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Week 14 BlogPoll Ballot Explained

Obviously, my top 25 largely is immaterial now that the bowl pairings have been announced, but, since I cast my ballot before that came to pass, I suppose I should take the time to offer a word of explanation.

"I will explain. No; there is no time. I will sum up."

Of the teams making the grade on my ballot last week, 13 did not have games this weekend, so I was without new information with which to assess the merits of many of the teams appearing in my rankings. Consequently, many squads stayed put, retaining their previous poll position or remaining where they were relative to the teams around them.

Here are the teams appearing on my ballot and the reasons for the placement of them:

1. Ohio State (12-0)---What part of last week's rationale isn't equally applicable this week? The Buckeyes are the only unbeaten team from a major conference and they have quality wins over two teams ranked in my top 15.

2. Florida (12-1)---Believe me, I didn't want to do this any more than you wanted me to do it, but I didn't have any choice. There was a time when some Georgia fans thought Urban Meyer was another Mark Richt, but his incessant humorless whining has dispelled that notion so completely that the desire of the denizens of Bulldog Nation to see Florida fail is very nearly as great today as it was during the Darth Visor era. Nevertheless, the Gators' only loss came on the road against a 10-win team in a game that was closer than the final score indicated and, although five of the Big Lizards' wins have come by a touchdown or less, they have survived a brutal schedule very nearly unscathed. Nine of Florida's 11 Division I-A wins came against bowl-eligible teams, including seven squads with winning records, five with at least eight wins, three with at least nine wins, and two with double-digit victory tallies. I hate having to reward Coach Meyer in the midst of a bratty tantrum so infantile that even Tommy Tuberville is embarrassed for him, but I can't argue with the Gators' success on the field . . . particularly since they, unlike Michigan (and unlike the 2001 Nebraska Cornhuskers or the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners) won their conference championship.

That's the good news for this guy. The bad news is that, as a result of his recent childish pouting, he henceforth will be referred to here at Dawg Sports as Nancy Meyer.

3. Michigan (11-1)---Ordinarily, it would require no explanation when a team that did not play a game retained the same ranking it held the previous week, but, given the importance of the distinction between being No. 2 and being No. 3, additional justification is warranted. Obviously, the Wolverines boast an impressive resume and their only setback---by a field goal on the road against the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation---is a quality loss if ever there was one. Furthermore, only one of the Maize and Blue's 11 wins was by a touchdown or less and none of their opponents came from Division I-AA. However, Michigan defeated six bowl-eligible squads, only four of which had winning records, which renders the Wolverines' resume slightly less impressive than the Gators'. Moreover, Florida's four best wins came against L.S.U., Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia---teams I have ranked sixth, 11th, 15th, and 24th, respectively---while Michigan's most impressive quartet of victories was over Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Central Michigan, only one of which is ranked in my top 16 and only two of which made my top 25. While the Maize and Blue likely are the better football team, the Orange and Blue have compiled the better record of achievement.

4. Southern California (10-2)---Despite being knocked out of the national championship game by their crosstown rival, the Trojans remain the most highly-ranked twice-beaten team by virtue of the resume U.S.C. compiled over the course of the campaign. Both of Southern California's losses came in close contests on the road against teams with winning records and, although Pete Carroll's crew had to survive three midseason close calls, the Men of Troy beat eight bowl-eligible teams, six of which have winning records. Among U.S.C.'s victims are No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 11 Arkansas, No. 19 Nebraska, and No. 20 California . . . and none of the Trojans' four wins over top 20 teams were nailbiters, which earned them the right to remain in the top four.

5. Oklahoma (11-2)---The Sooners leapfrogged L.S.U. on the strength of their Big 12 title-clinching victory over Nebraska, which gave O.U. its sixth win of the season over a bowl-eligible squad. Bob Stoops's troops lost twice, once against a nine-win Texas team in Dallas and again against a seven-win Oregon team in Eugene on a controversial call that very well may have affected the national championship hunt, but Oklahoma beat a pair of nine-win squads to edge the Bayou Bengals for the final spot in the top five.

6. Louisiana State (10-2)---The Fighting Tigers have not taken the field since the Friday after Thanksgiving, but they slipped a spot following Oklahoma's victory over Nebraska. Although L.S.U.'s road losses at Auburn and Florida are forgivable, the fact remains that the Bayou Bengals have beaten just three teams with winning records and they very nearly fell to 4-8 Ole Miss at home. Despite managing to claim narrow road wins against Arkansas and Tennessee, L.S.U. has put together an overall resume that is weakened by the presence of Alabama, Arizona, Fresno State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Tulane.

Louisiana State might have remained in the top five if the Tigers had a head coach who didn't also moonlight as a Time-Life operator.

7. Louisville (11-1)---I do not discount the Cardinals' 48-17 thrashing of Connecticut, but U. of L. looked like about as good a team on Saturday as I thought they were beforehand, so Bobby Petrino's squad did not move on my ballot.

8. Boise State (12-0)---The Broncos did not play, but losses by the No. 8 and No. 9 teams on my ballot allowed B.S.U. to ascend two poll positions.

9. Auburn (10-2)---The Plainsmen were without an opponent this weekend, but they rose through attrition, remaining sandwiched between the teams immediately above and below them, respectively.

10. Notre Dame (10-2)---All right, so losses by other teams allowed the Fighting Irish to ascend into the top 10 once again. Charlie Weis still looks like monster Chet.

If he had been nicer to Gary and Wyatt, Lisa might not have forced him to coach at Notre Dame.

11. Arkansas (10-3)---Since I was criticized for ranking four S.E.C. teams in the top 10 even when I didn't rank four S.E.C. teams in the top 10, I'm not about to do it for real. The Razorbacks' loss in the conference championship game made it necessary for me to drop the Hogs and a ranking just outside the top 10 for a 10-win S.E.C. divisional champion seemed about right.

12. West Virginia (10-2)---The Mountaineers bolstered their resume considerably by beating Rutgers in triple-overtime. W.V.U. now boasts five wins over bowl-eligible opposition, including a quality victory over a 10-win Scarlet Knight squad which was enough to enable the Mountain Men to make the largest poll vault on my ballot this week.

13. Rutgers (10-2)---The Scarlet Knights' second loss in three games cost them a spot in the top 10, but the closeness of the contest---a road game in conference play which was lost in triple-overtime on a two-point conversion attempt that very nearly succeeded---prevented me from dropping the State University of New Jersey too far. Since Rutgers and West Virginia have identical records and the latter beat the former about as narrowly as one team can beat another, it seemed logical to me to rank the Knights one spot behind the Mountaineers.

Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis, who had been packing her bags for a B.C.S. bowl trip, is now all dressed up with no place to go but the Texas Bowl.

14. Texas (9-3)---The Longhorns didn't play, but they slipped a notch due to West Virginia's advancement into the top 12.

15. Tennessee (9-3)---The Volunteers stayed put on my ballot, retaining the same No. 15 ranking while remaining behind Texas and ahead of Texas A&M.

16. Texas A&M (9-3)---The Aggies also did not take the field on Saturday, so they remain situated where they were last week: ranked 16th, sandwiched between Tennessee and Wisconsin.

17. Wisconsin (11-1)---What about the Badgers' resume has gotten better since Thanksgiving? I saw no reason to reevaluate U.W.'s position, as no significant change of circumstance has occurred for Wiscy.

Another point against Wisconsin is the fact that the campus is located in Madison, the setting for that Clint Eastwood chick flick. (Photograph from Fantastic Fiction.)

18. Wake Forest (11-2)---At this point, I hope it goes without saying that the A.C.C. is by far the weakest of the B.C.S. conferences and the league's worthiness for an automatic major bowl berth is questionable at best. In fact, I doubt whether any serious person could argue with a straight face that the A.C.C. deserves to have more than one team playing after New Year's Eve. However, the Demon Deacons performed the valuable social service of putting to rest the myth that Georgia Tech is any dadgum good, for which Wake Forest deserves some credit. Of course, it's hard to give the Deacs too much credit, since (a) their non-conference schedule consisted of 4-8 Syracuse, 4-8 Connecticut, 4-8 Ole Miss, and Division I-AA Liberty, (b) both of their losses were at home and neither was close, (c) five of their seven conference wins were by a touchdown or less, and (d) they beat just three teams with winning records. Nevertheless, Wake beat a pair of nine-win teams and the A.C.C. champions' victory over the Yellow Jackets was by a field goal at a neutral site in a sparsely-attended game . . . the same margin by which the 'Dawgs beat the Ramblin' Wreck before a full house in Athens. That got the Demon Deacons into the top 20.

19. Nebraska (9-4)---The Cornhuskers have had a solid season, which is why they are the highest-ranked team with four losses, but they still have four losses, which caused the Big Red to slide five spots in the standings.

20. California (9-3)---Holding a 23-17 lead over Stanford with a minute to go when playing at home isn't terribly impressive. That fact, plus the ascension of better-performing teams, caused the Golden Bears to drop a couple of notches.

21. Brigham Young (10-2)---The line of toppling dominos set into motion by Saturday's events bumped down a couple of teams ranked ahead of the Cougars, but, because Hawaii fell to Oregon State, B.Y.U. lost only a single spot in the standings.

Mighty Joe Young may be a top 20 ape, but, this week, at least, Brigham Young is not a top 20 team. (Photograph from Monsterland Toys.)

22. Virginia Tech (10-2)---The Hokies were a notch behind the Cougars last week and neither team's resume changed sufficiently in the interim to convince me that V.P.I. shouldn't stay one spot behind B.Y.U. this week.

23. Oregon State (9-4)---The lone new entrant into my top 25 was the squad from Corvallis, which lost to Boise State and California but registered victories by narrow margins over Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon, and Southern California. The Beavers' latest conquest in Honolulu was enough to get them into the rankings.

24. Georgia (8-4)---The 'Dawgs slipped a notch due to Wake Forest's rise. Oregon State leapfrogged the Red and Black by virtue of the fact that the Beavers' three best wins (over 10-2 U.S.C., 10-3 Hawaii, and 7-5 Oregon) were better than Georgia's (over 10-2 Auburn, 9-4 Georgia Tech, and 7-5 South Carolina).

25. Texas Christian (10-2)---The Horned Frogs held a 38-0 lead over Air Force after three quarters, which is pretty doggone dominant, but, when your second-best win was over New Mexico, you simply haven't played a tough enough schedule to justify a ranking above No. 25.

It's not easy being in the Mountain West.

The team that dropped from my top 25: No. 19 Hawaii (10-3). The Warriors came up just short against Oregon State, so Hawaii's spot in the rankings was surrendered to the Beavers.

Other teams receiving consideration: Houston (10-3) and Navy (9-3). The Conference U.S.A. champion Cougars avenged an earlier loss to Southern Miss to assure themselves of the school's first 10-win season since 1990 and preserve the possibility of its first 11-win season since 1979. Victories over Oklahoma State, Rice, and Tulsa have put Houston within striking distance of the top 25. Not far behind the Cougs are the Midshipmen, whose win over Army was closer than the score indicated. Although the U.S. Naval Academy's losses came against Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Tulsa, the Mids' 5-0 record on their opponents' home fields is lessened by Navy's lack of a signature win. A good showing against Boston College in the Meineke Car Care Bowl could go a long way towards bolstering the reputation of Paul Johnson's squad.

Games I saw, in whole or in part: Central Michigan-Ohio (Ohio); Houston-Southern Miss; Connecticut-Louisville; Georgia Tech-Wake Forest; Army-Navy; Southern California-U.C.L.A.; Arkansas-Florida; Rutgers-West Virginia; Nebraska-Oklahoma; Hawaii-Oregon State.

Take that for what it's worth, but bear in mind that the only ballot left will be cast following the conclusion of the bowl games and it will help determine the final 2006 BlogPoll rankings, which will stand against history . . . so, if I'm overlooking or overrating a team, now is the time to let me know, because the next top 25 rankings I compile will be for keeps.

Go 'Dawgs!