Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
The big decision this week is which one-loss giant to put at No. 3 -- Alabama or Oregon?
Both lost to No. 1 LSU, and Alabama's 9-6 overtime loss (at home) was much closer than Oregon's 40-27 loss in its opener. Opponents' records? Nearly identical, with Alabama's at 46-44 and Oregon's I-A opponents at 41-39. Average score this year? Best win? Pretty comparable, with Alabama beating one-loss Arkansas (now No. 6) by 24 and Oregon beating one-loss Stanford (now No. 8) by 23. Alabama's defense stands out -- Tide's nine wins are by an average margin of 34-7, while Oregon's eight against I-A opponents is just 45-23. And after those best wins, Alabama's resume is stronger, having beaten Penn State (and a then-ranked Florida team by 21) while Oregon's next best win is a handful of 6-4 teams.
So I went with Alabama.
Next question? Deciding among Arkansas, Clemson and Stanford at 6 through 8 -- Stanford's nine wins are against teams that are a combined 35-56, the best a triple-overtime win against USC. They're barely ahead of Boise on my ballot. Arkansas' opponents are 33-46, and they have three wins against top-15 teams, though Auburn and Texas A&M have lost a lot of their luster. Same with Clemson, as Virginia Tech holds up but Florida State and Auburn aren't as impressive now. Arkansas gets the nod on a more allowable loss.
What about Georgia vs. South Carolina? Same record and South Carolina won head-to-head, but I flipped the two and moved Georgia ahead, because (barring a shocker against Kentucky) the Bulldogs are in the SEC title game, and they just won 45-7 against an Auburn team that beat South Carolina. Hard to override a head-to-head win, but Georgia slides ahead.
I saw a big dropoff after No. 16 -- hard to find quality wins below that line, and with that in mind, I jumped TCU up to 17 after the Boise win -- its two losses, though to now-unranked teams, are by two points and in overtime.
Who else should jump into the poll? Ugly pickings -- Notre Dame finally slides in, as does Southern Miss (though again, their best win is Virginia). Of the other three-loss teams, I went with Georgia Tech and Baylor. Tulsa hasn't beaten anyone -- its wins are against non-BCS teams who are a combined 25-46, only one with a winning record. Considered FSU, but Miami's their best win; Virginia has a strong win against Georgia Tech, but they have three losses to unranked teams. In the end, Tech's win against Clemson was enough to override its head-to-head loss to Virginia.
And yes, no Big East teams on my ballot. Cincinnati has the best record, but after losing head-to-head, I considered West Virginia -- a 26-point loss to Syracuse and a loss to Louisville scuttle their chances. So there you have it ...
2. Oklahoma State
9. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
11. Michigan State
16. South Carolina
18. Penn State
20. Kansas State
22. Notre Dame
23. Southern Miss
24. Georgia Tech