Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot
Top 25 voters have a tough decision right now in ranking the three teams most closely chasing No. 1 Alabama.
Last week, I had it Notre Dame-Kansas State-Oregon, but warned that Oregon was in better position to help itself with strong opponents ahead. My problem with Oregon is that their losses keep losing value -- if their best win was Arizona, the Wildcats just lost by 56 to UCLA; all of their opponent have at least three losses and only USC is ranked and barely at that.
I'm keeping Kansas State ahead of Oregon -- Wildcats have more quality wins and have been nearly as dominant. That Notre Dame needed triple overtime (and some real luck) to get past a five-loss Pitt team is enough to drop them to fourth. I'm only dropping LSU to 8th, ahead of undefeated Louisville because the Cards haven't really beaten anyone. Their best win barely registers in the top 35 or so, either as Cincinnati or UNC.
I made the decision to drop FSU four spots -- odd for a bye week -- because FSU's loss to N.C. State looks that much worse when a 2-6 Virginia team can beat the Wolfpack 33-0. It's as bad a one-point blemish as you can have, and the Seminoles have only one top-50 win, against a Clemson team that has no top-50 wins. Clemson, too, drops five spots -- they're ranked on reputation, with little more than beating Ball State to prop them up right now.
There's a huge dropoff after No. 19 for me -- nobody below that seems to have quality wins to offset losses. I'm ranking three MAC teams, each with a single modestly decent win -- Toledo's overtime loss to Arizona looks much worse after their drubbing, but it's still a better loss than Ohio (to Miami of Ohio) or Kent State (to Kentucky!).
It's very slim pickings for the final spots -- went with a trio of three-loss teams, just because Texas Tech and Michigan have all their losses to teams ranked ahead, with some top-50 wins but nothing huge. If I could submit a top 20 this week, I would.
Who else did I consider? Rutgers hasn't beaten anyone better than a five-loss Syracuse team; Northern Illinois's best resume line is Ball State. I had UCF among 10 other teams I looked at, but they lost to a five-loss Missouri team and their best win is (gulp) East Carolina. And as much as everyone is ranking Louisiana Tech, that's based on a close loss where they gave up 59 points; they haven't beaten anyone I'd put in the top 80 nationally. They'll tell you they beat a Virginia team that shut out an N.C. State team that beat Florida State, but that's very indirect success to me.
So here you go. Have at it with the comments -- always like the feedback each week ...
2. Kansas State
4. Notre Dame
5. Ohio State
11. South Carolina
13. Texas A&M
14. Oregon State
21. Texas Tech
24. Kent State