This week's ballot:
Teams of interest:
STANFORD. They drop behind Alabama and OSU after struggling with the erratic Trojans. Mostly cosmetic at this point since both of those teams will either win and justify their existence above the Cardinal or lose and drop behind them.
CLEMSON. They drop only three spots. They are buoyed by 1) general respect for GT and the one-off weirdness of facing the triple option, 2) my revulsion at having to put non-entities like Arkansas and South Carolina in the top 10, and 3) a quality nonconference win plus all of the ACC challenges in the rearview. I expect they will annihilate South Carolina in their season-ender.
OTHER TINY DROPPERS. State only drops two after losing; USC drops one. In State's case they're propped up by quality wins and general suspicion of VT. In USC's case, triple overtime versus Stanford. They didn't really drop at all, they were passed by GT thanks to that Clemson win.
THE BIG TEN. Good lord, man, I don't know. There are the three one-loss teams plus two-loss Wisconsin and MSU. Wisconsin takes a backseat because of their awful nonconference schedule and single quality win (home vs Nebraska), but that win is maddening. Still, I'm a schedule zealot. Backseat for UW.
Nebraska gets the edge over PSU because their inept QB can run some and they have quality wins over Washington, OSU, and MSU. PSU just has… Illinois? Iowa? MSU has two losses but wins over Wisconsin, OSU, and Michigan, which seems to be better than Michigan beating no one save ND even if they have one fewer loss.
POTENTIAL TAIL END OF POLL OVERRATING. ND and OSU show up at the tail end. OSU has wins over UW and Illinois with losses to Nebraska, State, and Miami. I like that resume better than Washington (best win… Cal?), anyone in the Big East, FSU (best win: Maryland? NC State?), Wake (FSU win but losses to UNC and Syracuse, the former uncompetitively).
ND… well, when they're not dumping 10% of D-I's redzone turnovers on the other team they're pretty good. They have a quality win in MSU, no mega-cupcakes and each of their losses is traceable to one or more inexplicable turnovers. They'll probably run through the rest of their schedule until they come up against Stanford, and I won't be surprised to see the Irish give them a game.
[ED: No podcast this week since there is no game to talk about.]
The no deltas of shame for me as I forgot to submit a ballot last week:
Teams of interest:
OBVIOUS AT THE TOP. Draw lots between the SEC teams, and Stanford for the top 3, with Oklahoma State and Clemson hot on their heels and Boise State hanging out waiting for everyone to lose twice. Then it's the two one-loss juggernauts.
ARKANSAS. I don't like having them up there, but they beat A&M who beat Texas Tech who beat Oklahoma and their only loss is to Alabama and they put it on Auburn, I guess. They've got a better resume than Kansas State and the various Big Ten teams thanks to an extremely understandable loss. Speaking of…
BIG TEN MESS. I had no idea what to do with the many, many one-loss Big Ten teams. I eventually settled on MSU—has beaten two of the other one-loss Big Ten teams—as the top one and gritted the teeth to put Wisconsin above Nebraska since Nebraska's one loss is to Wisconsin; Nebraska has the advantage of having played more than one actual foe, but 48-17 is not something you can overlook.
Penn State somehow sits between the two. I don't know how they're doing it but they are. Rob Bolden will transfer by Wednesday and a top 20 team will have a walk-on and nobody else at QB.
Michigan slots in below that mess due to a lack of quality wins. Notre Dame shot itself in the head again, their Big Ten victims are 0-fer the conference so far, and past that it's directional Michigans and San Diego State. Does anyone else feel like Glen Mason-era Minnesota?
Oh, and Illinois. Yeah. So they do still have a win over Arizona State and when you get to that #25 spot pickings are even thinner this year because there aren't any mid-major sorts worth throwing in there (other than Boise, which does not count as a team you want to chuck in at the end of your ballot).
As always, call me an idiot in the comments.
There is a top ten and then a cliff. As always, some amount of jitter is because I don't look at previous ballots. I don't have a strong opinion about whether Stanford or Wisconsin has a better resume.
Arkansas, Kansas State bounces. Hammering a team that I can't axe out of the top 25 gets you a big bump, especially when your only loss is to one of the invulnerables at the top of the poll. Kansas State finally gets the benefit of being undefeated after they beat Missouri and victim Baylor leaps back into the poll.
Texas, Auburn, Florida plunges. Florida is obvious. I had a vision last night in which Charlie Weis sarcastically sung "I've got Jacoby Brissett."
No sarcastic-offensive-coordinator-vision-inducing teams make my top 25. Auburn got beaten raw by Arkansas to pick up a second loss; they hang on thanks the South Carolina win, which is an anchor on the Gamecocks. Texas has a flimsy resume: wins over Rice, BYU, UCLA, and Iowa State and a hammering at the hands of Oklahoma. Iowa State has the best resume of any of those teams.
Nebraska down five after winning. Did I really have Nebraska 12th last week? Yeesh. They fell down the one-loss-team shuffle after failing to defend Ohio State until Joe Bauserman got on the field; Fresno State got clubbed by Boise after remaining competitive with Nebraska. At this point their defense seems like no fluke: it's bad.
Michigan. Jumps Illinois on the strength of a couple common opponents. The Illini beat Northwestern and Western Michigan by 3; Michigan won by 18 and 25 (in three quarters), respectively.
This week's shot in the somewhat-less-dark:
This was a week of extreme carnage in the middle of the poll. South Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, VT, South Florida, Baylor, A&M, and FSU all lost. What to do?
Most extreme punishment. I've been waiting for an excuse to pummel South Carolina and their completely dysfunctional QB situation. Virginia Tech was impotent against Clemson and was vulnerable to a big drop since haven't beaten anyone and weren't competitive with the one team they did play. Baylor's marquee win took a big hit with TCU's loss to SMU and they lost themselves. A&M and FSU both take second losses and don't have any quality victories.
I forgive somewhat. Nebraska's win over Washington helps prop them up. Florida beat Tennessee pretty badly. South Florida has a buoying win over Notre Dame. There's a Pitt > USF > ND > Pitt circle here that USF wins by virtue of not having a second loss.
Wild swings. Auburn returns to the poll at #11 after not being ranked last week. They pick up a quality road win and that Clemson loss looks increasingly understandable. Even the Utah State near escape looks better now that the Aggies are outgaining everyone and losing painfully.
Michigan State and Arkansas also enter high up because who else am I going to put there?
I love you, Paul Johnson. I am probably too enthusiastic about Georgia Tech, but they're undefeated, have wins against three BCS opponents, and are tearing people up on the ground. They're three terrible BCS opponents, granted, but at this point in the season Michigan is on the edge of the top ten in the major polls… warts are everywhere. Quality wins are thin on the ground.
West Virginia drop. Competition based; they're running in place as others pick up quality-ish wins. Maryland no longer counts for them.
Side note. People were right when I didn't ding Wisconsin for playing no one last week. Will try to be better about things in the future.
Michigan. I'm still hesitant about them; Illinois has a better win with Arizona State, Auburn with @ South Carolina, and Texas is debatable since Iowa State did beat Iowa and the Longhorns crushed them—Michigan scraped by ND. Nebraska is debatable, too, but let's chalk it up to the last two years. Still a little bit of projection in these rankings.
Generalizations get slightly less haphazard:
Notes and stuff:
BOY WAS I RIGHT ABOUT LSU. And by "right" I mean "not right." Their combination of wins can't be denied. Q: should a hypothetical one-loss LSU get into the national title game over a hypothetical undefeated Wisconsin if Oregon and WVU are ten-win outfits? I say yes. Wisconsin needs to man up, stop drinking the wrong beer made from rice by Europeans, and schedule an actual nonconference game this century. I may have them entirely too high since they've played no one at all, but we'll find out a lot about them this weekend.
IT WAS REAL, BOISE STATE. Sorry, but other teams are playing other teams and beating other teams instead of not doing so. Moving Nebraska ahead of the Broncos is probably not cool since they only played Wyoming, but Washington is looking legit—moreso than Georgia, anyway.
JUST IN TIME FOR THEM TO EXPLODE. Welcome Clemson to the top ten. I am getting enthused about their prospects, which means they're about to lose inexplicably.
BOY, DO I HATE THE MIDDLE OF THIS POLL. I liked Illinois preseason but then they go out and squeak by Western Michigan the same week Arizona State handles USC. So they've got a win over a ranked opponent and need to go up. So there they are. I don't like it, but on resume it's hard to deny them.
Similarly, I hate putting South Carolina's interception factory in the top 15, or Baylor, but I don't have much choice.
TEXAS DROP. Bye week plus re-evaluation of Rice win given Baylor beating them badly.
MICHIGAN. Notre Dame win has a little more cred and San Diego State is expected to be a solid upper-tier MWC outfit, so they creep up.
We are still short on the clarity, but there was a ton of carnage in the middle:
Alabama's temporarily validating win against Penn State looks like the kind of thing that a lot of teams could pull off and they fall behind LSU, which paired its Oregon win with one over Mississippi State. Oklahoma flies to the head of the class on the assumption that @FSU is the best win anyone's acquired this year.
Lower down it's not that surprising until you get to #14, whereupon five of the next 11 teams were booted from the poll. I elect to shove a couple of teams who are playing well and have good wins above Arkansas and South Carolina. South Carolina in particular appears to be living on borrowed time after being out-played by Georgia and scraping by Navy.
At the bottom you will find Michigan, mostly because I ran out of teams I could plausibly insert if you think Notre Dame is going to end up around 8-4 or 9-3. I regret having to do this.