Here is last week's poll. It is now irrelevant. In the words of the late, great Jim Croce:
This week's poll brought to you by Jim Croce, a man whose wisdom knows no bounds. Or all that many chords.
Teams are judged here based only on their performance to date, which is of course one game apiece, and therefore there are a few discrepancies that will shake themselves out as the season progresses. Am I so very high on Wyoming? I am not. But their ranking is inevitable for the sake of internal consistency, as explained below.
On that note, I would like to say there's no way to completely disregard preconceived notions, or Oklahoma's 69-point demolition of North Texas would be many times more impressive than Clemson's mere six-point victory over Florida State. Strength of schedule is everything, and so some ingrained notion of a vanquished opponent's "value" has to carry over until there's enough data in this season to draw new conclusions. Every team is wholly defined at this point by my existing perception of its lone opponent and, to a lesser extent, its margin of victory.
So we come to the proudest moment of this initial ballot: it is entirely free of beneficiaries of I-AA head-kickings. This was not an intentional omission at the outset, but some minimal, non-commital number-crunching worked out that way, and I was happy to oblige it. There are a couple gruesome beatings of I-AA-worthy tomato cans represented in the low twenties, but what, you want me to reward Bowling Green and Kent State for their shallow wins over burgeoning doormats Minnesota and Iowa State? The difference is semantic, but sometimes, you have no choice but to respect an old-fashioned, 45-point ass-kicking.
Waiting: Arkansas, Tennessee, Rutgers, Purdue, Louisville, Hawaii, Boise State, Florida, Ohio State, Alabama
Honorary Number One
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Appalachian State. Based on what we thought coming into the first week, winning at Michigan was the most impressive feat, regardless of class.
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Clearly (to me, anyway), Georgia, Cal, Clemson and Georgia Tech had the best non-Appalachian wins of the weekend, the only ones over what might be widely considered "quality teams." You may quibble with the inclusion of Notre Dame and Oklahoma State under that umbrella, but the respective dominance of the Georgia schools in those games places them among the most impressive to date - both OSU-UGA and ND-GT projected as close games, and neither was really close from the opening gun. Depending on your perspective, either Tennessee or Florida State was probably the best team (other than Michigan) to go down in defeat, but Cal's struggles on defense and Clemson's light foot when it should have been hitting the gas Monday night keep them from the top spot. Georgia's effort over a potentially pinball offense was the most complete. As Okie State, Tennessee, Notre Dame and FSU continue to struggle - as I think they all will, eventually - these wins will be worth less. But not until then.
Commendable at Worst (5-8)
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If I thought Wake Forest was actually a good team last year, Boston College's opening win might move the Eagles into the top tier. But I don't, and so B.C. joins Wisconsin, Auburn and BYU as a convincing-but-hardly-dominant winner over a .500-type BCS foe that's still on the fence in terms of perception. I'm not certain BYU's 13-point win over Arizona is really any better than some of the performances I've ranked below the Cougars' debut, but when it came down to it, they belonged in this category. Beating an optimistic, .500 Pac Ten school by two touchdowns (when the score could have been much worse) seems at least as good as...
Body Bags of Minor Merit
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Teams 9-13 all brought the pain to respectable mid-major teams, "respectable" in this case meaning "won at least eight games last year." Average margin of victory for West Virginia, Nebraska, Kansas, Arizona State and Oregon State over Western Michigan, Nevada, Central Michigan, San Jose State and Utah: 36.8 points.
Whoa, careful, bro. It was just Syracuse.
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Slots 14-18 are reserved for blowouts over the low end of the BCS totem pole, major programs that at this point would probably be lucky to compete for a bowl in a less prestigious conference, and so rank as slightly less valuable than beating those conference's second-tier winners. This is a tightrope, but the decision was made. Wyoming is ahead of Washington and UCLA because it tagged Virginia 23-3, and, having seen Syracuse Friday night and fairly closely reviewed the team returning at Stanford, Virginia is a slightly better win at this point than either. I'm not saying that opinion will hold up over the next two or three weeks, unless Wyoming is this year's unfathomable, from-nowhere upstart. It's more likely UVA is just terrible. We'll see how it shakes out.
Body Bags of Simple Cruelty
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Texas Tech, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Southern Cal are here for beating the endoplasmic reticulum out of teams that would probably be left spinning by Appalachian State. Tech comes first because SMU did manage to go 6-6 last year and had some hope coming in with quarterback Justin Willis - had being the key there, after the Mustangs were trounced 49-9 at home - but UAB, North Texas, Florida International and Idaho are separated from the Championship Subdivision by name only. And their slumming conquerors are admitted over FCS-feasting colleagues by that classification only. C'est la vie, Louisville.
Um, Okay, I Guess?
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Iowa and Oregon bring up the rear for decent but less-than-complete victories over respectable mid-major foes Northern Illinois and Houston, which both put up a fight in defeat. Both of these teams were flawed - Oregon, especially, because it allowed 300-plus yards rushing - but beating not-horrible competition by at least two touchdowns should be rewarded over pummeling some lower-division cupcake.
Everything will be different next week.