Thanks to yesterday’s much-needed open date, I had a relaxing weekend, so I am rested and ready to cast this week’s BlogPoll ballot. Once again, I started from scratch and arranged my ballot according to the principles of resume ranking. (I believe I made that clear last week, but I wanted to say so forthrightly because I believe I may have confused some people who don’t bother to read what I write.)
For the uninitiated, resume ranking is based on what each team has accomplished to date---whether they won or lost, and how, and where, and to whom---not on how I anticipate the teams will end up in January or on which teams I think would beat which other teams on a neutral field next Saturday. While I welcome constructive criticisms of my top 25, it is no objection to my ranking of Vanderbilt ahead of Louisiana State to say, "The Bayou Bengals would beat the Commodores senseless." That probably is true, but it certainly is irrelevant; I am going strictly by what the ‘Dores and the Tigers have accomplished so far, not by what result a purely hypothetical matchup might produce.
With those criteria borne in mind, I welcome your feedback with respect to the following:
- All six of Alabama’s wins came against Division I-A opposition. One of Oklahoma’s five wins was over Division I-AA Chattanooga.
- O.U.’s two best wins came at home against Texas Christian (5-1) and Cincinnati (4-1), both of whom were on the cusp of making my top 25. The Tide’s two best wins came against Georgia (4-1) on the road and against Kentucky (4-1) at home. ‘Bama also has a neutral site win over Clemson (3-2). Despite the closeness of the Red Elephants’ victory over the Wildcats, Nick Saban’s squad has the better set of quality wins.
- Alabama’s worst wins really aren’t that bad in comparison to Oklahoma’s. Only two of the Crimson Tide’s six victims have losing records, one of which was an Arkansas squad ‘Bama beat handily on the road. Half of the Sooners’ Division I-A wins were over squads with losing records, including woeful Washington (0-5).
The third spot went to Missouri (5-0). Although the Tigers have yet to record what truly qualifies as a quality victory (at least in terms of the caliber of the opposition), three of Mizzou’s four Division I-A wins were over teams with winning records and none were by narrow margins. A neutral site triumph over Illinois (3-2) and a dominating road win over Nebraska (3-2) proved that the Tigers have not missed a step offensively and that their defense is better than expected. Gary Pinkel’s club is No. 3 with a bullet.
Penn State (6-0) narrowly edged Texas (5-0) for the fourth spot not because the Nittany Lions have an additional victory---P.S.U.’s season opening win over Division I-AA Coastal Carolina essentially counts for zilch---but because, even though both squads consistently have been dominant, Joe Paterno’s team has beaten a marginally better class of competition than Mack Brown’s squad. It is debatable whether the Longhorns’ best win, at Colorado (3-2), is better than the Lions’ best win, over Illinois (3-2) at home; however, Penn State’s home win over Oregon State (2-3) counts for more than Texas’s home win over Arkansas (2-3) and P.S.U.’s third-best win, at Purdue (2-3), certainly carries more weight than U.T.’s third-best win, at U.T.E.P. (2-3). Even the Nittany Lions’ worst Division I-A win, at Syracuse (1-4), was superior to the Longhorns’ least valuable victory, over Florida Atlantic (1-4) at home.
You know, I know, and the American people know that the Commies’ success is unsustainable, but Vanderbilt (5-0) has survived close scrapes against a pair of 4-2 clubs in Auburn and South Carolina, in addition to going on the road to defeat an Ole Miss squad that sits at 3-3 and defeated Florida in Gainesville. That gives the ‘Dores a better record of achievement than Boise State (4-0), inasmuch as the Broncos’ narrow win at Oregon (4-2) has lost a little of its luster and the rest of B.S.U.’s resume consists of wins over Bowling Green (2-3), Louisiana Tech (2-2), and Division I-AA Idaho State.
While I certainly believe that L.S.U. (4-0) will finish with a better poll position than eighth, the Bayou Bengals haven’t proven much in the first six weeks of the season. Louisiana State, like Vanderbilt, claims as its marquee win a closely-contested victory over Auburn. Arguably, the Fighting Tigers deserve more credit for their triumph over the Plainsmen, as it came on the road and by a larger margin, although Vandy has a case that its win over the War Eagle was the more impressive, since the ‘Dores did a better job of shutting Auburn down defensively. The rest of the resume compiled by Les Miles’s team is worthless, though: L.S.U. has beaten Mississippi State (1-4), North Texas (0-5), and Division I-AA Appalachian State.
Utah (6-0) checks in at No. 9, as the Utes have gotten about as far as squeakers at Michigan (2-3), at Air Force (3-2), and over Oregon State can take them. Utah very nearly was beaten out by Texas Tech (5-0) on the strength of the Red Raiders’ solid road victories over a pair of 3-2 teams (Nevada and Kansas State), but the presence of two Division I-AA clubs (Eastern Washington and Massachusetts) on Texas Tech’s slate slowed the Raiders’ rise.
The teams ranked eleventh through 18th all sport ledgers besmirched by a lone loss, and, among these, pride of place is given to Southern California (3-1). The Trojans’ only loss was by a close margin on the road, although the Beavers’ losing record prohibits U.S.C. from claiming credit for a quality loss. Nevertheless, Pete Carroll’s club possesses a pair of valuable pelts as a result of the lopsided victories claimed by the Men of Troy over Ohio State (5-1) and Oregon.
Like Southern California, Virginia Tech (5-1) boasts a record marred by a loss which, while occurring by a slim margin away from home, appears increasingly shameful now that East Carolina stands at 3-2. However, the Hokies claimed close victories in three games over legitimate opponents in Georgia Tech (4-1), North Carolina (4-1), and Nebraska, two of whom V.P.I. defeated on the road.
The Buckeyes lost badly to a quality opponent in U.S.C. but offset that setback with respectable wins over Minnesota (5-1) and Wisconsin (3-2). California (4-1) still loses points for being beaten by Maryland (4-2), but the Golden Bears’ victory over Michigan State (5-1) gets better with age, so Jeff Tedford’s crew got the nod over the ‘Dawgs. Cal’s and Georgia’s respective wins over Arizona State (2-3) effectively cancel each other out and the Bears’ win over the Spartans presently possesses more value than the Bulldogs’ win over the Gamecocks.
A quasi-quality win at Boston College (4-1) and a quality loss at Virginia Tech earned the Yellow Jackets a No. 16 ranking ahead of the Gators, who almost certainly are better than their poll position but who have done nothing to prove it except losing at home to Mississippi and beating four teams with 2-3 records: Hawaii, Miami (Florida), Tennessee, and Arkansas.
Wake Forest (3-1) narrowly beat at home the selfsame Ole Miss team that narrowly beat Florida on the road, but the Demon Deacons have what is now a slightly shinier win over Florida State (4-1) in Tallahassee. That would have been enough to elevate Wake over the Saurians, had it not been for the fact that the Deacs also lost at home to a Navy club with a highly inflated record.
An undefeated ledger enabled Northwestern (5-0) to nab the No. 19 ranking ahead of Michigan State (5-1), but the Spartans get credit for a quality loss after falling in a close contest on the road against Cal. The margin separating the two Big Ten teams is razor-thin, however, since the Wildcats’ close win at Duke (3-2) has been devalued and M.S.U.’s victory over Notre Dame (4-1) is acquiring a bit more luster.
Lurking just outside the top 20 are a pair of 5-0 clubs in Oklahoma State and Brigham Young. The Cowboys moved in front of the Cougars on the (for lack of a better word) strength of a win over Troy (2-2), since the Trojans are the only Division I-A team either O.S.U. or B.Y.U. has beaten that does not have a losing record. The rest of the two squads’ respective ledgers are approximately equivalent---Oklahoma State beat Texas A&M (2-3), Houston (2-3), and Division I-AA Missouri State; Brigham Young beat U.C.L.A. (2-3), Wyoming (2-4), and Division I-AA Northern Iowa---but the Cowboys get a smidgen more credit for going on the road and winning handily over one-win Washington State than the Cougars get for going on the road and winning narrowly over winless Washington.
That’s twice now that I’ve had to mention how bad the Huskies are. Really, is there any reason not to go ahead and pull the plug on this failed experiment?
The usual tiebreaker of head-to-head competition enabled Pitt (4-1) to inch ahead of South Florida (5-1), although the Panthers continue to suffer for having lost at home to a Bowling Green club with a losing record and the Bulls continue to benefit from a close win over Kansas (4-1). The Tar Heels grabbed the last spot in the top 25 by virtue of a quality loss to the Hokies and a victory of marginal worth over Connecticut (5-1).
Serious looks were given to five other teams, all of whom came up short due to a complete dearth of victories over Division I-A opponents with winning records, but Cincinnati, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Texas Christian all received serious consideration. I did not give consideration to any twice-beaten teams because I believe it is too early in the season to rank a two-loss squad.
On Wednesday, I watched Boise State battle Louisiana Tech. On Thursday, I watched Pitt tangle with South Florida. On Friday, I watched Cincinnati square off with Marshall. On Saturday, I watched parts of the Iowa-Michigan State, Penn State-Purdue, and Arkansas-Florida games before taking in more or less all of the Florida State-Miami (Florida) and Auburn-Vanderbilt games. I closed out the evening by flipping back and forth between the Ohio State-Wisconsin and Missouri-Nebraska tilts.
Please bear in mind that this is a preliminary ballot. Although I failed to heed some sensible reader suggestions during last week’s bloodletting, I appreciated the helpful comments and I have until Wednesday morning to modify my top 25. Civil differences of opinion from folks who behave as though their mothers taught them manners always are welcome, your constructive criticisms are invited in the comments below, and, like Dr. Frasier Crane, I’m listening.