Earlier this evening, I published my latest BlogPoll ballot, with the promise than an explanation would follow.
Here now, I give you the rationale for my rankings, with each team's poll position on last week's ballot provided in parentheses:
1. Ohio State (3)---Sometimes, what the eyes see and what the ears hear are two different things. (Viewers who saw the 1960 presidential debates on television tended to think John Kennedy prevailed, whereas listeners who heard the candidates' give-and-take on radio awarded the victory to Richard Nixon.) I heard the better part of the second half of this game on the radio on my way back from Athens and, after the Buckeyes put the go-ahead points on the board in the third quarter, there was no point at which it seemed anything other than abundantly clear that Ohio State was going to win handily . . . which it did. That allowed the Buckeyes to ascend to the top spot anew.
2. Auburn (2)---Kenny Irons didn't play and Brandon Cox attempted 10 passes. The Plainsmen still won 38-7. Auburn is a well-oiled machine on autopilot.
I hate Auburn.
3. Southern California (1)---The Trojans beat Arizona 20-3. The Bayou Bengals beat Arizona 45-3. So much for the idea that S.E.C. squads can't score and Pac-10 teams can't play defense. Perhaps more so than any serious national title contender, U.S.C. failed to put away an overmatched opponent, which caused the Men of Troy to drop on my ballot.
4. Michigan (6)---After being tied at halftime, the Wolverines put away a respectable Wisconsin team in a gritty Big Ten contest. While the win was hardly overwhelming, it was better than most of the unbeatens managed on Saturday, which accounts for the Maize and Blue's rise in the rankings.
5. Oregon (5)---The Ducks didn't play, so the Ducks stayed put on my ballot.
6. Louisville (4)---The Cardinals and the Wolverines swapped spots because Michigan performed well, whereas U. of L. was sluggish in putting away Kansas State. The Wildcats are products of a has-been program that briefly attained undeserved celebrity by getting fat off of shamefully weak scheduling and a legitimate national title contender ought to do better against the likes of K-State.
7. Texas (8)---The eyes of college football ought to be upon Texas, as the Longhorns are continuing to play well and, as a result, the defending national champions have inched up on my ballot ever so slightly.
This man is smiling for a reason. (Photograph from Mack Brown Texas Football.)
8. Louisiana State (11)---Yes, it was just Tulane, but, when you beat your in-state rival 49-7, you get credit for it. The Bayou Bengals look daunting; that, coupled with other teams' shows of weakness, earned L.S.U. a return to the top 10.
9. Clemson (17)---Is there an A.C.C. squad you'd less rather play right now than the Tigers of Lake Hartwell?
10. Florida (7)---When you find yourself leading Kentucky by a 12-7 margin at the half while playing at home, you lose ground in the poll, period.
11. Texas Christian (13)---The Horned Frogs picked a good Saturday to have an open date. With virtually everyone else deserving a demotion, T.C.U. rose through attrition.
12. Virginia Tech (9)---The Hokies were down 13-12 heading into the fourth quarter. That sluggish performance cost V.P.I. its spot in the top 10.
13. Iowa (N.R.)---Omitting the Hawkeyes from last week's ballot was an oversight on my part. They haven't really done anything to earn their way into the top 10, but a top 15 ranking seems appropriate at this point.
14. West Virginia (12)---The Mountaineers were docked one spot in the rankings for playing at East Carolina and an additional spot was deducted due to W.V.U.'s failure to dominate once they got there.
15. Tennessee (19)---Marshall is a pesky opponent that has been known to give good teams a hard time and the Volunteers no doubt came into the week dejected after their loss to the Gators. Nevertheless, the Big Orange won handily, so U.T. vaulted back into the top 15.
16. Georgia (10)---I don't believe it's fair to say that Saturday's game against Colorado was in any way reminiscent of the Sugar Bowl or that it in any way resembled a game from the Ray Goff or Jim Donnan eras or that you should burn the clothes you were wearing while you watched the game. The Buffaloes generally, and Dan Hawkins specifically, deserve a tremendous amount of credit for devising and executing an effective game plan to take advantage of the Classic City Canines' ordinarily useful tendencies. The first quarter of the Sugar Bowl had a lot to do with the 'Dawgs being unprepared; the first three quarters of Saturday's game had more to do with the Buffs being well-prepared. While the scare convinced me that the Red and Black are not deserving of a top 10 ranking, this team is just about there . . . it's just not there quite yet.
I would hasten to remind everyone else in the Dawgosphere that, um, we won. (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)
17. Nebraska (21)---Given the scares the Trojans recently put into Florida State and Georgia Tech, the fact that the Cornhuskers manhandled Troy counts for quite a bit.
18. Notre Dame (16)---Let's be clear here; the Fighting Irish didn't win that game, the Spartans lost it. If any other Division I-A college football team had held a 31-14 lead over the Golden Domers at the break, it would have been a rout. The complete incompetence that is inherently a part of Michigan State football is the only reason Charlie Weis's squad isn't saddled with two losses right now. It somehow seems fitting that, on the night when the squads from South Bend and East Lansing commemorated the 40th anniversary of the historic display of gutlessness that was the 1966 "Game of the Century"---a game which should have eliminated both teams from national title contention---coaching directed by fear rather than by boldness proved decisive. As I have already begun receiving critical comments, please note that, since Notre Dame was given credit by the pollsters for a "quality loss" against U.S.C. last year, it is only reasonable to deduct points from Coach Weis's team for an undeserved win. Furthermore, I dropped seven other teams for unimpressive victories and I didn't drop the Irish anywhere near as far as I dropped my own team, so the Golden Domers should consider themselves lucky . . . again.
19. Florida State (20)---All right, so it was Rice. At least the Seminoles showed some signs of life offensively.
20. California (25)---Honestly, I didn't think the Golden Bears had it in them, but Cal got my attention by chewing up the Sun Devils and spitting them right out of the poll. Jeff Tedford's bunch was overrated at the outset of the season, but the Bears remain a top 20 team.
21. Rutgers (22)---I'm not at all convinced that the Scarlet Knights don't deserve to be ranked a little higher, but I'm reserving judgment until the State University of New Jersey takes on a team tougher than Howard.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis is intent on seeing her alma mater make it into the top 20. (Photograph from Aftonbladet.)
22. Oklahoma (N.R.)---I remain unconvinced that the Sooners are all that good, but somebody had to be No. 22 and O.U. did beat Middle Tennessee 59-0.
23. Missouri (N.R.)---Trust me; I don't feel any better about this than you do, but the Tigers are 4-0. What can I tell you?
24. Wake Forest (N.R.)---The Demon Deacons are saving the A.C.C.'s reputation in out-of-conference contests and L.D. thinks they could be 9-0 heading into the Florida State game. Let's give some credit to Wake Forest while we still can.
25. Washington (N.R.)---I picked the Huskies to beat the Bruins, so you'll have to forgive me for giving U.W. the final spot in the rankings after the squad from Seattle beat U.C.L.A.
Dropping out of the poll: No. 14 Arizona State, No. 15 Boston College, No. 18 Boise State, No. 23 Navy, and No. 24 Wisconsin.
Boston College lost to whom? (Photograph from Scout.com.)
Others receiving consideration: Army, Georgia Tech, and Washington State.
Others within striking distance of receiving consideration: Arkansas and Purdue.
Team that will never, under any circumstances, emergency or otherwise, ever again receive even the barest hint of consideration: Michigan State.
Games to which I paid attention in some manner while they were occurring: On Thursday night, I watched those portions of Georgia Tech-Virginia that did not conflict with the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy" and, on Friday, I watched the surprisingly entertaining Nevada-Northwestern game. On Saturday, I attended the Georgia-Colorado game, listened to Ohio State-Penn State on the radio during the trip home, and caught the end of Alabama-Arkansas before settling in for an evening of flipping back and forth between Michigan State-Notre Dame, Florida-Kentucky, and Boston College-N.C. State, in that order of priority.
As always, your views upon the topic at hand are welcomed.