks topped the list of two-loss clubs, thanks chiefly to their win over 10-1 Stanford and the quality of their losses to 11-0 LSU and 9-2 USC. Oregon’s head-to-head win over the Cardinal placed the Ducks ahead of Stanford, whose ten wins included victories over 2-10 Colorado, 3-8 Arizona, Duke, and Oregon State, and 4-7 San Jose State and Washington State. An eight-point overtime win over the Trojans marks Stanford’s only win over a team with a record better than 6-5.
Southern California checks in right behind the Cardinal, boosted by road wins over 9-2 Oregon and 8-3 Notre Dame but dragged down by a loss to 6-5 Arizona State. The Hokies and the Country Gentlemen round out the top ten, with VPI getting the nod, despite the Jungaleers’ head-to-head win over the Gobblers, because Clemson lost badly to 6-5 N.C. State. Both teams’ resumes were built against suspect competition, though: Virginia Tech defeated Division I-AA Appalachian State and 3-8 Boston College and Duke, while the Tigers beat Division I-AA Wofford, 3-7 Troy, 3-8 Boston College, and 2-9 Maryland.
The Gamecocks rode their three-point road win over Georgia to the No. 11 spot, just ahead of a Horned Frog squad that claimed a one-point road win over Boise State. Given the head-to-head result in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, I ordinarily would’ve given a team that beat the Broncos the nod over a team that beat the Bulldogs, but South Carolina’s two losses were to teams with a combined record of 17-5, whereas Texas Christian’s two losses were to teams with a combined record of 13-8.
Though the Sooners beat 9-2 Kansas State and have defeated seven teams with winning records, four of those seven teams are six-win squads, and one of Oklahoma’s two losses was to 5-6 Texas Tech. The Red and Black have beaten only one Division I-A team with a record better than 6-5, but they’ve also beaten only one Division I-A team with a record worse than 4-7, and the Bulldogs’ two losses were to teams with a combined ledger of 18-3. Kansas State’s resume is essentially the same as Georgia’s, only with a one-point win over a 7-3 squad rather than a 38-point win over a 7-4 outfit.
The Cougars are undefeated, but against whom? Houston has victimized Division I-AA Georgia State, 2-10 Tulane, 3-8 UAB, 4-7 North Texas and Rice, and 5-6 East Carolina, Marshall, and UTEP. The Bears, who beat both Oklahoma and TCU, are the best thrice-beaten team, and, after Baylor, we get to the 9-2 Big Ten teams. The Spartans beat Michigan and Wisconsin, and lost on the road to two 8-3 squads; the Wolverines beat Nebraska and Notre Dame, and lost on the road to 9-2 Michigan State and 7-4 Iowa; the Nittany Lions beat Iowa, and lost at home to 10-1 Alabama and 8-3 Nebraska; and the Badgers beat Nebraska, and lost on the road to 9-2 Michigan State and 6-5 Ohio State.
The Cavaliers defeated the Yellow Jackets, who defeated Clemson. The Cornhuskers lost at home to six-win Northwestern, while the Fighting Irish lost at home to five-win South Florida, but both beat Michigan State, so they made it into the top 25 ahead of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (who beat Cincinnati), the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (who beat Virginia), the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (who lost to three quality clubs but beat absolutely no one), and the BYU Cougars and Arkansas St. Red Wolves (who got to be 8-3 and 9-2, respectively, by repeating Tulsa’s feat, only without the quality losses).
Once again, I’m not happy with that, but that’s how it looks to me, so feel free to offer constructive criticisms in the comments below.