Blogpoll Ballot

Rank Team
1 New Mexico
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Florida
5 Cincinnati
6 Iowa
7 TCU
8 Boise State
9 LSU
10 Miami (Florida)
11 Southern Cal
12 Georgia Tech
13 Penn State
14 Oregon
15 Virginia Tech
16 Houston
17 Oklahoma State
18 Utah
19 Pittsburgh
20 West Virginia
21 Texas Tech
22 Arizona
23 South Florida
24 Idaho
25 Kansas

Okay, so the obvious thing is I ranked New Mexico #1. This was a protest vote, as I initially tried to make my ballot with the #1 slot empty. It kicked it back to me so I had to remake the ballot all over again. I watched all three of the “top three” teams last weekend — Texas, Florida, and Alabama — and am not impressed by any of them. Well that’s not totally fair. All three defenses look solid overall, with Florida’s putting in the weakest performance by far (I think Arkansas runningback Dennis Johnson is somewhere still breaking tackles), and Mark Ingram is a difference maker for the Crimson Tide. Yet none has distinguished themselves — and the next batch of undefeateds have serious questions about their strength of competition — so I picked a hopeless team to be a placeholder, Mike Locksley’s inept New Mexico squad. Again, were the software to let me leave it blank, I would have.

From there, much of the debate recently was about USC’s low spot with the computers when the BCS poll came out. Well count me with them. They lost to Washington, which means they have no right to complain about anything, and they haven’t exactly looked dominant in their other wins. (And it doesn’t help that Ohio State looked awful against Purdue, Washington lost to Arizona State, and USC nearly let Notre Dame fight back.) They have time to recover — I’m looking forward to the USC-Oregon game — but for right now, they are where they are. If nothing else, both Miami and LSU have “better” losses than does USC.

From there, the biggest difference is I probably have Houston higher than many. For the moment I’m willing to forgive their fluke loss to UTEP, though I reserve the right to penalize them again later. They’ve looked quite good otherwise, and their offense will keep them competitive in any game they play.

Finally, I felt dirty leaving Kansas in the poll after they lost to Colorado, but felt I didn’t have much choice. I did let Idaho sneak in there — the Vandals are 6-1 and deserve it as much as any of the other teams in the 20-30 range.

  • Gator Bone

    I’m a little surprised at the gimmicky top of the ballot. Will the software let you make a 3-way tie at 1? That seems like a less disingenuous way of making the same point (that no team stands out above any others).

    Also, this brings back the question of how we value offense related to defense. If all top 3 teams had dominant offenses matched with sputtering defenses, would they be considered “stumbling” the same way that they are now? It may not be as fun to watch dominant defense paired with struggling offense, but is this Florida team (improved defense, productive yet mistake-prone offense) really THAT much worse than last year’s “dominant” version?

  • Disheartened

    I typically like your insight. You are knowledgeable about the tactical aspects of the game and open to new analyses and ideas. But frankly, this poll of yours is stupid. Why bother submitting a poll at all if you’re unwilling to put the effort and analysis into it to decide which team you think is the strongest? You sound like Lou Holtz from Saturday’s post-game. And now, sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is where you got the idea.

    Oh, I get it. You weren’t impressed with any of the top teams last week. Did you really expect your nominal best-team-in-the-land to win every game this season by three touchdowns? At least two of them played very worthy opponents. Perhaps you are unable to appreciate the effect that a strong defense has on a team’s ability to score copious points? If they had won by the same margins, but scored a lot more touchdowns, I bet you wouldn’t have as much trouble.

    Honestly I hope that you were just bored and decided to try your hand at something provocative. Unfortunately, though, I fear you think there was some merit to this exercise.

    Sincerely,

    Ex-reader

  • DM

    I laughed. Disheartened, I think you’re taking this poll, which ultimately is meaningless, too seriously. I guess you’re a Bama, Texas or Florida fan.

  • http://smartfootball.com Chris

    Wow, disheartened, an “ex-reader”? The blogpoll is just a fun thing I do. As I’ve explained, I don’t think there’s a really great way to rank 100+ teams that don’t all play each other. Add to that fact that the BCS has an identity crisis. A playoff system doesn’t find the “best” team, it selects among the “better teams” and then has the most exciting finish. A true end of season poll/ranking is designed to have the “best team,” but inevitably that will be subjective when a team has a bad loss or two, yet otherwise has an outstanding body of work.

    I think the overall message from my site should be that I don’t really focus on these kinds of metrics, and I don’t find them particularly useful in the long run — the problems are largely intractable. But overall, no, I don’t think any of the three top teams look that particularly good, and I don’t buy the “oh it was just great defense.” Yes they have good defenses but I watched the games and saw teams shooting themselves in the foot routinely. The poll only let me rank 1 through 25, so there were no ties or anything else. I’m confident that whoever emerges from the meat of the conference schedules and their conference championship games will have earned their spots. I mean the whole concept of midseason ballots is kind of loony to begin with.

  • Tim

    Chris, did the Gator defense really “play poorly”? I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to this. Did Arkansas come in with a gameplan and quarterback to take advantage of a weakness? Was it the lack of Brandon Spikes that kept them from going with the coverage they wanted? Offensive turnovers wearing out the defense?

    Their secondary has been dominant since Ole Miss 2008 so it might be worth taking a look to see if there’s some Smart Football going on, or if they just had a bad game. I realize the tackling was weak.

  • Disheartened

    Chris–

    The dramatic ending was intended farce. I’m obviously not going to stop reading the blog, although you do lose about 11 cool points for reiterating a Lou Holtz “point.”

    My beef is that after some great games by the top teams and a couple of not-great games, all the talking heads have been saying exactly what you said since Saturday: “well, I don’t really want to have to pick a best team right now; none of them have looked dominant.” When there is only so much unique sports writing going around, I just wouldn’t expect to hear that sort of talk here.

    If you bother to participate in the ongoing satire that is mid-season polling, you might as well make a good-faith effort to rank the teams. It’s a little ridiculous how much the margin and perceived “dominance” plays into everyone’s votes.

    Less sincerely,

    Ex-commentor

  • BeastMode

    No love for the Cal Bears? 494 yard of total offense and 45 points against UCLA after a 3-0 start doesn’t deserve a 24/25 spot mention? Oh, what’s that? We lost by a combined 72-6 in the two games prior to that? Oh, right. Never mind.

    But still, behind a 4-2 Arizona team that has losses to Washington and Iowa, uninspired victories over Central Michigan and Northern Arizona compared to Minnesota, Maryland and Eastern Washington? Aaaaaand, really not helping the cause too much here.

    Go Bears!

  • mark

    Florida’s offense has not been impressive all season. At first I thought Meyer was simply playing a vanilla offense, after watching them more and more I’m not believing that. My problem with Florida’s offense is simply they have minimal passing threats right now at any distance and virtually no deep passing threat. Florida’s defense looked strong overall but missed a lot of tackles.

    Bama’s offense is what most expected after losing arguably one of the best left tackles last year and several other key offensive players. They are a run first team that Saban prefers but the problem is they are turning the ball over too much on offense, luckily they have a defense that keeps their opponent from profiting from their mistakes.

    Texas similar to Bama and Florida has problems with turning the ball over too much right now and not playing consistent.

    I agree with Chris really there are no dominant teams in the league right now there are some good teams but none that stand head and shoulders above their competition.

  • Gator Bone

    Back to how we value offense and defense relative to each other. If the top 3 had demonstrated brilliant, efficient, dominant offense, only to have the games stay close because the defenses kept blowing coverage or getting blocked at the line, would you still feel so down about the top 3? Maybe you would. But I’m of the suspicion that most people who drop the “no dominant team” line are simply de-valuing these defenses.

  • http://blackheartgoldpants.com Bellanca

    Well, I know you’re a Boiler and we know what Leroy Keyes did to my breathren, but here is the obligatory prairie fire ‘we don’t get no respect’ post. Don’t worry, this will probably all stop once we lose at home to Indiana …

    You: “…and the next batch of undefeateds have serious questions about their strength of competition.”

    Me: Iowa is the only team in the country with wins over two teams in the BCS Top 25 (both on the road), plus Michigan (home). Their SOS is tougher than any of the four you rank 2-5. They haven’t given up a single point in the second half on the road. It’s worse if you consider they’re the only team in the Big Ten that has to play three Saturday night games, two on the road. Iowa has the schedule from hell, but they’re hanging in there. (Thank god we don’t have to play UNI again.)

    I’m curious at your lack of excitement at Georgia Tech. I understand the mainstream’s disinterest in the flexbone, their contempt for the outlier, but they’re a one-loss team with the seventh toughest schedule in the country — and they’re getting better all the time. I will be a BEEEE if they survive Groh’s latest October asphyxiation.

    UNM: definitely a knockout of a choice.

  • rkhufu7

    So you like UT because of their joke schedule?

  • Carter

    Gator Bone, I agree with what you said, but I think the problem is that people think the best team in the country should be dominant in all aspects of the game. I think some people get hung up on ranking “the best” teams because they hold all teams to some ridiculously high standard. Unfortunately, no teams are perfect. If every team played every other team in a 100+ week schedule, nobody would go undefeated, even if they played to the best of their ability in every game. Every team has certain weaknesses.

    I agree with Chris, that it’s pointless to rank the top 25 teams in the middle of the season, but Gator Bone also has a point. You can’t just leave the top spot blank because the teams don’t look good. It doesn’t matter if they’re good, it just matters that you think they’re better than the other teams. Is Florida better than Texas? Is Alabama better than Florida? They could all be terrible, but if they were better than the even-more-terrible teams from the rest of the country, one of them has to be the best.