As promised, I ignored completely last week’s BlogPoll ballot when compiling this week’s top 25, concentrating solely on ranking the teams by resumes. Since my forecasting skills are suspect at best, ordering teams upon the basis of which ones I believe would beat which other ones at a hypothetical neutral site on a hypothetical Saturday is a worthless exercise; instead, I am ranking them based on what they have done so far, and against whom they have done it.
I’m not going to promise that this method is without its oddities, but it tends to come out in the wash over the course of the season. Bear that in mind when assessing my evaluation of the top 25 teams in college football:
The Bayou Bengals (4-0) are the clear No. 1 team. Despite having played only one home game, Louisiana State has won all four of its outings by double-digit margins. The Tigers’ three Division I-A victims have a combined record of 8-1 against opponents other than LSU. The Crimson Tide (4-0) likewise own victories over a pair of 3-1 teams, with all four of their wins having come against Division I-A opposition, and all in convincing fashion. The Cornhuskers, also 4-0 and also without a close call to their detriment, defeated a couple of 3-1 clubs, as well.
After that, it gets a little weird, because, frankly, not a lot of teams have a signature victory to their credit. The Sooners (3-0) get the benefit of the doubt that Florida State and Missouri are better than those teams’ 2-2 records suggest, due to the quality of the competition the Tribe and the Tigers have faced. The Cowboys (4-0) are not far behind, thanks to the Pokes’ road win over Texas A&M, and the Gamecocks (4-0) own a quartet of victories over Division I-A opponents, the last three of whom sport combined records of 7-1 against the rest of college football.
The SEC East frontrunners are trailed by their Palmetto State rivals, as the Tigers (4-0) have claimed back-to-back victories over then-ranked teams with a cumulative 5-1 record in all other games. After that, about the best combination belongs to the Yellow Jackets (4-0), who followed up wins over Division I-AA Western Carolina and winless Middle Tennessee with triumphs over Kansas and North Carolina, who otherwise are a combined 5-0. The Bears (3-0) sneaked into the top ten by virtue of their opening win over Texas Christian, and the Fighting Illini (4-0) round out the field, buoyed by a win over the Sun Devils and a Division I-A slate that so far has included no teams with losing records.
From there, the pickings get really slim in rather a large hurry, so we are left with the Wolverines (4-0) at No. 11, strictly on the strength of having beaten a bunch of 2-2 teams; the Gators (4-0) at No. 12, solely as a result of a win over a 2-1 Tennessee team (though Florida is dragged down by wins over a pair of 0-3 tomato cans); the Bulls (4-0) at No. 13, only because South Florida’s weak resume isn’t watered down further by victories over teams with losing records; the Longhorns (3-0) at No. 14, for no better reason than a couple of wins over 2-2 teams; and the Cyclones (3-0) at No. 15, exclusively because of their overtime win over Iowa.
While I believe the next five teams on my ballot are better than than their rankings suggest, they haven’t played the schedules to prove it. The Broncos (3-0) earned two victories over 1-3 teams and a third over a 2-2 squad; the Cardinal (3-0) did precisely the same thing, only their win over a .500 club came against Duke in Durham, rather than against Georgia in Atlanta; the Aggies (2-1) mostly get credit for losing to Oklahoma State by a single point; the Sun Devils (3-1) needed overtime to get by Missouri at home, but benefited from losing only by a field goal to Illinois on the road; and the Badgers (4-0) have looked very good against awful teams, trouncing Division I-AA South Dakota, .500 Northern Illinois, 1-3 UNLV, and 0-3 Oregon State.
A win over Air Force (2-1) and a two-point road loss to Baylor earned Texas Christian (3-1) the No. 21 spot, while being undefeated is all that landed Virginia Tech and Houston in the top 25, as both teams got to 4-0 against weak teams, with each edging a one-win team in a single-score game. Finally, against my better judgment, I let the Ducks and the Mountaineers (both 3-1) into the poll, rather than Washington and North Carolina, respectively, because I thought Oregon and West Virginia deserved credit for having played LSU, even though those teams both earned their three victories against a Division I-AA opponent, a 1-2 opponent, and a 1-3 opponent.
I’m sure a lot of that looks weird to you, but, if it’s any consolation, a lot of that looks weird to me, too, but those are the breaks when you judge teams by what they’ve actually done on the field rather than what you thought they would do or think they will do. Your questions, criticisms, and suggestions are welcome in the comments below.