Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
Good week to re-evaluate a lot of rankings -- the entire middle third of my top 25 essentially lost, with eight teams out of the nine I had ranked from 9th to 17th losing, four of them to unranked teams.
We're far enough into the season where I now evaluate teams by splitting them onto three pages -- undefeateds, one-loss teams and two-loss teams, writing down the most significant wins and the losses for each. You can rank them within their page, but the challenge is in deciding when to bring up a team from the next page -- a loss to an elite team can be overlooked when compared to a team that hasn't beaten anyone of consequence yet.
So of the 15 undefeated teams left in I-A, I have nine in the top nine slots -- might have Michigan a bit high, in that they haven't beaten a ranked team, but they've looked good in what they've played -- but others who still haven't played anyone nationally relevant, like Houston and Texas Tech, simply haven't yet validated their record at a top 25 level.
I made two changes in my top five -- I bumped Wisconsin up a slot, seeing them thoroughly beat a solid Nebraska team. I had Oklahoma No. 1 two weeks ago and the Sooners won 62-6, but they'll have a chance to move back up with similar wins to what Wisconsin had Saturday. I had Wisconsin No. 3 in my preseason ballot, so they've shown a lot of what I liked about them in August.
How high do you jump Clemson? We've asked that three weeks in a row, and now they have three wins against ranked opponents, even if Florida State and Virginia Tech are now barely ranked. That shows me more than anything Boise or Stanford or Oklahoma State have shown so far.
And with Clemson moving up so high, Auburn's lone loss is more allowable, so after the Tigers' win against South Carolina, they made a big jump to No. 12 on my ballot. They just have a better resume than most of the one-loss teams, even if you discount their win against a "ranked" Mississippi State team that now has three losses.
I'm also aware of the rest of my voters and see where my ballot stands out -- sometimes that's justified. I probably had Penn State too high last week, so they didn't move up as much as they could if my poll operated in a vacuum. Similarly, the rest of the voters are more impressed than I've been with Georgia Tech, but I've given them a closer look and recognize the sheer points they've put up in their wins.
For my audience, of course, the question is whether USF should be ranked. It really wasn't that close for me -- USF's biggest asset is a close win against a Notre Dame team I'm still not ranking, and even with a worse record, I'd have to rank Pittsburgh before I'd rank the Bulls, and Pitt's not in my top 25.
Certainly considered the Panthers, but of the two-loss options, FSU and Texas A&M have only close losses to elite teams, wherein Pitt has two close losses to still-unranked teams. I rearranged my bottom five a lot, but gave the final spot to Kansas State, which is unbeaten and took out a potent Baylor team. With Baylor dropping out, TCU does as well. Neither team has a top-25 level defense to speak of.
So here's my ballot -- as always, glad to hear your thoughts on who I'm too high or low on, or who I'm completely overlooking. The feedback is a bit help each week, so thanks much for your help in putting the ballot together.
6. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
15. South Carolina
17. Georgia Tech
18. Arizona State
19. West Virginia
20. Penn State
22. Florida State
23. Texas A&M
24. Virginia Tech
25. Kansas State