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Week Nine BlogPoll Ballot Explained

Last week, I cast a BlogPoll ballot with which I was quite pleased, which turned out to be quite wrong in certain important particulars. Therefore, I revisited my rankings this week with an awareness of last week's top 25 but without being bound by it.

What follows is my attempt to explain my latest ballot. As always, a team's ranking on last week's ballot is noted parenthetically.

1. Ohio State (1)---Once again, the Buckeyes easily dispatched an inferior opponent, handing conference foe Minnesota a 44-0 setback and showing all signs of being on autopilot with no hint of a letdown. Week after week, Jim Tressel's team demonstrates that it clearly is the best squad in college football.

Fear the sweatervest.

2. Michigan (2)---While weather conditions prevented the final score from being as lopsided as it might have been, the Wolverines ran their record to 9-0 with a convincing win over Northwestern in Ann Arbor. The Maize and Blue are the clear No. 2, as they have been less consistently dominant than top-ranked O.S.U. but they have triumphed over a tougher slate thus far than has the third-place squad.

3. West Virginia (3)---The Mountaineers did not play on Saturday, but nothing occurring elsewhere in college football gave me cause to believe that W.V.U. belonged any place other than at No. 3.

4. Florida (11)---When roughing out my BlogPoll ballot, I said to my wife: "The No. 4 team is overrated." Susan sensibly replied, "Who's the No. 4 team?" "I don't know," I told her, "but, whoever they are, they're overrated." At least six teams had a compelling case to make for being ranked in this position, most definitely not including the team I ranked fourth last week. I went with the Gators because their overall resume is the best of the once-beatens, inasmuch as the Orange and Blue defeated Tennessee, L.S.U., and Georgia while losing on the road to a strong Auburn team. Truthfully, though, I'd have been more comfortable with my ballot if I was allowed to leave Nos. 4 through 8 blank, drop my bottom five teams from the rankings altogether, and move everyone below No. 3 but above No. 21 down five spots apiece.

5. Louisville (13)---Part of the point of the BlogPoll is to promote dialogue among voters, so that the divergent views of webloggers of different regions and affiliations will be heard and judged according to their reasonableness and persuasiveness. Card Chronicle's Mike made a legitimate point in defense of his team, which earned the idle Cardinals a big bump on my ballot.

Well played, Mike, well played.

6. Arkansas (7)---There's only so much significance that can be attributed to a 44-10 home win over Louisiana-Monroe, since beating Louisiana-Monroe 44-10 at home is what good teams are supposed to do. Accordingly, the Razorbacks moved only incrementally on my ballot, due chiefly to the shortcomings of other teams.

7. California (17)---When declaring me both Mr. Bold and Mr. Manic-Depressive, The Lawgiver offered this observation:

Kyle's ballot is either the work of deep reconsideration or general jumpiness.

I honestly try to make my weekly top 25 the work of deep reconsideration as evidence mounts, but a case for general jumpiness certainly could be made on the basis of the fact that the Golden Bears, who did not play on Saturday, leapt 10 spots on my ballot. At the end of the day, it comes down to this: I try to use a team's bye weeks to step back and obtain a little perspective on that squad's season-long body of work and I decided I had punished Cal a little too harshly. Also, somebody had to be the best team in the Pac-10 and Jeff Tedford's team appears to have a clear claim to that title.

8. Boston College (10)---The Eagles taught us little by beating Buffalo in Chestnut Hill by a 41-0 margin and I thought about letting them languish at No. 10, as it is apparent that being the class of the A.C.C. shouldn't count for much since the aspiring superconference now rather obviously is the weakest of the six B.C.S. leagues. I allowed Boston College to rise incrementally because 41 points is a lot of scoring under those kind of climatic conditions, even against weak opposition, and because I believe the Eagles would beat my No. 9 team head-to-head on a neutral field . . . much as the Eagles did to my No. 9 team both at home and on the road in 1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.

9. Notre Dame (15)---When I criticized the Fighting Irish following their close shave against U.C.L.A., I drew a rebuke from the Rakes of Mallow. I responded in kind and received a rejoinder to my rebuttal of Charlie Weis, by which I was not persuaded. This earned me a few veiled jabs about teams that "'would' have four losses," about "all the people that bumped Clemson up dramatically after their win," about the possibility of "the Vols putting up another fifty points on ESPN Saturday Night," and about Georgia being "too incompetent to compete with Florida." Fortunately for the Golden Domers, I don't single them out for different treatment, but instead judge them according to what they accomplish on the field. In Baltimore, they took on a solid, well-coached Navy squad at a neutral site, found themselves in a dogfight, and took care of business in convincing fashion. Given the quality of the opposition and the 38-14 final margin, I believe it is fair to say that this was the most impressive victory of Charlie Weis's tenure in South Bend. That earned Notre Dame a return to the top 10.


All right, all right, all right; Notre Dame is back in the top 10. Now could the Golden Domers' unseemly combination of arrogant condescension and melodramatic whining please be dialed back from the ludicrous level of the Charlie Weis regime to the merely preposterous degree of the Lou Holtz era?

10. Tennessee (12)---Three teams went on the road to face conference opponents and found themselves trailing feisty foes against whom they were forced to mount comebacks to claim victory. It seemed only fair that those three squads should be ranked in sequence and it was just a matter of deciding the order in which they deserved to be arranged. I ended up putting the Volunteers ahead of the Longhorns and the Plainsmen because the Big Orange faced a tougher opponent (South Carolina) and a better coach (Steve Spurrier) than did the other two contenders for the final spot in the top 10.

11. Texas (8)---Mack Brown's squad came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat Texas Tech in Lubbock, which is less impressive than beating South Carolina at Columbia but more impressive than beating Ole Miss at Oxford, so the 'Horns check in behind Tennessee but ahead of Auburn.

12. Auburn (9)---I've explained this placement already, so no further justification is necessary. Therefore, I will simply state that I hate Auburn and move on to No. 13. I hate Auburn.

To reiterate: I hate Auburn.

13. Wisconsin (6)---What was up with that? Clearly, I had the Badgers overrated, so you may consider their drop somewhat akin to a market self-correction. U.W. landed behind the Vols, the 'Horns, and the Plainsmen because this scare was in Madison and the Fighting Illini are way worse than the Gamecocks, the Red Raiders, or the Rebels ever dreamt of being.

14. Rutgers (14)---The Scarlet Knights didn't earn any style points in their 24-13 win over U.Conn. on Sunday night, but the State University of New Jersey ran its record to 8-0 with a combination of stout defense and solid special teams, which were adequate to overcome a sluggish offensive attack. By rights, Rutgers should have beaten the Huskies more badly at home, so I wasn't able conscientiously to move Greg Schiano's squad up in the standings, but the way the Knights responded to a punch in the mouth by gutting out a gritty win solidified their hold on the No. 14 spot on my ballot.

Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis was nervous heading into the fourth quarter, but she felt joy and relief when Quintero Frierson returned the blocked Connecticut punt for a touchdown. (Photograph from Star Pulse.)

15. Southern Cal (5)---I told you the Trojans were living on borrowed time. We all knew this was coming, we just didn't know when. Now that this question has been answered for us, it is time to judge U.S.C. according to where the team is in 2006, not where the team was from 2002 to 2005. Where the Men of Troy are right now is at No. 15.

16. Boise State (18)---The Broncos had an open date on Saturday, which allowed me to take time for a reflective pause. I have been holding B.S.U. down due to the relatively lackluster nature of their victories, but still the squad from Boise is 8-0, which counts for something, so I put the Broncos within striking distance of the top 15.

17. Louisiana State (16)---The Bayou Bengals slipped a notch during their bye week, but L.S.U. remains the best of the twice-beaten teams. If the Tigers pull off the upset in Knoxville, they'll make up lost ground . . . and then some.

The Fighting Tigers have a fighting chance to climb back into the top 15, provided someone in the Pelican State has the wherewithal not to give this yutz a headset.

18. Oklahoma (20)---The Sooners' 26-10 win at Missouri enabled Bob Stoops's squad to leapfrog the Ducks, to whom they lost on the road due to what might charitably be characterized as a controversial call. O.U. is still 6-2 and I do not believe the team from Norman would beat the team from Baton Rouge, but Oklahoma earned the upgrade with a good conference road win.

19. Oregon (19)---The Ducks defeated Portland State at home by a 55-12 margin, which sounds about like what the final score ought to have been against a patsy opponent, so Oregon didn't move on my ballot.

20. Virginia Tech (N.R.)---Go on, try to make sense of the A.C.C. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. I considered ranking the Hokies last week and their dominant win over Clemson earned V.P.I. a spot in the top 20.

21. Clemson (4)---Orson told me so. I should have listened. I had to drop the Tigers like Howard's Rock and they did not skid to a stop until they had fallen just behind the team that just manhandled them on national television.

Clemson fell six spots in the standings because of the loss, six more because of the margin of defeat, and an additional five because of the all-purple uniforms. I just hope the Tigers don't have occasion to wear them in the Humanitarian Bowl against Oregon. (Photograph from N.B.C. Sports.)

22. Wake Forest (21)---The Demon Deacons found themselves in much the same situation as Tennessee, Texas, and Auburn, taking on a lesser conference rival on the road yet finding themselves in a slugfest, from which Wake Forest emerged with a 24-17 win in Chapel Hill. This cost the Deacs one spot on my ballot, leaving them a notch behind the Clemson team to which they lost.

23. Texas A&M (24)---By claiming a 10-point victory in Waco to run their record to 8-1, the Aggies earned a slight upgrade in the standings. Yes, it was a conference road win, but, come on, it was Baylor.

24. South Carolina (23)---Since the Gamecocks were defeated on Saturday night, they lost ground on my ballot, but Darth Visor's Palmetto State Poultry have shown more than a few signs of life, pushing Auburn and Tennessee to the limit before succumbing. We'll find out next weekend whether I am giving the Big Chickens too much credit.

25. Georgia Tech (N.R.)---I went back and forth over whether to rank the Yellow Jackets. Yes, the Ramblin' Wreck is 6-2, but get real . . . we're talking about a team that needed yet another furious fourth-quarter rally to win by seven at home against a team that barely got by Duke. I feel badly about littering the twenties with the flotsam, jetsam, and assorted detritus of the diluted A.C.C. and I probably should have given this spot to B.Y.U., T.C.U., or Tulsa, but I wouldn't want to be accused of allowing my disdain for (or, more precisely, my annoyance at the continued existence of) the Georgia Institute of Technology to prejudice my BlogPoll ballot, so I grudgingly have given the Golden Tornado a pass.

You know as well as I do that he's going to foul this up somehow.

Teams dropping out of the top 25: No. 22 Nebraska and No. 25 Missouri. Egad, the Big 12 North is awful!

Other teams receiving consideration: Brigham Young, Georgia, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Texas Christian, Tulsa, and Washington State.

Games I watched or of which I saw significant portions: Clemson-Virginia Tech, Tulsa-U.T.E.P., Auburn-Mississippi, Navy-Notre Dame, Missouri-Oklahoma, Michigan-Northwestern, Illinois-Wisconsin, Georgia-Florida, Georgia Tech-Miami, South Carolina-Tennessee, Texas-Texas Tech, and Connecticut-Rutgers.

Additional observations about my ballot: The A.C.C. is way overrepresented in my top 25, but darned if I know which ones to drop at this point. Next week, 6-2 B.Y.U. visits Colorado State, 5-2 T.C.U. visits U.N.L.V., and 7-1 Tulsa visits Houston. Convincing conference road wins by any of those teams will give the Cougars, the Horned Frogs, and/or the Golden Hurricane a very good shot at cracking the top 25 next week. A home win over Arizona or a road win over South Florida by Wazoo or Pitt, respectively, would do wonders for the Cougars' or the Panthers' chances, as well. Likewise, if the Gamecocks lose to Arkansas at home and the 'Dawgs defeat Kentucky on the road, the Red and Black may find their way back into the rankings, as well.

Any thoughts, observations, or reactions you had to offer in response to the foregoing would be most appreciated (although, to answer your question, no, I'm not high). You are invited to leave your comments below.

Go 'Dawgs!