My, my, my, I've ranted on and on these past couple weeks. Sometimes, I don't know when I'm actually being interesting, and when I'm merely indulging in rhetorical masturbation, belaboring the point I'm trying to make to exhaustion. So, with this week's Top 25, I'll try and be brief in my pre-poll comments.
This week, I just want to give a short argument why I don't just go with a pure résumé ranking. For example, take Georgia Bulldogs blogger and prominent résumé-ranker T. Kyle King of Dawg Sports' latest ballot. As a résumé ballot, it's fairly typical, and I don't have any particular qualm with it, at least as far résumé ranking goes. One reader, however, asks:
I hate to disagree with you, but UNC ahead of the Dawgs?
to which T. Kyle King responds:
This highlights the distinction between power polling and resume ranking. If this were a power poll, I wouldn’t rank North Carolina ahead of Georgia, because I don’t believe the Tar Heels would beat the Bulldogs head-to-head. Of course, I didn’t believe the Gators would beat the Bayou Bengals, either, so what do I know?
Due to the rampant uncertainty that makes college football inherently unpredictable (see Appalachian State over Michigan and Stanford over Southern California), I, like all resume rankers, go by what is known rather than what is supposed, and what is known is that North Carolina beat U.Conn. and Notre Dame, whereas Georgia has just beaten South Carolina. The math on that will change next weekend, when the ’Dawgs face Vanderbilt.
The bottom line is that, if I were to cast my ballot based upon which teams I think are better than which others, it would look very different, but, because I acknowledge the depths of my own ignorance, I cast my ballot based upon what I know particular teams have achieved on the field, which, again, shifts from week to week as earlier wins and losses gain or lose value based upon the subsequent performance of previous opponents.
I don't mean to single out T. Kyle, as his reasoning is hardly extraordinary, yet I find it, let's say, dissatisfying. I admire his readiness to admit to ignorance (and I'm certain he knows more about football than I do), yet to vote up North Carolina despite not believing that they're as good as his ranking, well, that sort of result nags at me. It's akin to when BCS proponents, reacting to the system breaking yet again, shrugging their shoulders at the BCS's failure, confidently assuring us that "improvements are coming" and "we'll get it right eventually". Why wait? If something doesn't look right, fix it now!
In my view, résumé ballots tend to take too narrow a definition of "what is known rather than what is supposed." Sure, we all know North Carolina beat UConn and Notre Dame. We know the scores, too. But knowing how those wins were achieved seems quite 'knowable' as well. Were they lucky wins, with a close call or a freak fumble? Were they blowouts, essentially over in the third quarter? Has Vanderbilt been "creating" turnovers, or have they simply been lucky? Yes, there's some judgment involved, but if all I wanted was a rote, mechanical ranking, why did I ask a real, live human in the first place?
I don't think résumé ranking is useless, however. On the contrary, I'd say that starting with a résumé ranking would be a great way to begin constructing a top 25; in fact, that's what I did this week. From there, I considered other factors, like what I'd seen of teams playing (for instance, I saw North Carolina beat UConn, and came away not terribly impressed with either team). I think it's a useful tool, but as a final ranking, it is incomplete, wanting the judgment and refinement of a seasoned college football pundit.
And that's all I have to say about that. On with the Top 25!
First, it's worth noting that the BlogPoll is now sponsored! We're on CBSSports.com, which means that our initial ballots are due earlier (Monday at noon), though the final ballots are still due Wednesday morning, so if you see glaring mistakes or lapses in logic in our ballot, be sure to let us know on Tuesday!
Two huge Big XII clashes this past weekend shook up the top 10, though all 4 of the teams involved looked good, even those in defeat, thus half of our top 10 currently comes from the Big XII. Texas turns in the best win of the season so far, jumping both Penn State and Alabama for the #1 spot, and Oklahoma State goes on the road to beat Missouri, storming the top 10 in the process. Meanwhile, in the SEC, Florida blows out previously unbeaten LSU, and probably could have jumped USC, except their one loss was at home to a team I have less regard for than Oregon State (Ole Miss). And LSU? Well, even though the loss wasn't close, it was on the road to a good Florida team; who would you have moved above them?
Undefeated mid-majors and suspect once-beaten major conference schools populate the middle of our ballot. Vandy's miracle run finally hits a speedbump, but their previous wins are enough to keep them from falling too far. I took another look at Virginia Tech this week, and their season-opening loss to East Carolina is looking more and more like an aberration; they've handed both North Carolina and Georgia Tech their only losses, and the win at Nebraska doesn't look to shabby, either. Also, inspired by Dr. Saturday, I took another look at BYU, and came away less than impressed. Based on the fact that their two wins of note this year, a close one at UW and an epic blowout of UCLA, are looking less and less impressive as the weeks roll on, I dropped them significantly (though I couldn't justify dropping them entirely out of the ballot). Buyoued by Yellow Fever and HydroTech's (filling in for a vacationing CBKWit this week) confidence, they don't fall too far, but if this ballot were my own personal one, they would not be nearly this high.
And some other teams on the bottom of our ballot. Say goodbye to TCU (barely eked by Colorado State), Northwestern (losers to Michigan State), and Illinois (lost to Minnesota), and say hello to Michigan State, Pittsburgh (next in line, I guess), and Minnesota. Welcome to the poll, and enjoy your stay. With these teams, you never know how long they're going to last.
Meanwhile, we correct last week's oversight and kick Kansas below South Florida, while Cal moves up two spots after completely dominating BYE WEEK. Boy, I sure love getting them on the schedule!