Honestly, with everything I have on my plate this week, I would’ve simply eschewed casting a BlogPoll ballot this time around, but duty is the sublimest word in the English language, and besides, Jman781 would never let me hear the end of it if I deprived him of his weekly good luck ritual and the ‘Dawgs wound up losing because of it. Here, then, is my top 25:
I’m taking it as a given that, at least as a matter of resume ranking, Louisiana State is your clear No. 1 and Alabama is your clear No. 2. Reasonable people may argue whether a rematch between the Bayou Bengals and the Crimson Tide is appropriate, advisable, or interesting, but, in terms of on-field achievement, LSU is without peer, and ‘Bama is close behind.
The Broncos snagged the No. 3 ranking because, in a weak field of once-beaten teams, Boise State has the best win (by two touchdowns over Georgia), a quality loss (by one point to Texas Christian), and an overall record unsullied by a Division I-AA opponent and featuring wins over seven teams with winning records. Yes, you read that correctly: BSU has beaten seven teams that are above .500. Knee-jerk knocks on the Broncos’ schedule are as outdated as Georgia Tech fans’ animadversions upon University of Georgia academics.
Due to the aforementioned dearth of high-caliber one-loss teams, Oregon earned the No. 4 spot by virtue of having bested fifth-ranked Stanford and fallen to top-ranked LSU and two-loss USC (by three). The Cardinal beat that Trojan team (by eight points in overtime), but Stanford suffers from a resume that looks like the one most folks erroneously seem to suppose Boise State possesses; seven of the Cardinal’s victims are at or below .500, with five of them having at least eight losses.
I hated having to rank the Razorbacks as high as sixth, but, though the Hogs were hammered in both of their losses, those setbacks occurred on the road against the top two teams in the country, and, while Arkansas has faced a slate showcasing a Division I-AA team (Missouri State), four teams with losing records (Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Troy, one of whom the Hogs beat by five points), and three teams with .500 records (Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt, two of whom the Hogs beat by four or fewer points), the Razorbacks convincingly beat the seventh-ranked Gamecocks, who convincingly beat Clemson, in addition to defeating eighth-ranked Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ resume is virtually (almost eerily) identical to Arkansas’s---ten wins compiled against Division I-AA Coastal Carolina, four teams with losing records (Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico State, and Tennessee, one of whom the ‘Dawgs beat by eight points), and three teams with .500 records (Florida, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt, two of whom the ‘Dawgs beat by five or fewer points); two losses to teams with double-digit win tallies---but the Red and Black won their division, had a better conference ledger, were competitive in one of their pair of setbacks, and beat the Auburn Tigers by a more convincing score than either LSU or Alabama did. Head-to-head results---Arkansas beat South Carolina; South Carolina beat Georgia---dictated the order of the trio of 10-2 SEC teams.
The next-best squad available was a club whose best win is a seven-point home victory over Kansas State and whose loss was to a 6-5 outfit. (We have now reached the point in the poll at which bad losses start to expose some contenders as pretenders. Starting with Oklahoma State, the retort to, “But they haven’t beaten anybody!” is: “Yeah, but at least they lost to somebody!”) The Hokies, for instance, only beat Georgia Tech and Virginia (albeit both on the road), but the Gobblers lost to the Jungaleers. The Cougars haven’t lost to anyone, which put them on the edge of the top ten as Division I-A’s only other unbeaten team, but Houston’s twelve victims include Division I-AA Georgia State, six teams with losing records, and two teams sitting at 6-6.
Southern California and Oklahoma were hurt by losses to Arizona State and Texas Tech, respectively, while the Wildcats were harmed by having negotiated a weak slate---Kansas State’s best win is over Baylor---during which five of KSU’s nine wins were by single-score margins; basically, the Wildcats are the outlier that exists to average out Texas A&M. From there, we begin the run of Big Ten teams I ain’t buying. The Spartans lead the pack at No. 15 because, even though they beat ten-loss Florida Atlantic and eleven-loss Indiana, they also beat the Wolverines and the Badgers. The Maize and Blue beat Nebraska and Notre Dame.
Wisconsin ranks 17th because that’s the lowest I could conscientiously rank a 10-2 team from a conference whose champion automatically qualifies for a BCS bowl bid. The Badgers beat Nebraska and Penn State, but they also lost to a 6-6 Ohio State club and bulked up on empty calories by beating Minnesota (3-9), Oregon State (3-9), UNLV (2-9), Indiana (1-11), and Division I-AA South Dakota. When half your wins are against teams from Division I-AA or teams from Division I-A with nine or more losses, you’re overrated.
The Cornhuskers beat Michigan State but lost to Northwestern. The Horned Frogs beat Boise State but lost to Southern Methodist. The Bears beat Oklahoma but lost to Texas A&M. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech but lost to N.C. State. The Nittany Lions lost to three teams with a combined record of 30-6 but beat Division I-AA Indiana State and eight Division I-A teams with a combined record of 46-50. The Cougars are 8-3, but BYU’s only win over a Division I-A team with a winning record was a three-point victory over Utah State. The Mountaineers and the Bearcats sneaked in by virtue of being a pair of 8-3 Big East teams, with the one that beat the other head-to-head getting the nod. Also, I got breakfast from the Chick-fil-A drive-through on Monday morning, which made me more than ordinarily sympathetic to the Bearcats, due to the similarity of the two logos.
I’m not altogether pleased with that ballot, so I’m sure you’re not. By all means, let me know what I got wrong in the comments below.