|3.||Ohio State (10-0)|
|7.||Arizona State (8-1)|
|8.||Boston College (8-1)|
|9.||West Virginia (7-1)|
|13.||Virginia Tech (7-2)|
|17.||Penn State (7-3)|
|19.||Florida State (6-3)|
|20.||Southern Cal (7-2)|
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The top ten is pretty clear cut, and the top three separated themselves last week from the pack, however briefly. Re: that top three, there are good arguments for putting LSU, Oregon and Ohio State in any sequence. I measure it like this:
|Florida||Southern Cal||Penn State|
|Miss. State||Houston||Michigan State|
|Middle Tenn. State||Kent State|
As always, that’s a rough guide to get an overall picture of the strength of schedule, not an inviolable mandate, i.e. LSU’s win over Auburn is not necessarily ‘better’ than Ohio State’s win over Penn State, but it does show that the Tigers have won more games of that kind of merit. It is indeed arbitrary. Anyway, I think it’s lazy to just stick the Buckeyes at the top because of the ‘0’ in the loss column when there are serious questions about every team OSU has beaten: by my estimation, given the almost unbelievable scope of LSU’s annihilation of Virginia Tech in September (this remains the single most dominant performance of the year, in my opinion), the Tigers and Ducks have at least two wins apiece, and possibly three, more valuable than Ohio State’s best win, and far fewer games clustered at the bottom of the ledger. It’s not that the Buckeyes aren’t playing well, because they most certainly are, but they just don’t have the big games at this point. Washington’s collapse to the bottom of the Pac Ten, when Oregon and LSU each have big, early non-conference blowouts over teams that are collectively 13-1 in the meantime, is the biggest difference.
Remember, too, that this is only a snapshot: it’s pretty clear that once LSU is finished playing Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss over the next two weeks, during which time Ohio State has (presumably) beaten Illinois and Michigan, the scales are going to tip in the Buckeyes’ favor. I imagine OSU will also surpass Oregon, which plays Arizona, sinking UCLA and Oregon State, middle-padding fare that means statsis for the Ducks’ resumé as Ohio State’s improves.
Oklahoma over Missouri: head to head. Missouri over Kansas: the Jayhawks’ non-conference schedule can never be anything but a complete joke and a liability.
Even I can’t believe UConn checks in among the top ten, but the Huskies have now won three staight games against winning teams and only bear the albatross of a one-point loss to 7-2 Virginia; even more unbeleivable (speaking of albatrosses) is that Michigan has climbed from the muck of the worst 0-2 start in the country, slowed by the Appalachian State thing and key injuries all the way, back to number twelve, with a good chance of slipping into the top ten in time to play Ohio State for the Big Ten championship in a week and a half. Only in America!
Welcome back my friends: Slots 17-20 are occupied by dormant and/or unreservedly sketchy powers Penn State, Texas, Florida State and USC, vaulting from out of the poll last week into the top 20 after a combination of "big" wins Saturday and advantageous losses in the bottom half of the poll (see below). FSU wasn’t even on last week’s waiting list, but the (for now) very highly valued win over Boston College gives the ‘Noles road victories over B.C. and Colorado and a neutral site win over Alabama (it helps, too, that N.C. State is crawling off the ‘ worthless bottom feeder’ list into ‘merely bad’ territory). Texas benefits from not losing, again, even if the value of UT’s wins remains underwhelming. At least the Longhorns have beaten a winning team now – ditto USC after resuming not losing against Oregon State – and are taking on far less water with the close loss to Oklahoma than the competition, which by and large has one more defeat than Texas to devalue its case. I would not expect much movement from the Longhorns again, though, even with wins over Texas Tech and A&M, unless there’s significant attrition in front of them.
Thin ice, Mack. Thin ice.
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Sayonnara, suckers. Bounced: South Florida, South Carolina, Wake Forest and Wisconsin, all losers Saturday, and Kentucky, which had the day off but lost ground in the process, by my count, to seven different winners last week – the five re-entrants listed above as well as Cincinnati and Boise State – due in no small part to the rapid devaluation of the ‘Cats’ once not-so-bad loss at South Carolina, which now looks oh so bad. The only merit keeping UK afloat at all is its win over LSU.
It’s easier to justify booting Kentucky this week than it is booting South Florida, frankly, which despite three straight losses still has solid wins over two teams in my top fifteen. If the Jekyll and Hyde entries on the Bulls’ resumé cancel each other out, you’re left with a team that’s beaten North Carolina, Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and Elon and that is currently tied with Syracuse for last place in the Big East. The Bulls are one of the four ‘Waiting’ list teams (along with Cincy, Wisconsin and Kentucky) I still feel good about and think have an excellent chance of moving right back in next week – the distance between these teams and the bottom seven-eight teams actually in the poll is virtually nil and could be completely flipped based on the whims of my spacy logic. I repeat: this is not a science.
Contradiction of the Week. Purdue, not in last week’s poll or on last week’s ‘Waiting’ list, loses to Penn State as expected, only to find itself on this week’s waiting list. I can only claim a slight change in methodology: Purdue isn’t any better after its 15th consecutive loss against a winning team, but the Boilers are 7-3, and the cutoff for consideration for this week’s ballot (like last week’s) was four losses, thereby eliminating Kansas State, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Miami and South Carolina.
Everything will be different next week.