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Baker: Florida's loss, USF bad win knock them off personal ballot

Published Sep. 5, 2017

The Associated Press top 25 voting guidelines are simple: Base your decisions on performance, not reputation.

So that's what I did after the first full weekend of games. And that's why USF and Florida both fell out of my top 25 (although they stayed in the poll at Nos. 21 and 22).

UF was a pretty easy choice. The Gators were dominated (again) by Michigan's lines. Maybe the Wolverines are a great, top-10 team, but I'm not sure yet. In the meantime, I don't think the Gators deserve the benefit of the doubt — not as long as their best offense remains a pick-six.

The Bulls were tougher, but a 31-17 win over Stony Brook (in a game that was closer than the score suggests) is inexcusable for a ranked team.

Seven other teams that were in the top 25 or just outside it also played Division I-AA opponents. All but Utah and Pitt won by at least four touchdowns, and the Panthers played a Bo Pelini-coached Youngstown State team that reached the title game last season as Stony Brook was finishing 5-7.

I also graded USF harsher because it was its second underwhelming performance. Coaches usually say a team makes its biggest growth between the first game and the second. If that's USF's growth, then a perfect season seems unreachable.

Florida State fell from second to sixth on my ballot. The defense is as good as advertised. Special teams, obviously, were a mess, and the offense had issues, even before Deondre Francois hurt his knee. But I didn't punish the Seminoles too much for playing the best team in the country.

I ignored Francois' injury in this week's rankings, because I don't have any performances from James Blackman to judge. He could be overwhelmed as a true freshman. He could also be the next Jalen Hurts. I don't know yet, so I'm tabling that discussion until next week's rankings, when I'll have something to evaluate.

Other voters disagreed, which is why the Seminoles fell from third to 10th.