With an exciting comeback win over LSU, the Tide rolled into the top spot on my ballot. No, I'm not any happier about that than you are. - Crystal Logiudice-US PRESSWIRE
In the end, an exciting Saturday of college football produced no upsets near the top, so where does that leave the logjam in the upper echelons of the poll rankings? Here is how I believe the top 25 breaks down.
Intervening events prevented me from casting a BlogPoll ballot last week, but I am back with gusto following a weekend of college football during which the national championship contenders all were challenged to some degree before prevailing, often in thrilling fashion. After sorting it all out, I have concluded that these are the top 25 teams in the land, respectively:
Though we all have been impressed with the consistency and dominance of Alabama (9-0), the Tide only recently have compiled the resume to earn them the No. 1 ranking. The Red Elephants’ nine victims include no Division I-AA opponents, three teams who would be at .500 were it not for their losses to ‘Bama (all of whom the Crimson Tide tamed on the road by convincing margins), and a quartet of teams with either 6-3 or 7-2 ledgers (including No. 13 LSU and No. 24 Mississippi State).
I was torn between Kansas State (9-0) and Notre Dame (9-0), two teams who compiled identical ledgers against six teams with winning records and two with losing marks. The Irish had certain advantages---their ninth win came on the road against Michigan State (5-5), rather than at home against Division I-AA Missouri State, and the Golden Domers defeated No. 12 Oklahoma much more handily in Norman than did the Wildcats---but I went with Kansas State because the ‘Cats have thumped a trio of three-loss teams (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia) while Notre Dame has struggled to claim victory by a touchdown or less against five of its nine opponents, beating a pair of sub-.500 squads by field goals.
Though a similar resume of six wins over winning teams and two over losing clubs can be claimed by Oregon (9-0), the Ducks have yet to card a marquee victory. Oregon has bested three 5-4 outfits and a trio of thrice-beaten teams (Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Southern California). Though I’d take the Ducks against either Kansas State or Notre Dame on a neutral field, they simply have not played the same caliber of opposition that the top three teams have faced.
As much as I hate to admit it, Florida (8-1) has the best resume among college football’s one-loss squads. The Gators notched wins against No. 13 LSU, No. 14 Texas A&M, and No. 15 South Carolina while falling to No. 7 Georgia by eight points at a neutral site. On balance, the Sunshine State Saurians have done more than Urban Meyer’s present squad, Ohio State (10-0), which remains undefeated but has only one noteworthy victory, over No. 16 Nebraska.
It is somewhat difficult to gauge the Bulldogs’ resume; two of the Red and Black’s three wins over teams above .500 came against opponents with 5-4 records, and two of their five wins over teams below .500 were at the expense of clubs sporting 4-5 ledgers. However, the Classic City Canines’ win over No. 5 Florida earned Georgia (8-1) a spot in the top ten ahead of Oregon State (7-1), as the Beavers’ victory over No. 19 UCLA was offset by Oregon State’s loss to 5-4 Washington on the road.
The Beavers’ situation was similar to the Seminoles’, since Florida State (8-1) also sustained its lone loss to a 5-4 conference foe in a close contest on the road, but Oregon State’s second-best win (over Wisconsin) trumped any triumph on the Tribe’s resume after their win against Clemson (8-1), a team that has trounced middling competition. Five of the Tigers’ victims have records between 4-5 and 6-3.
Ordinarily, Louisville (9-0) could have ridden an undefeated record (with a win over No. 21 Cincinnati) to a top ten ranking, but the Cardinals have notched six victories by ten or fewer points against a slate that thus far has included Division I-AA Missouri State, three teams with two or fewer wins, and a couple of three-win squads. Thanks to a lopsided win over No. 18 Texas and losses to two top three teams, Oklahoma (6-2) is college football’s top twice-beaten team, though Louisiana State (7-2) might have claimed that distinction on the basis of two quality wins (by a combined seven points over No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 15 South Carolina) and two quality losses (by a combined twelve points against No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Florida), were it not for the fact that the Bayou Bengals made their bones against Division I-AA Towson, one-win Idaho, and two-win Auburn (by two points).
The Aggies, like LSU, have two good losses and a couple of quality victories, but, unfortunately for Texas A&M (7-2), one of those setbacks came at the hands of the Pelican State Panthers in College Station. South Carolina (7-2) also lost a close one to the Tigers, but the Gamecocks have only one noteworthy victory (over No. 7 Georgia) to set alongside triumphs over one-win Kentucky, two-win UAB, four-win Tennessee (by three points), and five-win Vanderbilt (by four points).
Nebraska (7-2) edged out Stanford (7-2) because the Cornhuskers had a better “best win” (over No. 23 Northwestern) and the Cardinal had a weaker “worse loss” (to 5-4 Washington). Single-digit wins over three-loss Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were not enough to get Texas (7-2) past either Nebraska or Stanford after the Longhorns were blasted by the Sooners and beaten by the 5-3 Mountaineers. Though the Bruins defeated the Cornhuskers head-to-head, UCLA (7-2) was dragged down substantially by its loss to 3-7 Cal.
Unfortunately, I am not allowed to rank only a top 19, so Louisiana Tech (8-1) rounded out the top 20 on the strength of a two-point loss to the Aggies. However, the Bulldogs have beaten seven teams below .500, four of whom have won two or fewer games, and La Tech’s only victim with a winning record was UTSA, who has gone 5-4 against what amounts to a Division I-AA schedule. That, though, was more than Cincinnati (6-2) had to offer, as the Bearcats lost by a combined nine points to two teams who together have gone 17-1 but beat two Division I-AA outfits and four Division I-A opponents with 4-5 records. One of Cincy’s setbacks was to Toledo (8-1), but the Rockets ended up ranked 22nd because of a soft schedule (four of Toledo’s eight wins are against Division I-AA teams or Division I-A teams with two or fewer victories) and a loss to 5-4 Arizona.
Northwestern (7-2) has skated to four wins by ten or fewer points against a schedule featuring no Division I-A opponents with records better than 5-4, but that gave the Wildcats a better resume than that possessed by Mississippi State (7-2). The Bulldogs’ only Division I-A victim with a winning record is 6-3 Middle Tennessee, and State was blasted by both Alabama and Texas A&M. Nevertheless, someone had to be No. 24, and my only other option was Boise State (7-2), whose losses (by four to 5-5 Michigan State and by two to 7-3 San Diego State) are only marginally offset by wins against 5-4 BYU by one and 7-3 Fresno State by ten.
The Broncos, though, spared me from having to rank Northern Illinois (9-1) (whose only winning victim was Ball State, and who fell to 4-5 Iowa), Ohio (8-1) (whose win over Penn State was offset by a loss to 4-5 Miami (Ohio)), Kent State (8-1) (who lost to one-win Kentucky, for crying out loud), or Rutgers (7-1) (who lost to Kent State, for crying out loud). Naturally, though, if I am overlooking some worthy contender, or if I have misplaced egregiously one of the teams in my top 25, I invite your constructive criticisms in the comments below.
Who's No. 1?
Alabama. (50 votes)
Kansas State. (1 vote)
Notre Dame. (0 votes)
Oregon. (2 votes)
None of the above. (I have explained my answer in the comments.) (2 votes)
55 total votes