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BLOG POLLIN': WEEK EIGHT BALLOT

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Also remember to keep an eye on those Virginians after the game.
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This week's ballot is brought to you by Abraham Lincoln, loser of three campaigns for office in Illinois and forced by looming defeat from a Congressional re-election campaign prior to his triumph in 1860, who reminds readers that, given time, good men can overcome any setback (well, good men and Nixon).
BlogPoll Ballot, Week Eight
This is not a power poll.
1. LSU (6-1)
2. South Florida (6-0)
3. Arizona State (6-0)
4. South Carolina (6-1)
5. Oregon (5-1)
6. Oklahoma (6-1)
7. Boston College (7-0)
8. Kentucky (6-1)
9. Ohio State (7-0)
10. California (5-1)
11. Missouri (5-1)
12. Kansas (6-0)
13. Auburn (5-2)
14. Southern Cal (5-1)
15. Florida (4-2)
16. Virginia (6-1)
17. Tennessee (4-2)
18. Georgia (5-2)
19. West Virginia (5-1)
20. Illinois (5-2)
21. Virginia Tech (6-1)
22. Cincinnati (6-1)
23. Alabama (5-2)
24. Kansas State (4-2)
25. Texas Tech (6-1)
Waiting: Florida State, Wake Forest, UCLA, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Texas, Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Penn State
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In the spirit of redemption, LSU provisionally retains the lead role despite its loss to Kentucky. And it's not really all that close: of the nine or so reasonable contenders, the Tigers have by far the best set of wins (they are the only team to beat Virginia Tech or South Carolina, manhandling both, and one of two to beat a Florida team I still respect tremendously, to say nothing of crushing 4-3, Auburn-felling Mississippi State) and what might be called an "acceptable" loss. No other one-loss team approaches LSU's resumé, and of the five undefeated challengers – South Florida, Arizona State, Ohio State, Boston College and Kansas – only USF has even a single victory rivaling the quality any one of LSU's top three. Thus a two-horse race to the top:
LSU USF
Virginia Tech (44-3)
So. Carolina (28-16) West Virginia (21-13)
Florida (28-24) Auburn (26-23, OT)
Miss. State (45-0)
UCF (64-12)
No. Carolina (37-10)
MTSU (44-0) Fla. Atlantic (35-23)
Tulane (34-9)
Kentucky (37-43, 3OT) Elon (28-13)

I can imagine people in the formless "out there" vouching for a two-touchdown win over Elon over a triple overtime loss on the road to once-beaten Kentucky and its future first round quarterback, and I can just as easily ignore them. But even if you treat Saturday's loss like a spot of leprosy, as most voters apparently do, the first three wins on LSU's schedule are unimpeachable right now. I imagine the Bulls have a chance to move in front of the Tigers if they run the table in the Big East, beginning Thursday night against Rutgers, and Arizona State will have every chance for advancement against Cal, Oregon and USC over the next month. Once Ohio State has vanquished Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois et al, we'll discuss the Buckeyes. Right now, LSU is way in front unless/until it loses again.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed in the BlogPoll's elevation of Ohio State to the top spot this week, which strikes me as a very shallow, lazy move that should distinguish the BP from mainstream ossification. I surprised myself to an extent by filling in OSU all the way down at number nine (cue The Beatles: "NUM-buh Nine..." – ed.), but when I lined up the schedules of the undefeated teams, OSU's doesn't fare very well:

USF AZ State Bost. Coll. Ohio State Kansas
West Va.
Auburn
Colorado Geo. Tech K-State
Oregon St. Wk. Forest Purdue
N. Carolina Washington Washington
UCF Stanford N'western
Wash. State NC State Minnesota Baylor
Bwlg. Green Toledo
S.D. State Notre Dame Kent State C. Michigan
Fla. Atl. S.J. State Army Akron Fla. Int'l.
Elon UMass Y'town St. SE La.

Totally weak aside from USF, and strong evidence for the notion that going undefeated is a sign above all else of playing a crappy schedule.

Arizona State fares pretty well here for the same reason all Pac Ten teams are going to do outstandingly well again in strength of schedule: the ninth conference game means there is one less MAC/WAC patsy dragging the SOS into the gutter, and the conference team that might have served the patsy role on its own just happened to beat the number one team in the nation two weeks ago. Ergo, beating Stanford has some value that beating Minnesota does not. The Sun Devils' are also helped significantly by Oregon State's upset of Cal this week, which for the moment has dragged the Beavers just above the baseline of 'respectable.'

Once you open the floodgates by conceding that an "acceptable" loss can have as much resumé value as a meaningless win – four of the five teams above have FCS victories in addition to their FBS cupcakes – one-loss teams with good-looking wins and tough losses like South Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Cal pretty clearly deserve to mingle among the unbeaten, because the unbeaten do not have victories that rival beating Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Miami (remember the margin in Norman?), LSU or even Michigan; those teams' losses (competitive games against LSU, Cal, Colorado, South Carolina and Oregon State, respectively) don't water down the whole enough to discard them. It's a close call – I would like to emphasize again how razor thin and arbitrary the margins between these teams' accomplishments really are – but I lean heavily toward strength of schedule and big wins here.

The hardest decision I had to make this week, honestly, was in spots 14-18, where side-by-side comparison put Georgia ahead of both a team by which it had been destroyed (Tennessee) and the team that had itself destroyed said destroyer (Florida). Not acceptable. UGA is getting better value each week from Oklahoma State as the Cowboys prove competent after all, but the head-to-head considerations right now make moving the Dogs ahead of Florida and Tennessee a non-starter. Do recognize this, though: five of the six teams in the SEC East are in my top 18, joined by two leaders from the West; Alabama is the eighth SEC team in the 22 spot. This is not sustainable.

This will be completely different next week.