Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
I try to tell myself (and my wife, most Sunday mornings) that I spend more time poring over my AP top 25 ballot than most voters, though I don't know that I finish the process more confident in my voting rationale as a result. Often, there is no right answer, only solid arguments on both sides of a debate, like today. Talked to lots of people last night and this morning, and here's where I am.
What matters most this week is whether Alabama or Oklahoma State should be ranked No. 2. Watching the Cowboys start to demolish rival Oklahoma on Saturday night, I wondered how much they'd have to win by to make an argument to be ahead of the Tide. The 34-point win certainly opened the discussion, made you lay out the two teams side by side and poke and prod and evaluate and re-evaluate.
Oklahoma State has a stronger schedule, yes, but Alabama has faced a strong schedule. The biggest difference to me is who their overtime loss came to -- losing to LSU in overtime vs. losing to a middle-of-the-pack Iowa State team in double overtime. One team has a true blemish on its schedule, the other perhaps as forgiveable loss as this season could offer. I can even respect what ESPN's Ivan Maisel wrote about, that the emotion of losing two women's basketball coaches in a plane crash on the day of the Iowa State loss is a mitigating factor worth remembering. I still see that Oklahoma State gave up 24 or more points in nine games this season; Alabama gave up more than 14 points once, and 21 at that.
I hear people that say Alabama had a shot at LSU and fell short, but I also think that if Oklahoma State had that opportunity, they would have also lost, and perhaps by a larger margin. The nation wants an Oklahoma State-LSU game, offense vs. defense, two different leagues offering up their best. The nation is also tired of the SEC winning national titles every year, so the last thing they want to see is a championship game pitting two SEC teams against each other. I'm not supposed to vote based on those things, only what the teams have done on the field.
I went to bed with Alabama penciled in at No. 2, but when I typed my ballot in on the laptop this morning, I had Oklahoma State at 2. Switched back to Alabama and felt pretty good about it: Oklahoma State is a more compelling championship game in storylines, but that's not what I'm voting on. It's an overtime battle in itself, deciding between these two teams, and I respect the other side because I've been there myself at points today. But I'm putting Alabama at No. 2, and I look forward to seeing what the BCS computers now say.
More ballot silliness: How far do you drop Houston and Virginia Tech, who were exposed badly on Saturday? I kept deciding to slide them farther down, because of the lack of any quality wins at all.
3. Oklahoma State
6. Boise State
10. South Carolina
12. Kansas State
14. Michigan State
19. Virginia Tech
22. Southern Miss
23. West Virginia
24. Notre Dame
25. Florida State