By this point, I believe you know the drill, but, for the benefit of the uninitiated, I compile each week’s top 25 without looking at any other set of rankings, including my own most recent previous ballot, and I rank teams based on their resumes, which change weekly as new information is gathered and opponents’ records alter. (Consequently, the up and down arrows essentially are meaningless.) Here, based upon those criteria, is my BlogPoll ballot for this week:
No. 1 Florida (5-0) secured the top spot by steering clear of Division I-AA patsies in the autumn’s first five Saturdays, throttling the only team with a losing record the Sunshine State Saurians have faced, and carding quality wins over No. 12 Louisiana State and No. 23 Texas A&M. No. 2 West Virginia (5-0) boasted a similar resume, but the Mountaineers’ record includes a Division I-AA victory and a slightly less impressive pair of “best wins” (over No. 15 Baylor and No. 22 Texas).
Since opening the season with a demolition of Navy, No. 3 Notre Dame (5-0) has beaten four straight teams who currently are above .500, most recently throttling Miami as badly as did No. 4 Kansas State (5-0). Though the Wildcats’ most notable scalp was taken from No. 13 Oklahoma, the Hurricanes and the Sooners are KSU’s only Division I-A victims with winning ledgers.
No. 5 Ohio State (6-0) looks a bit like the “Fighting Irish lite,” with wins over a couple of 4-2 Big Ten teams, but the Buckeyes’ victories over Michigan State and Nebraska carry a bit more heft than the triumphs over UCLA and Wisconsin---both single-score decisions over 4-2 teams---carded by No. 6 Oregon State (4-0). No. 7 South Carolina (6-0) suffered somewhat from a soft schedule---five of the Gamecocks’ six victims currently are at or below .500, including one-win Kentucky and UAB---but the Garnet and Black’s emphatic victory over No. 11 Georgia kept USC securely in the top ten.
Though it may appear to some that No. 8 Alabama (5-0) is languishing well below the Tide’s proper ranking, it cannot be overlooked that Nick Saban’s club, however dominant it may have appeared, has yet to card a victory over a quality opponent. Michigan (3-2), Western Kentucky (4-1), Arkansas (2-4), Florida Atlantic (1-4), and Ole Miss (3-3) do not exactly comprise a murderer’s row of foes, and, although I believe ‘Bama would beat any other team in the country on any given Saturday, the Crimson Tide simply have not played anyone of note.
Much the same may be said for No. 9 Oregon (6-0), which has looked impressive, but has done so against the likes of Arkansas State (3-3), Fresno State (4-2), Division I-AA Tennessee Tech, Arizona (3-3), Washington State (2-4), and Washington (3-2). The Ducks look likely to oppose Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, but they, too, have been feasting on subpar competition.
No. 10 Stanford (4-1) suffered for its four-point loss to Washington (3-2), but the Cardinal profited from the fact that all of their victories were over teams now sitting at or above .500, including a trio of triumphs against squads (San Jose State, Duke, and Southern California) that are undefeated other than by Stanford. No. 11 Georgia (5-1) was walloped by No. 7 South Carolina, but the Bulldogs’ wins over Tennessee (3-2) and Missouri (3-3) counted for more than the victories carded by No. 12 LSU (5-1), as the Bayou Bengals’ scalps include the Huskies’ and little else.
A win over No. 16 Texas Tech vaulted Oklahoma (3-1) into the No. 13 spot, ahead of No. 14 Mississippi State (5-0), a team that achieved its undefeated record against Division I-AA Jackson State, a trio of one-win teams (Auburn, South Alabama, and Kentucky), and Troy (3-2) by six points. No. 15 Baylor (3-1), No. 16 Texas Tech (4-1), and No. 17 Iowa State (4-1) fell as they did because the Bears own the best loss of the three (by seven on the road against No. 2 West Virginia) and the Red Raiders beat the Cyclones head-to-head.
That Big 12 trio has the distinction of representing the last three teams that deserve to be ranked, but, since the rules require me to list 25 teams, I shall press ahead to No. 18 Ohio (6-0). The Bobcats have beaten Division I-AA Norfolk State and four Division I-A teams with at least four losses in the last five weeks, but they are undefeated and own a season-opening road win over Penn State.
No. 19 Cincinnati (4-0) rode a three-point win over Virginia Tech (3-3) past No. 20 Rutgers (5-0), as the Scarlet Knights’ most notable victim was Connecticut (3-3). No. 21 Louisville (5-0) has the best win of the Big East trio (by five against North Carolina), but the Cardinals’ resume is dragged down by wins over Kentucky (1-5), Division I-AA Missouri State, Florida International (1-5), and Southern Miss (0-5), the last two by single-score margins.
No. 23 Texas A&M (4-1) has yet to beat a Division I-A opponent with a winning record, but the Aggies get credit for a quality loss (to No. 1 Florida by three). However, No. 22 Texas (4-1) edged out its former in-state rival by the slimmest of margins. The Longhorns also have a quality loss (to No. 2 West Virginia by three), but their second-best win came against the same team (Ole Miss) that gave Texas A&M its best win, and Texas bested the Rebels much more convincingly than did the Aggies.
By this point, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with teams, and the best I could manage were No. 24 Tulsa (5-1) and No. 25 Louisiana Tech (5-0). The Golden Hurricane lost to a good team (No. 17 Iowa State) and beat a team with a winning record (Fresno State, by one), while the Bulldogs remain undefeated, albeit against a slate that thus far has consisted of five teams with losing records, four of whom have at least four losses.
Among those receiving consideration, yet failing to make the grade, were Southern California (which has no wins over teams at or above .500), Florida State (whose wins over two Division I-AA teams, two Division I-A teams at or below .500, and Clemson were not enough to prevent the Tribe from dropping after losing to N.C. State), Clemson (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which lost to the Seminoles), Texas Christian (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record), Boise State (which lost to two-loss Michigan State, beat one Division I-A team with a winning record and did so by one point at home, barely skated by one of the two .500 teams the Broncos have faced, and most recently victimized winless Southern Miss), Duke (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which was throttled by Stanford), Arizona State (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to .500 Mizzou), Minnesota (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to 3-2 Iowa), Northwestern (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to Penn State by double digits), Northern Illinois (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which also fell to 3-2 Iowa), Toledo (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to .500 Arizona), Nevada (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to 2-4 South Florida), and Kent State (which has yet to beat a Division I-A team with a winning record, and which fell to 1-5 Kentucky).
As always, your constructive criticisms are welcome and appreciated in the comments below.