In the midst of a weekend filled with confusion and birthday celebrations, I cast a largely intuitive BlogPoll ballot which generated some discussion but conformed pretty closely to the preliminary BlogPoll.
Nine of my top eleven were identical to the BlogPoll as a whole. The only exceptions were Oklahoma and Southern California. I had the Trojans sixth and the Sooners seventh, while my fellow bloggers had the two teams reversed.
Below that, it was a bit of a muddle, but the only teams about which I differed more than two poll positions from the BlogPoll overall were North Carolina (15th on my ballot but 18th in the poll), California (16th on my ballot but 21st in the poll), Ball State (18th on my ballot but 15th in the poll), Pittsburgh (20th on my ballot but unranked in the poll), Cincinnati (22nd on my ballot but unranked in the poll), and Georgia Tech (23rd on my ballot but 20th in the poll).
The BlogPoll ranked three teams (No. 19 Brigham Young, No. 24 Florida State, and No. 25 Northwestern) which did not appear on my ballot, although I gave consideration to the Wildcats. In addition to the Panthers and the Bearcats, I also included Oregon State on my ballot at No. 25.
In examining these deviations from the conventional wisdom, I came to the following conclusions:
- I was wrong about Southern California, which accomplished less by beating Ohio State while losing at Oregon State than Oklahoma did by beating Cincinnati and Texas Christian while losing to Texas at a neutral site. I have the Horned Frogs ranked two spots ahead of the Buckeyes, I have the Bearcats ranked but not whatever team is the second-best victim over whom U.S.C. has triumphed, and I have the team that beat the Sooners ranked fifth and the team that beat the Men of Troy ranked 25th. Accordingly, I reversed the order of the two teams’ placement.
- I’m satisfied with the slightly higher ranking I awarded to North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ two losses were three-point setbacks to conference opponents from the Old Dominion, while U.N.C.’s victories have come at Miami (Florida) and against Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Boston College. None of these teams are world-beaters, but they each have winning records and all are likely bowl teams. North Carolina doesn’t have a marquee win per se, but neither do the Tar Heels have any embarrassing losses, which justifies their placement ahead of Louisiana State and Michigan State.
- I don’t get why the BlogPoll has Michigan State ranked four spots above California. The Golden Bears are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play. The Spartans are 8-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Cal lost at Maryland (which leads the A.C.C. Atlantic Division and is ranked outside the top 20 only because of bad losses to Middle Tennessee State and Virginia) and at Arizona (a demonstrably fluky team which played toe-to-toe with U.S.C.). Michigan State was annihilated by Ohio State in East Lansing. The Bears beat the Spartans head to head. I’m satisfied with having California ahead of a Michigan State team the Berkeley Bears beat straight up and in front of L.S.U. and Ball State squads which lack marquee wins comparable to Cal’s.
- I am completely justified in ranking Ball State lower than the BlogPoll at large. The Cardinals’ best wins are over Navy, which needed overtime to get by Temple at home last Saturday, and Indiana, which lost to Central Michigan last weekend to fall to 3-6. Ball State is Hawaii without the scenery or the excitement.
- I gave Pittsburgh too much credit, which probably was true the moment I gave Pittsburgh any credit. The Panthers also beat Navy, going on the road and dropping a three-touchdown victory on the Midshipmen, and Pitt likewise has road wins over South Florida and Notre Dame. Since the victory over the Bulls has been robbed of its luster by two straight U.S.F. losses, I overrated a Big East club whose resume remains marred by losses to Bowling Green and Rutgers. Accordingly, I swallowed my own natural disdain for the Yellow Jackets, moved them up to 20th (where the BlogPoll has them and one notch above fellow A.C.C. division leader Maryland), moved West Virginia up to 22nd (where the BlogPoll has them), and inched Pitt and Cincinnati down to create a Big East logjam at the bottom of the rankings which mirrors the conference standings.
- I stand by the Beavers as the most deserving three-loss team, in light of the strength of O.S.’s schedule. On balance, Oregon State’s losses to top-tier teams, coupled with the Beavs’ win over Southern California, gives the club from Corvallis a record of achievement superior to that compiled by B.Y.U., Florida State, or Northwestern against markedly weaker competition.
Accordingly, here is how my revised BlogPoll ballot looks:
I’m not 100 per cent comfortable with this; while Oklahoma clearly belongs behind Texas, I am troubled by the idea that a team that lost to the Longhorns by ten points in Dallas is ranked two spots above a team that lost to the Longhorns by four points in Austin, so I might well be open to the idea of ranking the Cowboys ahead of the Trojans. Once again, there remains time for further revisions, so additional comments are welcome.