Coming up with a Top 25 this week presented me with three distinct problems, each easily ignorable if you didn't want to think too hard about it, but more nagging the more I tried to resolve them.
• First, how do I find 25 teams that are worthy of being ranked?
• Second, is Alabama really the best team in the country? Have they done the most? Do they have the best résumé, and should I rank them #1 even if I think Florida is a better team and will beat them on a neutral field?
• Third, how do I sort out the Texas-Oklahoma-Texas Tech mess at the top of the Big XII South?
The first question was the easiest to answer: simply find out whoever was leading the ACC this week and pencil them in at the back of my ballot. Yeah, most teams, at this point in the year, have some major black marks on their résumés, and the trick is to simpy sort out those teams with the fewest negatives and the most positives to balance them out. Besides, worrying too much about the bottom of the Top 25 is something even I know better than to do.
The other two questions, however, were trickier.
Alabama vs. Florida. On the surface, it's an easy answer: Alabama is the last major-conference undefeated team, and so is #1. I'll bet most voters didn't give it much thought. But I'll bet Florida will be favored to win the SEC title game. At this point, 'Bama probably deserves to be #1, but I think it's worth examining their résumés. Obviously, since they're both in the same conference, they're going to have a bunch of common opponents. Let's examine:
|@Tennessee||W 29-9||W 30-6|
|Mississippi||W 24-20||L 30-31|
|@ Arkansas||W 49-14||W 38-7|
|LSU||@ W 27-21 OT||W 51-21|
|Kentucky||W 17-14||W 63-5|
|@ Georgia||W 41-30||W 49-10|
Blowout wins at Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia are basically a wash. Alabama struggled with Kentucky and at LSU, needing overtime to pull out the second win, while Florida handled both opponents with ease. However, while both teams struggled against Mississippi, Alabama managed to pull out a win where Florida failed. Both teams played fairly middling teams the rest of their schedules, never coming close to defeat in any of them, though Florida's win over Miami is probably more impressive than Alabama's win at Clemson, and the Gators do have a date at Florida State this weekend, while 'Bama gets the Iron Bowl vs. Auburn.
So, the question is, do two markedly superior performances vs. LSU and Kentucky balance out the fact that, in struggling with Mississippi, 'Bama found a way to win where Florida did not? How much should 'not losing' count for? Should we judge the Crimson Tide a superior team because they played three opponents close but managed to win them all, whereas the Gators have soundly beaten every opponent but one, yet they lost to that one? Is Alabama good, or just lucky? Does just winning matter, or should we also consider how these teams won?
I went with Florida this week. HydroTech and CBKWit went with Alabama, which is why they top our Top 25.
Finally, the Big XII South. Texas beat Oklahoma, who beat Texas Tech, who beat Texas. Based on their performance against Oklahoma, it's pretty clear that the Red Raiders are going to be third in the pecking order, but how do we choose between Texas and Oklahoma? The Longhorns won the head-to-head matchup, but Oklahoma looked much stronger in defeating Texas Tech than Texas did in falling to the Red Raiders. Which do we consider stronger evidence of superiority? How much should performance vs. common opponents come into play when we have a head-to-head matchup on a neutral field to consider? Even worse, if all three of these teams win this weekend, the Big XII South winner will be determined by, *gulp*, BCS Standings. No wonder the AP wanted out of this thing.
Frankly, I think Oklahoma should come out on top, and I think I can speak for all Cal fans when I say, "Suck on that, Texas!"
What do you think? Alabama or Florida? Texas or Oklahoma? What would you do?
While you're pondering that, here's the rest of this week's Top 25:
Dropped Out: LSU (#19), Pittsburgh (#21), Maryland (#22), North Carolina (#23), Miami (Florida) (#24).