Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
Early flight out of Philadelphia, so I'm posting my ballot early, just to make sure it's in by its 11 a.m. deadline. Wild weekend, with three of the top five teams losing and lots of upheaval all over the ballot.
First, at the top of the ballot. Kept Alabama and Oregon 1-2, though the Tide's biggest wins continue to lose luster -- Alabama doesn't have to play Florida, South Carolina or Georgia on the east side, so their schedule won't have nearly as much oomph as it did last year. Oregon technically has two wins against ranked teams, but Arizona and Washington now have a combined five losses.
I decided to move Florida up to No. 3 -- the home win against LSU wasn't as dominating as South Carolina's against Georgia, but I think the supporting wins (at Tennessee, at Texas A&M) are stronger than South Carolina, whose other wins are against teams that are a combined 10-18. Tough call between West Virginia and Kansas State at 6 -- the Mountaineers have allowed 97 more points than the Wildcats, but I feel like West Virginia's offense is strong enough to override that.
First one-loss team? I went with LSU, based on how close its loss was against what is now a top-five team; FSU has to be ahead of Clemson because the Seminoles won head-to-head, though I squeezed Oregon State in between -- the Beavers' opponents are a combined 13-11 for four decent wins.
Once you get to 18, you realize nobody's beaten anybody of significance. Louisville? Its I-A wins are against teams that are a combined 6-17, with UNC accounting for four of the six wins, and they just eked past FIU and Southern Miss. I kept them ahead of Rutgers on the basis of beating UNC; the Scarlet Knights' victims are a hearty 7-16. Worse still is Mississippi State, at 6-15. Undefeated, but largely untested on a national level.
That leaves the last four spots. Do you put in Iowa State for its big win against TCU? If you rank a one-loss TCU team, you have to rank a one-loss Iowa State team, but -- wait -- then you have to rank a one-loss Texas Tech team that beat Iowa State 24-13 and just lost to Oklahoma 41-20. I wind up deciding not to rank any of the three. TCU's wins are against teams who are 5-11.
So I decide to put Boise back in -- its only loss is by four points on the road, and its wins are against teams who are a combined 10-13, including BYU. I decide Texas A&M's only loss is by three to a solid Florida team, though its best win is against a 3-3 Ole Miss team. Again, the bottom of the poll isn't very impressive.
Last two spots? Can't rank N.C. State, even with a top-five win, because NCSU has two losses to unranked teams. Michigan State has two losses to top-10 teams (and one by a point to Ohio State), and a win against Boise. Looking at the last undefeated teams, I decide to put Ohio in -- that Penn State win looks stronger now that the Nittany Lions are 4-2 and handed Northwestern its first loss (no, I didn't have them ranked). Ohio's other four wins are against teams who are a combined 4-19, but I give them the courtesy nod ahead of Louisiana Tech, whose wins are against a combined 8-21, a collection with some names but no real quality wins.
There you go. Have at it with your comments and criticisms -- they honestly help me check my work and make sure I'm making good decisions on these ballots.
4. South Carolina
5. Notre Dame
6. West Virginia
7. Kansas State
8. Ohio State
10. Florida State
11. Oregon State
21. Mississippi State
22. Boise State
23. Texas A&M
24. Michigan State