I’ve given you the ground rules, now here are the also-rans. Listed below are the nine teams among the "others receiving consideration," whose resumes were reviewed but, ultimately, found wanting. The teams are listed in ascending order as we work our way toward No. 1:
34. Temple Owls (9-4): Yes, Temple won its bowl game to get to nine wins on the season. However, the Owls’ victory over Wyoming (8-5) represents the club’s only win of the campaign against an opponent that finished above .500, and six of Temple’s nine victims were either Division I-AA squads or Division I-A outfits that ended the autumn with eight or more losses. In addition, the Owls’ four setbacks were suffered at the hands of my 23rd-, 30th-, and 33rd-ranked teams, as well as a Bowling Green club that finished the season with a losing record.
33. Toledo Rockets (9-4): Toledo’s only win over a team with a record better than 7-6 came against Temple, and the Rockets’ two victories over 7-6 squads (Air Force and Western Michigan) came by a combined four points. Meanwhile, two of Toledo’s four losses were to teams that finished with losing records.
32. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (9-4): U-La-La beat just two teams with winning records, both of whom ended the season at 8-5, and each of whom fell to the Ragin’ Cajuns by five or fewer points. Louisiana-Lafayette registered five of its remaining seven victories against teams from Division I-AA or teams with eight or more losses. All four of ULL’s setbacks were suffered on the road, but one came against an eight-loss Arizona outfit.
31. Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3): Cincy, like Louisiana-Lafayette, beat two teams with winning records, neither of whom finished better than 8-5. The Bearcats, however, beat five teams that finished only barely below .500, as Connecticut, Pitt, South Florida, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt all concluded the campaign with exactly seven setbacks apiece. A win over a respectable N.C. State club helped Cincinnati overcome, ever so slightly, an embarrassing loss to a seven-loss Tennessee team.
30. Ohio Bobcats (10-4): Ohio also lost to a team that finished with a losing record (nine-loss Buffalo), but the Bobcats edged the Bearcats by virtue of Ohio’s win over Temple, which gave Frank Solich’s team three victories over opponents with winning records, one more than Cincinnati could claim.
29. BYU Cougars (10-3): Brigham Young suffered no truly shameful setbacks---the Cougars’ worst losses were to a pair of 8-5 teams, one of whom beat BYU by one point---but all the Cougs could claim on the positive side of the ledger were two wins over teams with winning records, both of which came by three-point margins. The lack of a bad loss earned BYU the nod over the teams behind the Cougars, all of whom lost to at least one team that finished with a losing record.
28. Florida St. Seminoles (9-4): The Tribe defeated fewer teams that ended up with winning records (3) than teams that ended up with eight or more losses (4), but FSU beat both N.C. State and Notre Dame, which helped the ‘Noles overcome four losses, three of which were by five or fewer points. Because one of those close setbacks came against a Wake Forest outfit that finished 6-7, however, Florida State failed to crack the top 25.
27. Arkansas St. Red Wolves (10-3): Gus Malzahn’s new team inched ahead of the Seminoles by beating the same number of opponents that ended the autumn above .500 (3), carding a better “best win” (over de facto No. 32 Louisiana-Lafayette), and sustaining fewer losses, none of which were to clubs that concluded the campaign with losing records.
26. Northern Illinois Huskies (11-3): NIU’s finish above ASU represents the first of several instances of the head-to-head result serving as the de facto tiebreaker between otherwise largely comparable clubs. The Huskies beat the Red Wolves in the GoDaddy.com Bowl to give Northern Illinois its fourth win of the fall over a team that finished with a winning record, which is more than any of my lower-ranked teams can claim. Victories over nine-win Toledo and ten-win Arkansas State and Ohio got NIU to the cusp of the top 25, but road losses to nine-loss Central Michigan and ten-loss Kansas kept the Huskies off of my final ballot.
Coming Soon: The first set of teams that made the grade.