A resume ranker’s work is never done, because the data set increases weekly, with new information being added not just about every team in the top 25, but also about every team those teams previously have played. Consequently, I paid no attention to last week’s ballot or any other set of rankings when compiling the following top 25:
The Crimson Tide have crushed five Division I-A opponents, winning convincingly in each instance against a slate featuring three teams at or above .500, which allowed Alabama to reclaim the No. 1 ranking and stave off a challenge from second-ranked Kansas State. The Wildcats have bested a pair of one-loss squads (Miami and Oklahoma), taking down one on the road and the other in a full-fledged demolition. That gave KSU the edge over the Beavers, whose victims all are Division I-A clubs with winning records, but who survived by seven or fewer points each time.
Although I hate to place the Gators in the top five, the Sunshine State Saurians have earned their way there by getting better every week, improving from a near-miss against Bowling Green to a close road win over Texas A&M to a double-digit road win over Tennessee to a ‘Bama-level thrashing of Kentucky. Despite a couple of close calls, Notre Dame got to 4-0 against an early-season schedule that includes three teams at or above .500.
Georgia and South Carolina will square off on the gridiron next Saturday night, but, in the meantime, they battled it out for the No. 6 ranking with strikingly similar resumes. Both SEC East contenders are 5-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play; neither has claimed a Division I-AA scalp; each has beaten a couple of 3-2 teams, one of which was Mizzou. However, the Bulldogs beat the Tigers by the same margin on the road by which the Gamecocks beat them at home, the Red and Black manhandled between the hedges the same Vanderbilt team the Garnet and Black barely outlasted on the road, Georgia’s second win over a team with a winning record was over a better team (Tennessee) than South Carolina’s (East Carolina), and all of the Classic City Canines’ wins are over opponents with at least one victory in 2012 (unlike USC victim UAB, who is 0-4).
The Ducks, like the ‘Dawgs and the ‘Cocks, have beaten a pair of 3-2 outfits, but their triumphs over teams with winning records have come against lesser squads (Arizona and Fresno State), and Oregon got to 5-0 with a win over Division I-AA Tennessee Tech, which cost the Pac-12 contender some poll position. The same holds true for the Seminoles, who beat four-win Clemson and three-win Wake Forest, yet still juiced the Tribe’s record with cheap victories over Murray State and Savannah State.
The Mountaineers snagged the last spot in the top ten by virtue of Saturday’s seven-point win over Baylor, which gave West Virginia a scalp superior to that earned by the Buckeyes in their one-point win against Michigan State. Ohio State has struggled to get to 5-0, but at least Urban Meyer’s team has beaten three squads at .500 or better, whereas Louisiana State has but one quality win (a pummeling of Washington) to offset lackluster wins over Division I-AA Towson and three-loss Auburn.
At No. 13, the Cardinal represent the best of the once-beatens, as Stanford’s lone loss came by four points on the road against a top 20 team, and the three victories earned on The Farm came against opponents who are collectively 11-0 against all other competition. The Bruins may have beaten a trio of one-win teams, but UCLA also has a quality win (over Nebraska by six) and a quality loss (to Oregon State by seven). The Red Raiders crept into the top 15 on the strength of a double-digit road win over an otherwise unbeaten Iowa State team.
Likewise, the Huskies rode their impressive win over Stanford to a No. 16 ranking, but, despite the two Pac-12 teams’ identical 3-1 records, U-Dub did not overtake the Cardinal, because the Purple and Gold were clobbered by LSU and notched their other two wins against Division I-AA Portland State and a San Diego State squad with a losing record. The Hurricanes were in much the same boat, boasting a seven-point win over N.C. State but getting blown out by Kansas State and carding the rest of their wins against Division I-AA Bethune-Cookman and by single digits against three-loss Boston College and Georgia Tech.
I wish we could have stopped with a top 17 this week, but, since the rules do not permit this, I had to give the No. 18 ranking to the Cornhuskers, who have just a quality loss (by six at UCLA) and an only barely respectable win (by three over Wisconsin) to their credit. The Longhorns boast a pair of ho-hum road wins (over Ole Miss and Oklahoma State), which at least gave Texas a better resume than the Bearcats (with their three-point victory over three-win Virginia Tech), the Cardinals (with their five-point victory over three-win North Carolina), the Cyclones (with their three-point victory over three-win Iowa), the Bulldogs (with their six-point victory over three-win Troy), or the Bobcats (with their ten-point victory over three-win Penn State.
The Horned Frogs edged Northwestern for the final spot in the poll. Both teams have Division I-AA victories in their ledgers, but the Wildcats have struggled more mightily against suspect competition, beating a trio of 1-3 outfits (Boston College, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt) by ten or fewer points. Also among those receiving consideration and being found unworthy were Arizona State, Baylor, Clemson, Duke, Louisiana Tech, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Purdue, Rutgers, Southern California, Texas A&M, and Tulsa.
As always, your constructive criticisms are welcome in the comments below.