This week's Top 25:
California Golden Blogs Top 25 - Week 6
|Alabama Crimson Tide
|Florida State Seminoles
|Texas A&M Aggies
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish
|Mississippi State Bulldogs
|Michigan State Spartans
|Oklahoma State Cowboys
|Marshall Thundering Herd
|East Carolina Pirates
|Kansas State Wildcats
|TCU Horned Frogs
Other notables: UCLA moved up several spots for me after a very nice showing in Tempe, aided by copious Sun Devil mistakes and bad play. You have to like the talent of the UCLA playmakers. They did end up allowing 600 yards of offense to an ASU team playing their backup QB, though, so they don't quite crack the top 10 for me yet, especially considering that they had been quite unimpressive heretofore. The Sun Devils drop off my ballot entirely, because they simply looked awful. The other devils, the Blue Devils of Duke, also dropped off my ballot entirely. I was quite disappointed by the Duke's output against Miami (FL). The defense played okay for the most part, but they only put up 10 points. I still think they should be good this year, but they'll need to beat Georgia Tech convincingly next week for me to consider putting them back on my ballot. The other team I dropped was South Carolina, which lost to Mizzou, who had lost to Indiana. What a mess.
I had a hard time finding new teams, so I kept Utah on my ballot despite their close loss to Wazzu. They moved to the bottom at #25. I added TCU, Nebraska, and Kansas State, but I don't really feel too strongly about any of those teams at this point. I also thought about including USC, but Oregon State isn't very good, so I'll wait another week on the Trojans. Other than that, a fair number of teams on my ballot from last week were on byes this week, so I tried not to move them around too much.
FiatLux: OK, starting to feel a little better about the upper echelon group. My main thing was to move UCLA to #1. Yep, there I said it. Their resume is simply better than everyone else's in the country. They are 4-0, all against FBS power 5 schools, and 3-0 on the road. That is silly ridiculous. Let me repeat, of their first four games they have played 3 on the road and they are 4-0 as a result. And they just obliterated ASU.
I'm keeping Oregon at #2 and I've decided FSU's win was sufficiently uninspired to knock them down to the lower part of the no-loss teams. All of my top teams have no losses. I don't think any of the 1-loss teams at this point have a claim to be up there. I have Stanford as my best of the 1-loss teams.
There, that shouldn't rankle anybody.
Nick Kranz: OK, I actually spent some time on my poll this week, and I am mostly pleased with the effort.
I started by ranking teams within their own conferences, then deciding which teams had actually accomplished something worthy of earning a rank. Then, once I had each teams ranked within their conferences, I combined them into what is hopefully a coherent poll.
The top 11 are simple: Undefeated teams that have done something to impress me. Maybe that means beating a good team or two. Maybe it means a tough road win. Maybe it means that you absolutely blew the doors off of a few teams.
The rest of the poll is made up of either undefeated teams with a weak resume and a close call or two against teams that they should have beaten more decisively, or one loss teams that looked good in that one loss, and have a solid resume otherwise.
When I finished my list, I had 24 teams that I thought had actually earned a spot in the rankings. I struggled for a long time to pick a 25th team and eventually decided to be a Pac-12 homer and go with Washington. I would have preferred to end my poll at 24, frankly.
The top 4 in my poll, and thus the likely playoff teams, are again the four teams I believe to have the best resumes from each of the four best conferences. Auburn moves ahead of Texas A&M this week, in large part because they beat Arkansas more decisively than the Aggies did.
It's worth nothing that exactly one non-power-5, non-independant team made my poll: East Carolina at 24. This is the weakest year for small conference schools that I can ever recall. There are only 9 small conference teams left (out of 60!) with one loss or fewer, and only Marshall is still undefeated. Marshall's strength of schedule is, as you might guess, embarrassing.
Eight ACC teams already have 2 losses. Florida State is going to have a hard time keeping their schedule strength up.
atomsareenough: So, Fiat... looking at your ballot, do you believe that, essentially, "a win is a win is a win", and playing well and being dominant, or playing lousy and lucking out, etc... either on a statistical basis or using some type of eye test.... shouldn't be factored into a ranking? It seems like you're making the case that UCLA has 4 FBS victories, three of which were "power 5", and one of which was dominant and over a supposedly decent ASU team, so that's a great resume. Is that right? The only other real question I have about your ballot is how Arizona's resume is superior to Texas A&M's resume. A&M has two SEC wins, one of which was quite dominant against a top 35ish South Carolina team, and 3 other blowouts against lousy competition. Arizona has 1 blowout over a terrible team, 2 close wins against mediocre FBS teams, and the Hail Mary win against Cal. I get wanting to ding A&M for playing Lamar, but Rice is in the same conference as UTSA. SMU and UNLV are similarly terrible FBS teams. I think the Aggies have shown dominance and Arizona kinda hasn't.
Berkelium97: I can appreciate fiat's approach to voting even if I don't agree with the process. I'm more than happy to punish a team that looks unimpressive even if it wins (as I had demonstrated with UCLA after its shaky start to the season).
This was the easiest ballot yet to put together but I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps it's getting easier to determine which of the teams that struggled early may be decent (UCLA) and which of the teams that scored impressive wins early may simply have been lucky (South Carolina). Speaking of South Carolina, their struggles against Vanderbilt last week and loss to Missouri are enough for me to drop them out of my ballot despite a win over UGA. In fact, I don't think any of the 2-loss teams are on my ballot this week.
I agree with atoms about Marshall's dominance over weak teams as a reason to rank them. Plus, they're coming off a 10-win season and have the best no-name QB in the nation.
I'm looking forward to this weekend because I will finally be able to sort out these SEC West teams. I start my ballot from scratch each week, so each of the 5 undefeated teams in the West are usually swapping positions. I hope to have some more consistency in their rankings after this week.
Nick Kranz: One item that jumps out at me on your ballot atoms, is that you have Michigan State ranked over UCLA. Even if you take out MSU's loss to Oregon, it seems weird when UCLA's best win (on the road over ASU) is so much better than MSU's (at home vs. Wyoming). Thoughts?
atomsareenough: I did struggle with that one a bit, honestly. I thought about putting UCLA at #10 and MSU at #11, and actually had it that way at first, but UCLA had been so thoroughly uninspiring in its first 4 games, and ASU played so badly in this week's game, that I just wasn't ready to give the Bruins the full benefit of the doubt quite yet. As it was, I did give them plenty of credit for the win in Tempe, moving them up from #18 last week to #11 this week. I think the next two weeks will tell us a lot about whether UCLA has finally gotten it together.
FiatLux: I feel like I'm getting punk'd here... Is Ashton Kutcher about to come through the door?
You cannot seriously have UCLA 18th! Behind Stanford? Nebraska? Michigan State? Come on!
And Atoms, Baylor at #1? To quote Carrie's mother - played with restraint and understatement by Piper Laurie - on prom night... THEY'RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU!!! Listen, I can make a very solid affirmative case as to why UCLA is #1, which I have. You can't do that with Baylor... all you can do is say "Going into the season this is where I thought they'd be and they haven't screwed that up..."
Berkelium97: In previous weeks I've stated my reasons for ranking UCLA relatively lowly: negative yardage problems, inconsistent defense, offense that sputters at times. Those were all on display last Thursday. UCLA had one offensive touchdown against ASU at halftime. And ASU has one of the worst defense in the conference. I agree that second half performance was worthy of a top-5 team, but they've been inconsistent like this all season. They may be able to do this and win against the kinds of teams they have already played, but they're not going to beat Oregon or USC if they continue to play like this.
As for Texas A&M, they have one of the most efficient QBs in the nation guiding an incredibly productive, balanced offensive attack. They run by committee and 4 of their top 5 RBs have over 6 yards per carry. That speaks to their strong O-line performance which rarely yields sacks or tackles for loss. Yes, they sputtered against Arkansas and I knocked them back a few spots for it. Otherwise they have gone out and dominated their opponents every week. They've looked much more consistent on offense and defense than UCLA and have won more convincingly, although I recognize that is partly due to their schedule so far.
FiatLux: I can't argue with you. aTm definitely kicked Lamar's ass.
I'm pretty sure UCLA had 2 offensive TDs in the first half... same as aTm... But even if they didn't, so what? The difference being UCLA scored another FORTY EIGHT points... UCLA scored TDs on Defense, Special Teams and offense on their way to a 62 point road dismantling over a ranked team... and your problem with that is....?
Here's my question for both of you. You each have aTm way above UCLA... why? Was it their win at now unranked South Carolina? Or needing overtime to squeak by Arkansas at home? Or was it the blowout against Lamar?
Congratulations. In the 5th week of the poll you've officially sapped all the fun out of it for me. I hope you're happy.
atomsareenough: I don't know how closely you read what I wrote earlier on, or if your apoplexy might've caused you to miss a line or two, but I had UCLA #18 last week, before the ASU game. Back when they had won only 3 relative squeakers against bad-to-mediocre teams. This week I have them up to #11, and strongly considered putting them at #10. I think that's giving them plenty of credit.
Anyway, how is it that a win over "now-unranked" South Carolina, who at least have decent wins over ranked Georgia and East Carolina teams under their belts, is less meaningful than a win over "now-unranked" Arizona State, who haven't actually beaten anybody of note? If squeaking by Arkansas is so bad, then how do account for any of UCLA's first three squeaker wins against worse opponents than Arkansas? Or that your #2 team Oregon squeaking by Wazzu is somehow not a problem for you?
Did you actually watch any of those UCLA games? They didn't look anything like the top team in the country their first 3 games. They did look very good vs. ASU, so I moved them up, but ASU also looked like hot garbage on defense and special teams, with no tackling ability and a secondary that couldn't cover a twin bed with a king-size comforter. And the UCLA defense still allowed 600+ yards of offense to a team fielding its no-name backup QB making his first ever start. That's just not a "#1 team" kind of statistic, to me.
I know we have different approaches, and that's causing some disconnect. I do have some faith that as the season plays out the two approaches will merge, though. I also am generally inclined to give our conference the benefit of the doubt, and I think it's clearly the second best conference in the country, but I'm not going to be a Pac-12 homer, either. Anyway, I don't mind the back-and-forth. It's fun to exchange ideas about various teams. Sorry if that's exhausting.
BTW, here's an affirmative case for Baylor: 1) top offense in the country; 2) top-5 defense in the country; 3) have blown out everyone they have played so far.
Berkelium97: Fiat, my problem with that -- which has been my problem with UCLA all season--is that neither the offense nor the defense can put together a whole game, let alone the team as a whole. Each unit seems to loaf around in one half and do decently in the other half, and sometimes the offense or defense won't show up at all.
And I'd hardly consider ASU to be a ranked team. Without Kelly the Sun Devils are a bottom-tier Pac-12 team. That they managed to put up 626 yards against ASU is a testament to UCLA's defense or lack thereof. ASU tried its hardest to give the game away with 4 turnovers and passes sailing all over the place.
FiatLux: Baylor has blown out Buffalo, SMU, Northwestern State and Iowa State who have a combined record of 6-11.
This "I had a team at XX and moved them up X" is just baked in bias stuff.
Let me answer a couple of your questions, atoms:
South Carolina vs. ASU - one difference is that ASU is still ranked... so there's that difference. 2nd difference is South Carolina just lost to Mizzou at home... so that would be two losses, at home...
As for the other part, road wins at Virginia and Texas are better than wins over Lamar, Rice and SMU. They just are. The home Arkansas / Memphis squeakers cancel each other.
To be fair, your disparity between the two isn't as egregious as Berkelium. And I really don't have a problem with Nick's... I mean you can make the case to have them next to each other...
atomsareenough: Yeah, Baylor's played who they've played. We had this discussion last week. If they had struggled against ANY of those opponents, I'd question them. But they have performed like you'd expect a top team would against that schedule. Their offense isn't just the best in points/game yards/game, it's the best BY FAR. There's a big gap between Baylor and and the #2 team, in both metrics. There just aren't any question marks about them yet. They just walloped a conference opponent on the road. Conversely, there are still several question marks about UCLA. I'm totally willing to ding a team if they disappoint. You'll note that I kicked Duke to the curb when they struggled against Miami, which is even a decent Power 5 opponent. Until Baylor gives me reason to question, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.
As for ASU's ranking, I'd say that's not a meaningful difference. USA Today manages to still have them at #24, which is barely ranked at all, and that's somehow important, and not a "baked-in bias" issue. Look, they're not ranked in AP anymore, and again, the Sun Devils haven't beaten anyone remotely notable. So if ASU is ranked in any poll, it's solely due to the exactly kind of "lingering perception bias" you claim to hate, just hanging on through the inertia of having been previously ranked. Though in this case it happens to serve your purpose. South Carolina has lost a couple of games, but they have at least beaten a few good teams. If South Carolina had won by a point against Mizzou instead of lost by a point, would they be a meaningfully better or worse team? Not really. I'd still think of them as being about the same as I think of them now. Not a top 25 team, but probably in the top 35 or so. ASU might be in that same range, maybe worse without Taylor Kelly. Utah also lost by a point to a conference foe, and I dinged them, but I still kept them on my ballot for now, moving them down about 7 spots. I think Cal fans ought to know as well as anyone by now that close games can go either way.
Yes, Virginia and Texas are better quality opponents than Rice and SMU, but were UCLA's wins truly better quality wins? How you play also matters, doesn't it? If you look beyond the simple matter of W vs. L and look at the box score or the video, you'll see UCLA didn't win against any of them remotely impressively. If they'd blown out Virginia or Texas, I'd certainly give that a lot more credit than blowing out Rice and SMU. The Texas blowout is BYU's biggest chit, for example. A squeaker against those teams vs. a blowout against the lesser teams? That's not really much to go on, in my mind.
...and wait, Arkansas and Memphis are equatable now??
FiatLux: Re Memphis and Arkansas
Arkansas lost their last 9 games last year.
One of their three wins was against Samford. Another win was against 1-11 Southern Miss. So yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say that both Memphis and Arkansas are really really bad and to try and differentiate them is a fool's errand.
ASU is ranked. I don't know what to tell you. You were wrong when you said they weren't (though admittedly at 24 it's not much).
And yes, wins against better quality opponents are better wins. Wins against putrid teams, no matter by what score tell you nothing. And make not mistake, Baylor's schedule is putrid.
Unlike me you're clearing digging in your heels on your preseason picks.
atomsareenough: Yeah, I was looking at AP. If you want to hang your hat on #24 in USA Today being indicative of quality, go right ahead. I'll also note that the Sun Devils are "now unranked" on our poll, too.
I've pointed out where I have departed considerably from my preseason picks, so that's just not the case.
And really, a Cal fan is pointing to how bad a team was last year in order to write them off?
Full ballot below: