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I would be remiss if I did not begin by expressing my gratitude to the entire Dawg Sports staff, and most especially to MaconDawg and podunkdawg, for graciously relieving me of my responsibilities here at the site at a time when my focus needed to be elsewhere. Personal and professional obligations sometimes take precedence over those in the blogosphere, and this was one of those times. My sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to my co-authors for minding the store without me, and for stepping up to do so without my having to ask.
At least for the time being, however, I am back on the job, which means it is time for me to rank the top 25 teams in the land. I compiled these rankings without consulting any other set of rankings, including my own ballot of one week ago (which is irrelevant, so please ignore the up and down arrows), and I have used resume ranking, rather than relying upon preseason expectations and adjusting accordingly (which is the method I have used previously this season), to compile the following top 25:
Here now, a few words of explanation for the foregoing:
- All but one of the teams in my top 25 are undefeated, and the only once-beaten team I ranked qualified solely as the dog with the fewest fleas. I looked at several squads with a single blemish in their respective ledgers---including Arizona State, Clemson, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech---and only the two who battled it out for the final spot on my ballot even arguably had wins worthy enough to overcome the lone loss. By the way: Nevada and Southern California are, from a resume standpoint, exactly the same team. Anyone who ranks the Trojans, but not the Wolf Pack, is ranking by name recognition, not by achievement.
- The Cardinal are 3-0, with all three wins over Division I-A teams with 3-1 records. Time will tell whether the Blue Devils, Spartans, and Trojans continue to succeed, but, for now, Stanford’s three victims---Duke, San Jose State, and Southern California---are a combined 9-0 against opponents other than the Cardinal. The same praise may be offered to Oregon State, as the Beavers are 2-0 against UCLA and Wisconsin clubs that have gone 6-0 when not facing the Northwestern OSU.
- The Crimson Tide’s dominance earned Alabama the No. 3 ranking, despite the fact that ‘Bama has beaten two 1-3 teams (Arkansas and Florida Atlantic), one .500 team (Michigan), and one winning team (Western Kentucky). I’d pick Alabama to beat any team in the country on a neutral field next Saturday, but I couldn’t rank the Tide any higher because, frankly, Nick Saban’s squad has basically hammered a trio of Sun Belt teams.
- The Fighting Irish got to 4-0 by besting a pair of teams with more wins than losses (Michigan State and Purdue), but two of Notre Dame’s victories were by single-score margins, including a home game against the very same Maize and Blue outfit the Tide destroyed at a neutral site.
- Kansas State and Oregon brought similar resumes to bear, as each claimed one Division I-AA victim (Missouri State and Tennessee Tech, respectively) and annihilated the best opponent on the early-season schedule at home (Miami and Arizona, respectively). The Wildcats edged the Ducks for the final spot in the top five because, even though Oregon has demonstrated its superiority every bit as convincingly as Alabama has, Kansas State’s second-best win (over Oklahoma on the road) decisively trumps the Ducks’ defeats of .500 Arkansas State and Fresno State.
- The Gators are a shaky number seven, given how closely they played three of their four victims for three of four quarters, but there is no ignoring the fact that the Sunshine State Saurians tamed two once-beaten conference opponents (Tennessee and Texas A&M) on the road. The Seminoles sneaked in right behind their in-state rivals with wins over a pair of 3-1 league rivals (Clemson and Wake Forest), but the Tribe lost ground due to two wins against Division I-AA competition (Murray State and Savannah State).
- The Bayou Bengals’ four victims are a combined 4-11, and Louisiana State’s lone road win came by two points against a woeful Auburn club. Only a convincing win over Washington kept the Tigers in the top ten. The Gamecocks have compiled a similar resume, going 4-0 against teams who have gone 5-10 and likewise eking out a single-score road win over a 1-3 conference opponent (Vanderbilt), but South Carolina has yet to beat a team with a winning record. Sandwiched between the two SEC squads are the Longhorns, who at least have beaten 3-1 Ole Miss on the road.
- Starting with No. 12, the pickings get pretty slim. Iowa State can claim a win over 3-1 Tulsa, Texas Christian took care of business against 2-2 Virginia, and Baylor went on the road to beat the best 1-2 team in America, Louisiana-Monroe, but those three 3-0 teams thus far have more sizzle than steak to their flawless ledgers. The same certainly holds true for Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs, like the Bears, struggled to beat a Sun Belt squad on the road, but it appears Dan Mullen’s team now may take a greater measure of pride in thumping the Plainsmen than we previously believed.
- Ohio State keeps squeaking by highly suspect competition, but Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes at least have a two-touchdown win over 2-1 Central Florida, which is more than may be said for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs: Georgia has yet to beat a team above .500, and the combined record of the Red and Black’s victims is a mere 5-10.
- Louisiana Tech and West Virginia duked it out for the No. 18 ranking, but the Bulldogs got the nod by leaving Ruston to beat two teams with name recognition (Houston and Illinois), if nothing else. The Mountaineers, who matched La Tech’s 3-0 ledger by taking out Division I-AA James Madison, have no road wins, no wins over Division I-A teams with winning records, and a close call against hapless Maryland.
- The Scarlet Knights also haven’t upended anyone above .500, but Rutgers has been winning on the road, and, if I didn’t give at least partial credit for beating the Razorbacks in their own house, I wouldn’t have Alabama ranked so high. The Red Raiders are like “Longhorns lite”: 3-0, but without playing anyone, though some credit must be given for beating Texas State, who is, after all, 2-1.
- What’s worse than counting a win over what I’m pretty sure is the team for which Scott Bakula, Kathy Ireland, and Sinbad played? How about giving the benefit of the doubt to a seven-point road victory over Florida International? Louisville rode a 4-0 record with a five-point win over 2-2 North Carolina into the top 25, which only underscores my point that we should go back to ranking only a top 20. That would keep me from having to rank an unbeaten Minnesota squad that got to 4-0 by beating Division I-AA New Hampshire and claiming a series of single-score wins over Syracuse, UNLV, and Western Michigan, all of whom are .500 or worse.
- Northwestern basically has the same resume boasted by the Golden Gophers, as the Wildcats outlasted Division I-AA South Dakota and won by ten or fewer points against one-win Boston College, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt. Since all of Northwestern’s Division I-A victims have losing records, and Minnesota more convincingly beat the Orange (by seven, instead of by one), the Gophers got the nod over the Wildcats for the No. 23 spot.
- The No. 25 ranking came down to Michigan State and Tennessee, with the Spartans topping the Volunteers for the final place in the poll. The Big Orange certainly had valid arguments in their favor, as one of MSU’s victims was 0-4 Eastern Michigan and Tennessee was much more impressive in its season-opening non-conference win over N.C. State than the Spartans were in theirs against Boise State. However, my reasons for preferring Michigan State were threefold. First of all, the Spartans’ wins all came against Division I-A opponents, whereas the Vols took one of their scalps from Division I-AA Georgia State. Secondly, Tennessee’s recent dalliance with Akron, with whom Derek Dooley’s charges were tied at halftime last Saturday, gave me pause. Finally, and decisively, both the Spartans and the Volunteers lost home games to 4-0 teams by 17-point margins, but Michigan State’s lone setback was to No. 4 Notre Dame, while Tennessee’s was to No. 7 Florida.
- I saw a brief bit of Wednesday night’s Buffalo-Kent State game, a good deal of Friday night’s showdown between Baylor and Louisiana-Monroe, and fair portions of Saturday’s Florida-Kentucky and TCU-Virginia tilts before heading over to Athens and attending the Georgia-Vanderbilt game, of which I observed joyfully every single second as the Bulldogs matched their largest margin over victory over the Commodores in series history.
As I hope is to be expected under the circumstances, I have much catching up to do as I get back up to speed during this transitional time for SB Nation, yet I remain open to, and interested in, your constructive criticisms. Please bear in mind that the up and down arrows are meaningless, as I did not so much as look at last week’s rankings when compiling this week’s rankings, so there is no need to ask why, e.g., Georgia won convincingly yet dropped several spots. Otherwise, all reasonable critiques are welcome and invited.