Before the Florida Gators even kicked off Saturday night at LSU, some of my colleagues were already debating an interesting question:
If the Tigers beat UF (which they did), should the Gators be ranked ahead of SEC East rival Georgia?
After thinking about it last night and this morning at the finest, cheapest hotel in all of Baton Rouge, here’s the answer I came up with for my AP Top 25 ballot:
No. But it’s close.
First, the top few spots in my rankings. I could make a valid case for at least four teams at No. 1, including LSU. The Tigers’ resume (top-15 wins over UF and Texas) is certainly deserving. But I kept idle Ohio State there, and some of the advanced metrics I use agree. LSU jumped Alabama (which thumped Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies) for second my ballot. With four shutouts, Wisconsin also has a case for No. 1 but settled into fourth, just ahead of Oklahoma.
It’s weird, because I’m more impressed with teams 2-5 on my ballot than I was a week ago … but there was only so far they could move up. Same with 6 and 7 (Clemson and Penn State).
And that brings us to the Florida-Georgia question.
Their best wins (Georgia over Notre Dame in Athens, UF over Auburn in Gainesville) are comparable; the Tigers and Irish are 10-11 on my ballot and in the same tier. Georgia struggled early against their common opponent (Tennessee), but the lopsided victories ended up comparable, too.
Although UF’s 42-28 defeat at LSU is better than Georgia’s 20-17 home loss to South Carolina, the deciding factor, for me, was everything else. UF has two Division I-AA blowouts and two wins over decent but not great teams (Miami and Kentucky) by 12 points. UGA has a single I-AA rout but blew out its other teams by a combined 85-6. If I felt stronger about Miami or Kentucky being a quality win, I’d rank the Gators over UGA right now. But I don’t, so Georgia has the edge right now.
The good news? This will be decided, one way or another, in Jacksonville on Nov. 2.
Elsewhere on my ballot, Missouri continues to rise, all the way up to No. 16. I’m higher on the Tigers than my fellow voters, but advanced metrics like them, and I don’t feel strongly about any team from 16-25.
Virginia dropped off my ballot after losing at Miami. Memphis and Wake Forest also exited to make room for the return of Washington and Iowa State and the triumphant debut of Appalachian State. Among those I also considered: Minnesota, Temple, Tulane and South Carolina.
Here’s the AP Top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning:
1. Ohio State
7. Penn State
11. Notre Dame
13. Boise State
18. Arizona State
23. Appalachian State
25. Iowa State