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Week Fourteen BlogPoll Ballot Submitted

For once, the bottom half of my BlogPoll ballot was easier to fill out than the top half. This is because I was fairly well satisfied with last week's top 25 and the explanations I offered for ranking the teams as I did.

Furthermore, eleven of the fifteen teams I had ranked between No. 11 and No. 25 have not played a game since I cast last week's ballot, so those teams' resumes were altered only incrementally and, hence, those team's positions relative to one another did not change.

Something similar happened in 1989, when Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor in the world, died and every other actor in the world moved up one notch.

Likewise, my 13th- and 16th-ranked squads suffered the setbacks which, like the late-season losses sustained by the likes of California and Kentucky, served at last to knock Tennessee and Oregon out of the top 25, where their respective wins over Georgia and Southern California no longer could suffice to keep them. Finally, my 21st- and 24th-ranked teams defeated opponents with records of 4-9 and 4-8, respectively---one of them on the last play of the game---so Hawaii and Brigham Young did little to affect their resumes one way or the other, though this did not prevent the Warriors from snagging the most bogus B.C.S. bowl bid ever.

In short, the latest round of upsets rearranged things at the top, but the muddled middle fell in line in much the same manner as it did last week, as these teams await the bowl results that will rearrange the college football universe yet again. In the interim, at the risk of alienating at least one or two of my readers, here is how I ranked the top 25 this week:

  1. Louisiana State
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Ohio State
  4. Virginia Tech
  5. Georgia
  6. Missouri
  7. Southern California
  8. West Virginia
  9. Arizona State
  10. Boston College
  11. Florida
  12. Illinois
  13. South Florida
  14. Clemson
  15. Kansas
  16. Wisconsin
  17. Cincinnati
  18. Virginia
  19. Hawaii
  20. Auburn
  21. Texas
  22. Brigham Young
  23. Boise State
  24. Arkansas
  25. Texas Tech

I have a real problem with the idea of a twice-beaten team competing for a national championship, but, since the only way to avoid that would be to give undefeated Hawaii or once-beaten Kansas a shot at the crown, a two-loss team making it into the B.C.S. title game was inevitable. That being the case, I had to award the top two spots to Louisiana State (11-2) and Oklahoma (11-2), respectively.

Nine of the Bayou Bengals' eleven wins were over teams with records of 5-7 or better, seven of which are bowl eligible, including seven-win Mississippi State, eight-win Auburn, nine-win Florida and Tennessee, and eleven-win Virginia Tech. L.S.U.'s two losses were extended overtime games against bowl-bound conference opposition.

Although the Sooners' resume was watered down by wins over a pair of 2-10 teams (North Texas and Utah State) and over a couple of 3-9 squads (Baylor and Iowa State), Oklahoma defeated six bowl-eligible opponents and one other team that fell one win shy of qualifying for postseason play. O.U.'s record was highlighted by victories over nine-win Texas and eleven-win Missouri (twice).

I left Ohio State (11-1) in the same No. 3 spot the Buckeyes occupied last week because the addition of wins over the Volunteers and the Tigers, respectively, bolstered Louisiana State's and Oklahoma's resumes to a sufficient extent that they surpassed the ledger compiled by Jim Tressel's squad. O.S.U.'s eleven wins were weighed down by empty victories over Akron (4-8), Kent State (3-9), Minnesota (1-11), Washington (4-9), and Division I-AA Youngstown State. The Buckeyes' best win (over Wisconsin) was not on a par with L.S.U.'s (over Virginia Tech) or Oklahoma's (over Missouri).

Speaking of the Hokies, Virginia Tech (11-2) advanced to No. 4 with its A.C.C. championship game win over ten-win Boston College. V.P.I.'s victory over the Eagles gave Frank Beamer's squad its eighth win of the season against an opponent with a record of 5-7 or better and its seventh win over a bowl-eligible squad. Among the Hokies' other victims of note are nine-win Clemson and Virginia teams, each of which Virginia Tech defeated on the road.

Guess who's next?

Due to attrition, Georgia (10-2) inched up a notch to No. 5, in spite of the fact that the only changes to the Bulldogs' resume were marginal and negative: Tennessee and Troy each sustained the season's fourth loss on Saturday. Otherwise, the Red and Black boast the same resume they did a week ago, with only one win over a Division I-A opponent with a record worse than 5-7 and seven victories over bowl-eligible opponents, including seven-win Georgia Tech and Kentucky, eight-win Auburn, and nine-win Florida.

Eight of the victories posted by Missouri (11-2) were over teams at or within one win of bowl eligibility, among them seven-win Texas A&M, eight-win Texas Tech, nine-win Illinois, and eleven-win Kansas. The Tigers fell behind the Bulldogs because Mizzou's worst wins were weaker than Georgia's---both teams beat a Division I-AA opponent and an Ole Miss squad that finished at 3-9, but the Big 12 North champion also padded its record with a win over Iowa State (3-9)---and because Missouri was less competitive with Oklahoma in the two teams' second showdown at a neutral site than in their regular-season meeting in Norman.

I had a tough time deciding between Southern California (10-2) and West Virginia (10-2) for the No. 7 spot. Both teams have one respectable loss on the road and one abysmal loss at home: U.S.C. fell to eight-win Oregon in Eugene and to four-win Stanford at home; W.V.U. fell to nine-win South Florida in Tampa and to five-win Pitt at home. Neither played a Division I-AA opponent, but both beat two teams with 6-6 records.

The Men of Troy defeated half a dozen teams with losing records, but three of those fell one win shy of bowl eligibility, and both the Mountaineers and the Trojans waxed some substandard competition, as West Virginia beat Marshall (3-9) and Syracuse (2-10) while Southern California conquered Idaho (1-11) and Notre Dame (3-9).

In the end, even though Rich Rodriguez's club beat five teams with winning records and Pete Carroll's crew defeated only two, Southern California's two best wins (over Arizona State and Oregon State) were, on balance, superior to West Virginia's (over Cincinnati and Connecticut).

The bottom line is that losing to this guy pretty much deprives you of any benefit of the doubt.

Speaking of the Sun Devils, Arizona State (10-2) inched up to No. 9. Even though A.S.U.'s only win over a team with a winning record came against Oregon State, Dennis Erickson's team defeated four bowl-eligible opponents and three others that fell just short of qualifying for the postseason. While neither of Arizona State's losses was particularly close, both came against conference opponents with eight or more wins.

The top ten was rounded out by Boston College (10-3). The Eagles' fall was cushioned by five victories over teams with winning records, including nine-win Clemson and eleven-win Virginia Tech on the road. All of B.C.'s losses were to bowl-eligible teams, even though two of them won only six and seven games, respectively. The Eagles remained in front of Florida because the Gators' best wins were over Kentucky and Tennessee, which are not on a par with the Hokies of Blacksburg and the Tigers from Fort Hill.

The teams I had ranked 11th through 25th last week occupy the same positions in the same sequence this week, except for Oregon and Tennessee. The Ducks and the Volunteers dropped out following their losses on Saturday, enabling teams ranked 14th or lower to inch up to fill the gap. Eleven of the thirteen teams that stood pat or made minor movements did not play this weekend, so their resumes were affected only marginally, if at all, by the latest slate of games.

The departure of the squads from Eugene and Knoxville left room at the bottom of my ballot for two teams to sneak in at Nos. 24 and 25. The first of these spots went to Arkansas (8-4), which overcame a year's worth of tumult to claim wins over six-win South Carolina, seven-win Mississippi State, eight-win Troy, and, most notably, eleven-win L.S.U. on the road. All of the Razorbacks' losses were to bowl-eligible conference squads.

Much to my chagrin, Texas Tech (8-4) sneaked into the standings, as well. The Red Raiders won eight games against an atrocious schedule that included Baylor (3-9), Iowa State (3-9), Rice (3-9), Southern Methodist (1-11), U.T.E.P. (4-8), and Division I-AA Northwestern State, but Mike Leach's squad overcame losses to six-win Colorado and Oklahoma State teams by recording a quality victory over eleven-win Oklahoma.

Incidentally, this was the inspiration for Texas Tech's mascot. Not that there's anything wrong with that. . . .

The Hogs' and the Raiders' respective wins over my top two teams gave them the edge over the other two teams to receive consideration, Michigan (8-4) and Oregon State (8-4). The Wolverines' five wins over bowl-eligible teams, including a quality victory at Illinois, could not overcome losses to Ohio State, Oregon, and Wisconsin which were not competitive, particularly when those setbacks were coupled with a season-opening loss to Appalachian State . . . although the upset that inaugurated an autumn chock full of them is ameliorated somewhat by the fact that the Mountaineers once again advanced in the Division I-AA playoffs.

Wins over three bowl-eligible teams and two more that finished with 5-7 records put the Beavers into contention, as well, but Oregon State's victories over eight-win Oregon and Utah squads were not enough to offset four losses (to Arizona State, Cincinnati, Southern California, and, worst of all, U.C.L.A.) in which O.S.U. was not competitive.

I watched Thursday night's Louisville-Rutgers tilt and Friday night's Fresno State-New Mexico State faceoff, although I did my share of dozing on the couch during the latter. Saturday was a busy day, inasmuch as the 2008 Georgia Mock Trial Competition problem was released late Friday and I devoted a great deal of time to reviewing the case materials and meeting with the team I am helping to coach.

Consequently, I saw bits and pieces of the Army-Navy, Boston College-Virginia Tech, Central Florida-Tulsa, and Central Michigan-Miami (Ohio) games before catching the first quarter of the Louisiana State-Tennessee game, some of which I listened to while in the car en route to the team meeting. Upon my return later in the evening, I flipped back and forth between the Missouri-Oklahoma and Pitt-West Virginia games before taking in the first quarter of the Hawaii-Washington game. I went to bed after that because my family and I had to be at church early, as we were lighting the first candle of the advent wreath.

For what it's worth, I filled out my BlogPoll ballot before the B.C.S. bowl selection show on Sunday, so the postseason pairings had not yet been announced at the time I put together my top 25. In other words, the blame for the foregoing rests solely with me. Your constructive criticisms are, as always, welcome in the comments below.

Go 'Dawgs!