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Blog Poll Ballot, Week One: Freak Out!

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SMQ's taking a different approach to the poll this early season, scrapping his wack preseason ballot entirely for what he's previously termed the "resume approach": only under consideration is a team's performance to date. Not who they will beat, not who they could beat. Not who they will not beat. Only who they have beaten already, who has beaten them already, and by how much. The 'data' arrow is meaningless - Brian has already awarded SMQ as "Mr. Manic-Depressive" and the "Swing" voter of the week.

Over the course of the season, this will work itself out into a shape that pretty closely resembles the poll at large. But for now, it's obvious, things are going to be flying around to a great degree on a weekly basis. SMQ promises he does not believe Pittsburgh is better than Ohio State, and will not remain at their current station for long.

This week's order was determined by a combination of stats and sense. SMQ looked at margins of victory and defeat and total yardage disparities among about 50 teams, then weighted these numbers by another number to represent the strength of the lone opponent to date - strength of schedule was by far the heaviest factor in this equation, but, you will see, certainly not an outrageous level; many teams got pretty good scores by hammering a I-AA or Sun Belt/WAC patsy, and can be expected to rise and fall accordingly as the schedule rounds into form in coming weeks. But this ballot does not take that into account at all - only the patsy pummeling that's actually occurred.

SMQ took that final number into account in generating the ballot, but made plenty of adjustments to better reflect his opinion of the past week's victories; the mere apperance of, say, Boise State and Minnesota will raise eyebrows and, in the case of snubbed Georgia and Penn State backers, probably also tempers. But the numbers alone actually had these teams much higher than the final version, because they were so thoroughly dominant of their unworthy lambs.

Keep in mind above all that both the poll and SMQ's method for generating it are works in progress, and very imperfect. Like every ballot, hopefully, more information will lead to more precise rankings as the season progresses. Probably not, but hopefully.

Week One Top 25
This is not a power poll...

1. Tennessee
Not a lot of competition here for the title of 'most impressive opening win.' Took a team SMQ had going places behind the proverbial woodshed, and displayed none of the presumed passing/youth weaknesses - destined to emerge soon, in some fashion - in the process.
2. Southern Cal
Aided and abetted by Arkansas turnovers galore, but didn't wind up that far off '05's outrageous margin of victory. Fear any relatively inexperienced team that debuts in a pretty tough road environment in such fashion.
3. Florida State
The offense, as SMQ suggested Tuesday, crawled into a hole for shelter against Miami's D, but probably won't stay there long; because Miami's offense did the same thing, excitement should be tempered for the FSU defense, too, if that's possible following such a dominating road effort.
4. Auburn
Kenny Irons Kenny Irons Kenny Irons. And also a defense that held lasy year's (mostly intact) No. 2 overall offense in the PAC Ten under 300 total yards.
5. Oregon
Yikes. Stanford's defense may be young, but the Cardinal has rarely been that easy an out under any recent regime. The Ducks do not appear to be in any trouble whatsoever from the loss of Clemens, Whitehead and Williams.
6. Louisville
The only team to top 600 yards in its debut, and did it with pretty much a yawn. Good depth means unfortunate running back injuries do not figure to affect future numbers much outside of Miami and West Virginia, though Michael Bush personally may be cursing his fate.
7. Notre Dame
Played better than given credit for at Georgia Tech. Eventually moved the ball pretty well in a variety of ways, despite firing into its own appendages in scoring position with penalties and missed kicks. The defense came out looking great, but whether this was due to its own merits or Georgia Tech's principled stand against employing any offensive strategy that could result in an advantage over its opponent is TBD.
8. Nebraska
Louisiana Tech is a poor measure, but the Huskers have struggled running under Bill Callahan against pretty much everybody prior to Saturday, when the trio of heralded backs it unleashed to complement an ever-improving passing game is further sign of resurgence, etc. The matchup with USC in a few weeks is an intriguing one.
9. UCLA
This is a selection that shouldn't be overanalyzed - without having watched the Bruins' 31-10 win over Utah, SMQ has a sinking feeling about the Utes' prospects until at least midseason. But he had previously regarded them as a Mountain West favorite and most likely among mid-majors to wind up in a final poll, and since that could still be the case, the Bruins get credit for an impressive debut. But SMQ does not expect them to stay all that long.
10. Texas
No amount of pounding on little North Texas will get anyone higher than this, but the Longhorns are back up top with a win this week, assuming it's not in some way ill-gotten.
11. Pittsburgh
Wail and gnash if you must, and Pitt's 38-10 whoopin' of Virginia may be telling us more about the latter, but on its own at this early point in the season, that kind of win over a typically competitive program looks like one of the weekend's best efforts. Another short-lived entry, surely.
12. Miami
A loss is a loss, but anyone who watched them slug it out Monday should realize the 'Canes don't belong very far below FSU.
13. West Virginia
Very nice opener, but the Mountaineers are going to find it hard to rise in SMQ's format against the likes of Marshall, unless they plan on winning 42-10 every week. Given the schedule, this is a possibility.
14. Ohio State
See Texas above; OSU is here because of some lingering (or burgeoning?) defensive questions posed by Garrett Wolfe. Can rectify any disparities Saturday.
15. Florida
Got it rolling a little late, as expected, but it was rolling against Southern Miss in the second half. The rushing stats from Saturday may not worry Gator fans at all, but unless diminutive, virtually unknown freshman Damion Fletcher actually turns out to be USM's best running back in years, as he sounded against UF, SMQ warns that maybe they should.
16. LSU
No worries yet after a wipeout of Lafayette. Par for the course. Will continue to rise.
17. Michigan
The defense was a sensation, unless Vandy's just that error-prone and inept offensively. Both are likely. The offense had just enough miscues to drop them this far, but that won't continue for long.
18. Texas Tech
Any fears of the derailment of Mike Leach's high-flying train - er, ship - were allayed with a suitably aerial pounding of SMU. Also gave up just a field goal.
19. Boise State
Just pounded the living hell out of Sacramento State, allowing under 100 yards total offense. Way too many teams got their jollies by beating on hapless I-AA foes - well, mostly hapless, unless you're in the Big XII North and not Kansas - and the Broncos get the benefit of delivering the most impressive of the lot. That won't get them far for long, though.
20. Minnesota
See Boise, and insert 'Kent' for 'Sacramento.' The Flashes did top 100 yards total offense against the Gophers, but otherwise the thrashing and the justification are the same.
21. Georgia Tech
A close, winnable but ultimately doomed game against SMQ's preseason Numer One seems roughly equivalent to beating a I-AA powerhouse by six touchdowns.
22. Clemson
Back to the bottom-dweller blowouts.
23. Wisconsin
Beating Bowling Green 35-14 is satisfying in its way, but tough to classify because the Falcons are on the fence between 'scrappy and respectable' and 'hopeless fodder.' That's just good enough to get their assailants on the list among the otheer not-yet-testeds, but nothing special.
24. Iowa
Will be ascending when the competition gets a little tougher than Montana.
25. Virginia Tech
Sean Glennon had a great completion percentage, but nothing can be drawn from a game against Northeastern (Northeastern what, SMQ wants to know?)

Waiting: Georgia, South Carolina, Boston College, Penn State