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Final 2012 College Football BlogPoll Ballot: No. 1 Is Clear; After That, It Gets Tricky

After Monday night's BCS National Championship Game, no one doubts that the Alabama Crimson Tide are the No. 1 team in college football, but how does the top 25 shake out after that?

There's not going to be a lot of suspense surrounding the No. 1 ranking, is there?
There's not going to be a lot of suspense surrounding the No. 1 ranking, is there?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Because what follows represents my final BlogPoll ballot of the 2012 college football season, which is set down to stand against history, I ought to inform you from the outset that the top 25 that follows flows from a combination of resume ranking, the eyeball test, basic contrariness, and certain premises that I take to be self-evident, among which are the following:

  • I didn’t look at any other poll, or at my own prior ballots, when compiling these rankings. While I am open to being persuaded by convincing arguments, simply seeing someone else’s set of rankings is of no use to me. Any resemblance to anyone else’s top 25 is entirely coincidental.
  • No team that lost five or more games deserves to be ranked.
  • The SEC rocks.
  • The Big Ten sucks.
  • Notre Dame is a Big Ten team. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can talk about the ACC and the Big East all you want, but you and I both know the Fighting Irish are a Big Ten team at heart, they’re just too danged snooty to join the Big Ten, if such a thing is even possible.
  • The Big East is a mid-major conference, and its teams should be treated as such. Really, it only benefits Louisville to treat it as Boise State with pizza instead of blue turf.
  • Manic Kyle is more fun than Depressive Kyle, so Manic Kyle has been given the wheel, and, if you tell Manic Kyle, “You’re a homer!”, Manic Kyle will reply: “Yeah? Bite me!”

You are, of course, free to disagree with the foregoing postulates, but, if you do, you are (a) wrong and (b) not going to like my BlogPoll ballot, which reads as follows:

Let’s take it from the top: Alabama (13-1) is No. 1 because duh! Oregon (12-1) edged out Notre Dame (12-1) for the runner-up spot for a variety of reasons. First of all, the Ducks claimed all twelve of their victories by double-digit margins, whereas the Irish notched five of their dozen triumphs by seven or fewer points. Secondly, Oregon’s only loss was by three points, while Notre Dame’s lone setback was by 28 points. Finally, the Golden Domers beat only two Division I-A teams with more than eight wins to their credit, but the Nike dress-up dolls of the Pacific Northwest bested four Division I-A opponents with nine or more wins to their credit.

I ranked Georgia (12-2) and Texas A&M (11-2) fourth and fifth, respectively, because both proved their mettle against ‘Bama: the Aggies, by claiming a five-point victory over the Tide one week after Alabama’s comeback in Baton Rouge; the Bulldogs, by going toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide during a closing stanza of the season in which Nick Saban’s squad steamrolled all else in its path. The Red and Black got the nod because they won their division, they beat the Florida team that beat Texas A&M, and they had a third decent win (over Vanderbilt) while the Aggies had only two.

Granted, South Carolina (11-2) had the same third-best win as Georgia (by four in Nashville to start the season), and the Gamecocks had both a better best win than did the Bulldogs (inasmuch as that best win was over the Athenians) and a better second-best win (over No. 12 Clemson) than either Georgia (against No. 16 Nebraska) or Texas A&M (against No. 15 Oklahoma). Obviously, a compelling case might be made for including the Garnet and Black in the top five, but the Bulldogs got the nod over South Carolina by virtue of their having won the Eastern Division, and the Aggies edged out the Gamecocks because, although South Carolina and Texas A&M sustained the same two losses (to Florida and Louisiana State), Kevin Sumlin’s team kept both of those contests close, while Steve Spurrier’s squad was routed in the Swamp. (Yes, Georgia was skunked very nearly as badly in Columbia, but the Bulldogs redeemed themselves down the stretch by beating Florida, hanging tough with Alabama, and defeating Nebraska by two touchdowns. After their win against the Bulldogs, the Gamecocks lost twice, struggled to beat seven-loss Tennessee by three and five-loss Michigan by five, and carded only one good win.)

Because the Gators beat a nine-win team (Vanderbilt), a ten-win team (Louisiana State), two eleven-win teams (South Carolina and Texas A&M), and a twelve-win team (Florida State), I couldn’t conscientiously rank Florida (11-2) lower than eighth, even though the Sunshine State Saurians got pantsed in the Sugar Bowl to a much greater extent than the final score suggested. Because of that, I had no choice but to rank Louisville (11-2) seventh, despite the Cardinals’ embarrassing defeat at the hands of seven-loss Connecticut. Though Louisville’s poll position was bolstered by victories over No. 21 Cincinnati and nine-win Rutgers (both by three points), really, the only justification for the Cardinals’ lofty ranking was their skunking of Florida. Yes, I give that much credit for beating the crap out of the Orange and Blue, because I hate the Gators.

Neither Stanford (12-2) nor Kansas State (11-2) was as good as its record suggested. Each had only one win over a Division I-A team with more than nine wins, and both had one bad loss. Despite notching eight of their twelve victories by margins of seven points or fewer, the Cardinal claimed the No. 9 spot by beating the Oregon team that whipped the Wildcats, and by being competitive in their four-point loss to seven-win Washington. Kansas State, by contrast, was run out of the building by eight-win Baylor.

The next three teams pretty easily fell in line, as Florida State (12-2) beat Clemson (11-2), who beat Louisiana State (10-3), who beat No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 6 South Carolina while falling to my first-, eighth-, and 12th-ranked teams by a combined 13 points.

By this point, some of you may have been wondering whether I, like the coaches’ poll, refused to rank Ohio State (12-0) because the Buckeyes are on probation. This is not the case; rather, I ranked them No. 14 because they went undefeated against a schedule best described as “candy-ass.” Six of Ohio State’s twelve wins came against teams that finished with losing records, five of whom suffered eight or more losses. The Buckeyes’ six wins against opponents who finished above .500 included two teams with six losses (Michigan State and Wisconsin) and one club with five setbacks (Michigan), with that trio of victories coming by a cumulative 13 points. Urban Meyer’s outfit did not defeat a single team that finished with fewer than four losses, and, despite negotiating such a soft slate, Ohio State claimed half of its triumphs by margins of seven or fewer points. The Buckeyes are lucky they’re on probation; if they’d been eligible for a bowl game, they’d have been exposed as the poor tattooed man’s Notre Dame. Going undefeated against that crappy schedule only barely earned OSU a top 15 ranking, and it’s a fact!

Old Big Eight rivals Oklahoma (10-3) and Nebraska (10-4) landed at 15th and 16th, respectively. Though the Sooners managed only one win against a team with a record better than 8-5 and carded their best victory against a Texas team that was not the equal of either of the Cornhuskers’ top two victims (No. 17 Northwestern and No. 19 Arkansas State), Bob Stoops’s troops edged out Bo Pelini’s crew because Oklahoma’s three losses all came at the hands of teams that finished with double-digit win tallies and top ten rankings, whereas Nebraska lost to five-loss UCLA and six-loss Wisconsin . . . badly.

The No. 17 spot went to Northwestern (10-3) because the ten-win Cornhuskers defeated the ten-win Wildcats by a single point. Northwestern had a handful of decent wins (over Mississippi State, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt), which allowed the Wildcats to pass Utah State (11-2) after the Aggies got to eleven wins by beating three teams with eleven losses and dropping close road decisions to a pair of eight-win outfits.

Nevertheless, wins over No. 23 San Jose State and nine-win Toledo earned Utah State the top spot in the poll-concluding cavalcade of mid-majors. Arkansas State (10-3) defeated eleven-win Kent State and nine-win Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Red Wolves fell to six-loss Western Kentucky. This, though, gave ASU a more impressive resume than that compiled by Northern Illinois (12-2), as the Huskies had similar wins (over Kent State, Ball State, and Toledo, my de facto 26th-, 27th-, and 28th-ranked teams) but an atrocious loss to an Iowa club that won only three other games.

Although Cincinnati (10-3) didn’t lose to a team with more than four losses, the Bearcats also didn’t beat a team with fewer than five losses. Boise State (11-2) beat nine-win Fresno State but lost to seven-win Michigan State and notched seven of the Broncos’ eleven wins against opponents with eight or more defeats in their respective ledgers. I thought about ranking San Jose State (11-2) higher, since the Spartans’ only setbacks were to No. 9 Stanford (by three points) and to No. 18 Utah State, but SJSU’s only notable scalp was taken from San Diego State, a team I rated only the 33rd-best in Division I-A.

Tulsa (11-3) beat No. 25 Central Florida (twice) and the aforementioned Fresno State squad, but the Golden Hurricane went down to defeat to six-loss Southern Methodist, seven-loss Iowa State, and eight-loss Arkansas. However, since Tulsa beat the Knights twice, I had to rank Central Florida (10-4) behind the Golden Hurricane, particularly after UCF lost to seven-loss Missouri. Despite wins over three 9-4 teams (Ball State, Ohio, and Rutgers), Kent State (11-3) narrowly missed the cut for the simple reason that the Golden Flashes were blown out by a Kentucky team that finished 2-10.

After that, it’s just a parade of 9-4 also-rans headlined by a Ball State team that lost only to teams that tallied double-digit victory totals. The Cardinals beat two of the nine-win teams that finished behind them, including Toledo. The Rockets had no bad losses, and they bumped off 21st-ranked Cincinnati. Fresno State was harmed by the Bulldogs’ loss to six-loss SMU and the absence of any victims more notable than San Diego State.

Checking in as my de facto No. 30, No. 31, and No. 32 teams were Vanderbilt, Texas, and Oregon State, respectively. Obviously, these teams compete in major conferences, but what did they have to show for their 9-4 ledgers? The Commodores beat no one more noteworthy than Ole Miss (by one point) and claimed one-third of their wins over Division I-A foes that finished with nine or more setbacks, but Vandy had no bad losses, falling only to teams that won ten or more games. The Longhorns, who beat the Rebels handily, defeated one team with fewer than five losses (Oregon State), but Mack Brown’s squad was dragged down to a spot below that occupied by the ‘Dores because the ‘Horns fell to two 7-6 teams (Texas Christian and West Virginia).

The Beavers finished just behind the Texas team that beat them by four points in the bowl game. Oregon State lost to one 7-6 club (Washington), but the Beavers were unable to offset that defeat with even a single win over a team with fewer than five losses. San Diego State likewise fell to the Huskies in a close game in Seattle, but, although the Aztecs’ achievements were bolstered by a two-point win over No. 22 Boise State, SDSU defeated only one other team with a winning record, and that was a 7-6 Nevada squad in a one-point game.

While Rutgers, like Toledo, beat the 21st-ranked Bearcats, the Scarlet Knights fell both to seven-win Virginia Tech and to seven-loss Pittsburgh. Ohio got plenty of traction out of a season-opening win over Penn State in Pennsylvania and a season-ending win over Louisiana-Monroe in Louisiana, but the Bobcats fell to eight-loss Miami (Ohio) and claimed one-third of their wins against teams that finished with 1-11 records (Akron, Massachusetts, and New Mexico State) . . . and two of those three wins were by six or fewer points. Likewise, Louisiana-Lafayette beat two nondescript eight-win teams, but the Ragin’ Cajuns also lost to a 4-8 club.

As always, your questions and constructive criticisms are welcome and appreciated. Have at it in the comments below.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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