Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
Trouble spot in this week's ballot is around No. 12, where you hit a logjam of teams with impressive records but very little impressive wins. We'll get to that in a second.
Perhaps the trickiest rank in the top 10 is Oregon State, which wound up with two open dates in the first three weeks but has a solid 5-0 mark. As a voter, I'm always wondering whether to value a victory by the ranking of the opponent at the time, or by the opponent's current ranking -- I tend to prefer the latter, though I'm aware of the former, even if it might be a greater reflection of inaccurate early rankings.
By that, Oregon State has beaten two ranked opponents -- Wisconsin was No. 13 when the Beavers got a 10-7 win, and UCLA was No. 19 when Oregon State got a 27-20 win in Los Angeles. But neither team is ranked now, or even on that next-10-teams radar. Arizona was ranked at one point, but not when Oregon State beat them, and the Wildcats have lost three straight, all to ranked opponents.
So I sent in Oregon State at No. 10, behind three one-loss teams, just because LSU, South Carolina and Oklahoma have their losses to teams now ranked above them, and each has a better "best win" than the Beavers. I could make a case for bumping them up to No. 7, but I'm not ready to do that.
Back to the first paragraph -- to me, after FSU at No. 11, there's a big dropoff. USC's loss to Stanford looks worse now, and the Trojans haven't beaten anyone with a winning record. That record-vs.-I-A-opponents-of-teams-you-beat isn't pretty for Georgia or Clemson -- Georgia's 10-21 and Clemson's is 8-17. Georgia's loss is by 28 points to a team that just lost to a team that had just lost, and Clemson's loss is by 46 points to a team that lost to an unranked team.
And for all that, I feel compelled to rank those three ahead of the three Big East undefeated, just because none of them have anything that amounts to a significant win in the current rankings. Louisville's opponents are 9-24, and half those wins come from UNC, which is why they're at the top of the three. Rutgers' opponents are 11-21, but even Arkansas' last two wins don't make the win there that strong. And Cincinnati? They've played two I-AAs, and the rest of their opponents went a combined 9-11, led by (meh) Virginia Tech.
How far do you drop West Virginia? As prolific as the offense has been, the Mountaineers have given up 224 points! That's 59 more than any other team I seriously considered on the ballot -- Texas would be slightly closer with 195 allowed. And West Virginia's best wins -- to offset that 35-point loss to then-unranked Texas Tech -- are to now-unranked Texas by three and now-unranked Baylor by seven. So they drop to No. 22, just ahead of my final three of Boise, Ohio and Michigan. Arizona State was tempting, but they've beaten teams that are a combined 7-18.
Louisiana Tech's SID has been sending out e-mails to AP voters, making polite cases for their inclusion in the polls, and even tried to do so after the NCAA's second-worst total defense gave up 59 points to Texas A&M. No, they're still not getting in ...
4. Notre Dame
5. Kansas State
6. Ohio State
8. South Carolina
10. Oregon State
11. Florida State
18. Texas A&M
19. Mississippi State
20. Texas Tech
22. West Virginia
23. Boise State