Since I have cast my ballot, the least I can do is explain it, so here (for whatever it might be worth) is my reasoning behind my latest BlogPoll top 25.
It's time for the weekly countdown. (Photograph from Radio Hall of Fame.)
Each team's ranking on last week's ballot appears in parentheses.
1. Southern California (4)---Truthfully, I expected the Trojans to beat the Cornhuskers by a wider margin, but U.S.C. once again won convincingly against a legitimate opponent and, if the Men of Troy have lost a step from their national championship form, they show no signs of it. Over the course of the entirety of the young season's opening stanza, Southern California has looked like the best team in the country, period.
2. Auburn (8)---Although it doubtless will be decried by unsophisticated chicks-dig-the-long-ball fans who prefer gaudy numbers and weary scoreboard operators to hard hitting and strategic thinking, this was what football is all about, folks. If you don't think the Plainsmen's defense is downright scary, your team probably doesn't play them . . . but, as most of you know, mine does.
I hate Auburn.
3. Ohio State (1)---Although the Buckeyes got rolling at the end, they allowed Cincinnati to hang around much too long for me to consider O.S.U. a legitimate No. 1 team. Yes, Ohio State will continue to contend, but the team that took on the Bearcats on Saturday wouldn't have beaten the Trojans or the Tigers.
4. Louisville (5)---This is a somewhat shaky pick, as the Cardinals have developed a nasty habit of losing big-name stars in each odd-numbered outing. Nevertheless, U. of L.'s performance thus far clearly warrants inclusion in the top four.
5. Oregon (6)---I was mildly disappointed in the Ducks, who had the superior team and should have beaten the Sooners handily rather than narrowly, but Oregon's late comeback to defeat Oklahoma, coupled with the Ducks' prior outings, made a believer out of me.
6. Michigan (11)---I'm pretty sure I'm the only non-Wolverine to have picked the Maize and Blue to beat the Irish, but I never foresaw a thumping in which Notre Dame gave up the most points scored on the Golden Domers at home in 46 years. That's worth a five-spot jump in the polls.
Relax, Lloyd, you won! (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)
7. Florida (12)---The Gators made it into the top 10 because a road win over an S.E.C. rival at night counts for something, but I was surprised by the closeness of the contest, which suggested that perhaps Florida is two points better than Air Force. Urban Meyer and company showed me something, but they impressed me less than Tommy Tuberville's Tigers.
8. Texas (7)---I don't quite feel right about dropping the Longhorns a notch, but room had to be made for Saturday's prime time performers. Over the next six weeks, U.T. has games against Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas Tech---all of them outside of Austin---so the 'Horns will have ample opportunity to regain lost ground.
9. Virginia Tech (9)---A week ago, I thought the Hokies were the No. 9 team in the country. Yesterday, V.P.I. beat Duke by a 36-0 final margin. Those two facts seemed to square with one another fairly well, so I left the A.C.C. frontrunner's poll position unchanged.
10. Georgia (10)---Because I am more conscious of the Bulldogs' areas of concern than those of any other team, I am disinclined to elevate the Red and Black above their present position, at least for now. I will, however, point out two facts of interest: in three games this season, the 'Dawgs have given up a total of five points after halftime; and, in three games this season, Colorado has scored a total of zero points after halftime.
So far, so good. (Photograph from The Sunday Paper.)
11. Louisiana State (3)---I had the Bayou Bengals ranked third. The loss cost them five spots. The failure to score a touchdown cost them one more. The remaining two-slot drop was attributable to the fact that L.S.U. has Les Miles for a coach.
12. West Virginia (14)---Honestly, even though the Mountaineers rose on my ballot, I may yet have them ranked a little low. If I had even the slightest faith in Maryland as a team, I would have put W.V.U. in the top 10, but I'm keeping a close eye on the Mountain Men, who may leapfrog some higher-ranked teams if they continue to play this well.
13. Texas Christian (N.R.)---Before the season started, I admitted that I had "waited too long to get on board the T.C.U. bandwagon last season" and pledged not to repeat that error. I then turned right around and repeated that error. My bad, Horned Frogs.
14. Arizona State (16)---The Sun Devils have shown steady improvement over their first three games and A.S.U. played well defensively on Saturday, limiting Colorado to 219 total yards and a first-quarter field goal.
Dan Hawkins? Not having fun. (Photograph from University of Colorado.)
15. Boston College (13)---The Eagles got credit for beating Clemson in overtime, but B.C. lost points for needing extra innings to get by B.Y.U.
16. Notre Dame (2)---I told you the Fighting Irish were overrated.
17. Clemson (21)---I would ask the most harried Bowden to stand up, but Bobby, Jeff, and Tommy probably all would rise and be counted. Saturday's brutally ugly win in Tallahassee gave the Tigers new life in the Atlantic Division race, which earned Clemson a spot in the top 20, but their loss to 15th-ranked Boston College and their kicking game woes kept them from rising above No. 17.
18. Boise State (19)---It was just another day at the office for the Broncos: Ian Johnson gained 119 yards on the ground, Jared Zabransky scored a touchdown, and B.S.U. beat Wyoming in Laramie. Now that the boys from Boise have developed a defense to go with their high-octane offense, they are a force with which to be reckoned.
Dan Hawkins's old team? They're having fun. (Photograph from Honolulu Star-Bulletin.)
19. Tennessee (18)---The Volunteers only slipped a notch on my ballot because I already penalized the Big Orange for last week's near-miss and U.T. earned points by making a close game out of what I had expected would be a blowout. Someone needs to tell Erik Ainge when it's too early to start mocking the opposition with the Gator chomp, though.
20. Florida State (15)---O.K., maybe Labor Day's outcome was the result of bad offense rather than good defense.
21. Nebraska (17)---The Cornhuskers kept it closer than I expected them to do. That's the only reason N.U. still has a place on my ballot.
22. Rutgers (22)---In spite of a weak offensive showing, the Scarlet Knights beat Ohio (Ohio) by a 24-7 margin, had a 100-yard rusher for the fifth consecutive contest, and leapt out to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1981. Last year's Insight Bowl appearance was no fluke; Greg Schiano is building a program at the State University of New Jersey.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis and a friend discuss whether Dawg Sports readers should be more disappointed by a picture from "Sex and the City" or a Rutgers reference that is not accompanied by a picture of Scarlett Johansson. (Photograph from T.V. Squad.)
23. Navy (N.R.)---Many of you may not have noticed, but the Midshipmen are 3-0 and they got there by beating Stanford handily. The State University of New Jersey's October 14 visit to Annapolis should showcase a clash of unbeaten teams.
24. Wisconsin (N.R.)---Somebody had to be No. 24 and any of the other five teams listed as "others receiving consideration" could have filled this spot about equally as well. Hamp's right . . . we ought to scale it back to the top 20.
Dropping out of the poll: No. 20 Texas Tech, No. 23 Miami (Florida), and No. 25 Oklahoma, all of whom have joined Penn State in poll oblivion for the foreseeable future.
I drop-kicked the Red Raiders partly because they lost and partly because they have the lamest equine mascot ever. (Photograph from Texas Tech University.)
Others receiving consideration: Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Purdue, and Texas A&M. Is it obvious to everyone else that there aren't 25 teams worthy of inclusion in the top 25?
Others on the cusp of receiving consideration: Arizona, Houston, Southern Miss, South Florida, and Utah.
Teams that hurt their cause this weekend: Georgia Tech struggled with Troy, taking a 14-all tie into the fourth quarter. That, coupled with the fact that the Fighting Irish were exposed as parvenus, kept the Yellow Jackets from climbing back into contention for a spot in the twenties. South Carolina didn't do itself any favors by winning a 27-20 outing against Wofford, either.
Games I witnessed in some form or fashion: I watched Maryland-West Virginia on Thursday and half of Kansas-Toledo on Friday. On Saturday, I attended the Georgia-U.A.B. game and listened to Auburn-L.S.U. and Georgia Tech-Troy on the radio on the way home. Once back at my abode, I flipped back and forth between Arizona State-Colorado, Clemson-Florida State, Florida-Tennessee, and Nebraska-Southern California before concluding my evening with a quarter or so of Army-Texas A&M.
Additional observation: When the Jayhawks' Mark Mangino and the Rockets' Tom Amstutz took up position on opposite sides of the field on Friday night, I believe it represented the greatest total tonnage of the two head coaches combined of any game in N.C.A.A. history. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.