SMQ feels good about this week's voting effort, having spent more time comparing wins and losses than in the past couple weeks. The ill-fated idea of ranking every game by every team considered for the poll, which caused so much confusion a couple weeks ago, has been mercifully scrapped. SMQ did, however, stick with the idea of ranking games for each team, and compared the resumes thusly.
As always, teams are ranked exclusively on the merits and demerits of games played to date, never on projections, previous poll position or abstract notions of strength. Last week's ballot was tossed out, deemed irrelevant, and could therefore result in wild inconsistencies - in such cases, the standard position is that last week's ballot was wrong, positions have been reconsidered in light of new evidence providing clarity where existed confusion, and the evolving process has produced enlightenment. Until next week.
Very Official BlogPoll Ballot, Week
This is not a power poll
1. Ohio State
6. Southern Cal
9. Notre Dame
14. Boise State
16. West Virginia
18. Georgia Tech
19. Wake Forest
20. Boston College
21. Virginia Tech
Waiting: Texas A&M, Nebraska, Oregon State, TCU, Hawaii
The margin between 3 and 9 couldn't be thinner. Auburn doesn't look quite right at No. 3, but SMQ couldn't find enough in Florida's resume to drop the Tigers below a team it defeated, or, given the increasing value of their wins over LSU, any reason to drop either below the PAC Ten twins. But this is very close. The best outcome here at the moment would be a pretty compelling Florida-Auburn SEC Championship, however unlikely. Arkansas' presence in that mix makes this a really interesting league over the next month, even with one of its championship participants already confirmed.
California, Southern Cal and Texas all have bad losses, big wins and too-close wins. Cal's saving grace, with the Tennessee game still sitting there, is that it's beaten so many decent-to-good teams (Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona State) by wide margins, where USC has played much closer games against largely the same schedule, and Texas has had to fight to beat Texas Tech and Nebraska. The Longhorns have the least damaging loss of the three (to Ohio State), SC has the most valuable win (against Arkansas), Cal, as mentioned, has the most consistent margin of victory. So pick your poison.
As much as he's been stumping for Louisville's viability as a mythical championship participant after the Cards' assault on West Virginia Thursday, SMQ only moves the Cardinals up to eight; the championship talk is projecting four more wins over the next month, three over already bowl-eligible teams, but the rankings can't yet take those games' positive effects on the strength of schedule into account. A solid victory over Rutgers Thursday will probably provide the boost U of Hell needs to leap the one-loss contingent in front of it, so if it takes care of business, SMQ expects Louisville to wind up at No. 2 behind the Ohio State-Michigan winner, and to receive his completely meaningless mythical championship endorsement. That's only if it takes care of business.
Tennessee remains ahead of LSU despite the tough loss Saturday because a) the defeat came with the Vols' starting, all-SEC-caliber passer on the bench, b) Tennessee was just a hair better against the teams' only common opponent to date, Florida, and c) Tennessee has the big, very, very valuable win over Cal alongside "secondary" wins over Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, while d) LSU's second-best victory is against Kentucky. Again, it's close. But in SMQ's mind, two of the Tigers' four "best" games are losses, and four of their six blowout wins are against teams nowhere near a winning record; the fifth came against UL-Lafayette, the sixth Kentucky. It's tough to rise under those circumstances. Alabama and Arkansas in the next couple weeks will provide an opportunity for LSU to obliterate the tiny "common opponent" nudge while dramatically improving the value of its trophy heads, though, which could propel it upwards depending on how the Vols do against the Razorbacks their own selves. Remember also that Tennessee had been in SMQ's top five for weeks, and LSU languishing in the twenties, so the big win/tough loss did result in pretty major movement for both.
Oklahoma comes flying up from 25th, which is inconsistent but wholly appropriate, because SMQ looked at his ballot after submitting last week and realized the Sooners at the bottom was crazy; their second straight Peterson-less win over a ranked team, on the road, only confirmed that OU's weird fall in this space last week was, well, weird. And now is corrected.
Debates will continue on Wisconsin, ranked below Boise State and Rutgers, but who, again, have the Badgers defeated? Penn State is the best victory on that slate. Boise State, by beating Hawaii, smashing Utah and especially embarassing Oregon State, a win that looks better by the week, and Rutgers, which has taken out Navy, Pittsburgh and South Florida, have had at least comparable schedules as Wisconsin's, without the ugly loss against the only ranked team on any of them. If Badger fans want to complain, SMQ will listen to an argument against West Virginia being one spot in front, but not anyone else.
Enjoy ACC Row from spots 18-25, interrupted only by Oregon and BYU. SMQ is particularly proud of this sequencing, as it not only passes the "eyeball test" of reasonability, it ranks only one team (Clemson) below a team it defeated (Georgia Tech), and that team has lost two straight to drop to fourth in its division. Given how unpredictable that league has been from Game One, this is a minor but notable achievement.