This week's strictly performance-based, non-speculative ballot is brought to you by the great astronomer and successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics, and other natural sciences, Carl Sagan, who reminds readers that
Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that your most profound scientific insights will be misappropriated to apply to football.
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Waiting: Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois, Virginia, UCLA, Mississippi State, Penn State, Texas A&M, Florida State, Texas Tech
Elsewhere in the top five, Oklahoma moves up based on a) beating the mitochondrial DNA out of a fairly decent Tulsa team and b) getting a boost from beating the mitochondrial DNA out of Miami two weeks ago, the Canes becoming a significantly more valuable pelt with their demolition of Texas A&M last Thursday. Oregon momentarily joins the elite, leaping Southern Cal on the same premises: the Ducks' blowout at Michigan looks even more impressive now than it did immediately after the fact, and Nebraska's near-death encounter with Ball State diminishes USC's blasting of the Huskers. So while there was nothing more impressive about Oregon's win over Stanford next to USC's wipeout of Washington State (probably the opposite, if anything, given the Cardinal managed a miraculous, 28-point second quarter on the Ducks), Oregon's entire body of work improved.
Of course, they'll resort to fake field goals, but the chainsaw dick? Some things need to stay in the bag for a rainy day.
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Boston College (down from two last week for adding the albatross of Army to the ledger), California and Kentucky all benefit from at least two wins over non-patsies, but it gets more arbitrary from spots nine (West Virginia) through roughly fifteen (South Florida). The marquee victories/victims in this group are, respectively, Maryland, Washington, Florida State, Iowa, Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Auburn, all respectable but currently rather mediocre programs of dubious merit through the first month; only FSU and Maryland among that lineup have fewer than two losses, and that's likely only because they happen to have feasted on UAB, Colorado, Florida Atlantic and the like. Otherwise, all seven of the teams in question have beaten either patsies or borderline cases (like Colorado, for instance, or Northwestern) against whom victories aren't worth much more. It's very possible to add Texas, Cincinnati or Missouri to this tier, to make it an even ten. The Tigers creep up as the value of beating Illinois - by whatever means necessary - slowly increases by the week.
Purdue-Kansas-Rutgers=birds of a feather. Nice-looking birds, at first glance, but no way to know yet if there's any meat on those bones - between them, this trio hasn't dealt with pulling out a single close game but also has faced nothing resembling a quality opponent. All the Boilers get for raking 1-3 Minnesota across the coals Saturday is to lead this pack of prove-its.
Behind them is the trio of one-loss wonders from the SEC, each with a quality win and a quality loss in the last three weeks. Georgia leads because its "secondary win," after Alabama, is Oklahoma State, which regains a little of the cachet it so quickly lost by beating Texas Tech, Mike Gundy tirade notwithstanding. Alabama is in front of the Gamecocks for the same reason: Georgia might be a mite more impressive than Arkansas, as far as hotly-contested pelts go, but even beating Vanderbilt is enough to push the Tide over the top when put up against USC's second-best win, over UL-Lafayette.
As always, this will be completely different next week. Except, probably, for LSU at number one. The Tigers look entrenched until Florida comes in.