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California Golden Blogs College Football Top 25 Poll: Week 9

California Golden Bloggers talk college football and vote for this week's Top 25! This week - where should 7-0 Marshall rank?

Joel Auerbach

This week's Top 25:

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

California Golden Blogs Top 25 - Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 Mississippi State Bulldogs --
T-2 Mississippi Rebels --
T-2 Florida State Seminoles Arrow_up 1
3 Oregon Ducks Arrow_up 3
5 TCU Horned Frogs Arrow_up 2
6 Auburn Tigers Arrow_up 4
7 Alabama Crimson Tide Arrow_up 5
8 Michigan State Spartans --
9 Kansas State Wildcats Arrow_up 4
10 Georgia Bulldogs Arrow_down 1
11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Arrow_down 6
12 Arizona State Sun Devils Arrow_up 7
13 Arizona Wildcats Arrow_up 1
14 Baylor Bears Arrow_down 11
15 Utah Utes Arrow_up 1
16 East Carolina Pirates Arrow_down 1
T-17 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down 6
T-17 Ohio State Buckeyes --
T-19 USC Trojans Arrow_up 5
T-19 Marshall Thundering Herd Arrow_down 2
21 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_up 2
22 West Virginia Mountaineers NEW
23 Clemson Tigers NEW
24 Minnesota Golden Gophers Arrow_up 1
25 LSU Tigers NEW

Teams dropped from last week's Top 25: Oklahoma State Cowboys, Stanford Cardinal, Washington Huskies

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State Cowboys, UCLA Bruins, Duke Blue Devils

California Golden Blogs College Football Top 25 Rankings

atomsareenough: Let's start at the bottom of the poll this week. I had a really hard time settling on the 25th team to include. I had Minnesota on my poll already last week, and they won in the most unimpressive fashion against Purdue, but they're also 6-1 with their only loss to an elite team in TCU, so I was determined to keep them in, but no higher than the bottom spot at #25. But I still needed another team for #24, and it was down to LSU, UCLA, and Duke. UCLA simply doesn't deserve to be ranked in my opinion. I was pretty unimpressed with what they did against Cal. Yeah, they pulled it out, but it was a game that Cal could have and should have won down the stretch. If the Bruins beat Colorado and Arizona, I'll rank them again. LSU's two losses are to two top-ten teams, including a close one to the #1 overall team, whereas UCLA has 1 loss to a top ten team, and another one to a top-20 team. That was the difference maker for me. Duke... I dunno, maybe next week I'll believe again if they beat Pitt. My other new additions this week (Arizona State, West Virginia, Nebraska) were pretty much no-brainers. The new teams replaced Kentucky, Stanford, Oklahoma State, and Washington, all of whom had bad losses. Looks like I was wrong to be so bullish about Kentucky, as they were completely outclassed by LSU.

Going back to the top, I feel pretty solid about my top 10. Notre Dame and Baylor drop down to 12-13 after their losses. Oklahoma drops a few spots for losing to Kansas State. BTW, I was wrong about Kentucky, but I'll claim some credit here for being right on K-State. I was the only person last week who had the Wildcats ranked above the Sooners.

Ohio State makes a big move up or me, as they've been playing dominant football lately, and blew out a Rutgers team that came in 5-1. Arizona State re-enters my ballot at #16 for dominating Stanford. USC moves up a few spots for their blowout win against the Buffs.

What did you guys see this week?

Nick Kranz: My thoughts:

  • Florida State jumped over Ole Miss in my poll, in part because FSU adds a win over Notre Dame to their resume, and in part because Mississippi's win over Texas A&M doesn't look very valuable any more. I even considered jumping the Seminoles over Mississippi St.
  • I have a really, really hard time justifying ranking any Big-10 teams very highly. Even Michigan St. at 13 seemed generous. Their best win is over Nebraska, and Nebraska's best win might be Northwestern, at home! The B1G should be nowhere near the playoff discussion.
  • Marshall is going to stay at #25 in my poll for probably the entire season. As a reminder, their best win is over Middle Tennessee, at home. Middle Tennessee has lost to Memphis and Minnesota.
  • The SEC west finally lost a game to a non-SEC-West team when Arkansas fell to Georgia. But the damage was minimal, in part because West Virginia and Kansas State (defeated by Alabama and Auburn respectively) both beat really good teams, making the SEC West look even better. I really, really don't like giving the SEC this much credit, but the results aren't really giving me much of a choice.

atomsareenough: Some questions for you, Nick: Florida State did beat Notre Dame (though not by much), but the rest of their schedule is so incredibly weak. I can see you moving FSU up this week, but Mississippi is going to have a way better strength of schedule down the stretch.

Minor quibble re: Nebraska, that game was actually at Northwestern, not that it makes a real difference. I agree that the B1G probably shouldn't make the playoff as things stand right now. I do wonder, if Ohio State runs the table convincingly, if they might make it. Breaking in a new QB could explain a slow start to the season.

I know Marshall's schedule is pathetic, and they have a ceiling on my ballot too because of it, but stuck at #25? Even with nothing but blowouts every week? One of the best QB's in the country in Rakeem Cato? That doesn't seem warranted to me. Yes, MTSU lost to Memphis and Minnesota, but those are hardly damning. Minnesota is 6-1 and a fringe Top 25 team. Memphis played UCLA tough and lost by less than Tennessee just did to Ole Miss. And remember Marshall walloped MTSU. All their wins are of the no doubt, blowout variety. Should they be penalized for the atrocious schedule, especially OOC? Yes. But are they pretty clearly a top-25 team? I think so.

Nick Kranz: Re: Florida State - Yeah, I fully expect Ole Miss to pass up Florida State if both teams stay undefeated, due to strength of schedule. But right now, wins over Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma St. are marginally better than wins over Alabama, Texas A&M and Boise St.

Re Marshall: Here's a better way to think about Marshall. The best win earned by a team that Marshall has beaten? A home win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Marshall hasn't beaten a power 5 team, and Marshal hasn't beaten a team that has a win over a power 5 team. Hell, there aren't even wins over an AAC team. We're talking multiple layers of lame schedules.

atomsareenough: I do think it's fair to penalize them some, but schedules are made years in advance, and is it really Marshall's fault that they belong to a medoicre Conference-USA? The team can only play and dominate the teams that are on their schedule. That's the best they can do. I'm all for applying extra scrutiny and skepticism of a team with a light schedule, and like, even if they have a somewhat close game against a lousy team, that should be a huge red flag and they should take a big hit accordingly because they have no games against better teams to bolster their argument. But so far they are bringing it every single week.

As I've said in the past, I fully expect Marshall do go undefeated with nothing but blowouts, and if they do, they'll probably top out at #10 in my poll. But I'm okay with inching them up toward that spot week by week as long as they stay on track.

Nick Kranz: In my mind, it's less about 'punishing' Marshall for their schedule/conference, and more about rewarding other teams who prove that they are deserving of a high rank. (And, for the sake of argument, Marshall's athletic department could have been reasonably sure that Miami (OH), Rhode Island, Ohio, and Akron would not be power teams when they scheduled games however many years ago).

I mean, what do you do with a team that has a schedule Cal could go undefeated against? FWIW, the major advanced stats also peg Marshall as a borderline top 25 team.

atomsareenough: Totally agree about their lame OOC schedule. A smart AD would've at least scheduled one or two power conference teams if at all possible. The conference being so bad was less foreseeable though; CUSA has actually had some decent teams in the past, but pretty much all the best CUSA programs (UCF, Houston, Tulsa, East Carolina) got poached by the new American Athletic Conference over the last two years after the Big East disintegrated.

Anyway, the reason for me responding to your comment was less about where you have Marshall ranked (or not ranked) now, and more your comment suggesting #25 is your ceiling even if they should go undefeated. I think should they win out convincingly, that's... at least somewhat noteworthy, I guess.

FiatLux: I think we (everyone) continue to be locked into an SEC bias when it comes to the 1-loss schools. Auburn is ranked 4th in the polls. Why? For beating an overanked LSU? They def have a good win at KState. But OOC against LA State amd SJSU doesn't impress me. They're good, but why higher than ASU? Or Utah? Same goes for Georgia is 5-1. They have one good win, over Clemson. That's it. Lost to a thoroughly mediocre South Carolina team. What I am saying is the because there aren't many common opponents, because the SEC plays a weaker OOC than other conferences, because they don't travel, you simply can't compare. It was nice to see Adam Rittenberg on ESPN finally saying people are giving wins over aTm and South Carolina too much credit because they were ranked high to start. I'm totally comfortable with my top 4. In fact I'm fine with my poll.

Berkelium97: Due to my trip to the Bay Area, the only games I saw this week were Cal-UCLA and Utah-Oregon State. So most of this week's rankings are based on guestimates from final scores.

West Virginia had a -3 turnover margin but still beat Baylor by 14? What happened out there in Morgantown?

Remind me not to rank Texas A&M again unless they win out.

I guess Ohio State's early loss was due to the QB transition. I haven't watched them at all this season, however. In fact, the only Big Ten games I've seen this season are Cal-NW, Rutgers-Wazzu, and about one quarter of Oregon-MSU.

Ole Miss drops behind Florida State among the top unbeatens. The Texas A&M win is looking less and less impressive, and the only highlight of their resume is the Alabama win (certainly a fine accomplishment, however). Florida State doesn't have that great of a resume, but at least they have the Oklahoma St. win in addition to the recent win over Notre Dame.

I'm a little late submitting my ballot and thus a bit late joining the conversation, but I believe Marshall's dominance in its wins is sufficient to give it some credit despite the weak schedule. The Herd leads the nation with 7.75 yards per play and is second in scoring. I've been a big fan of Cato since last season and I think he's one of the most underrated QBs in the nation. I caught part of one of their games a few weeks ago and was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of their running game, from blocking to breaking tackles to their incredible consistency.

FiatLux: Marshall is ridiculously high on some of your ballots. Other than that I don't have many quibbles except with the 1 loss SEC teams getting so much more credit than 1 loss teams from other conferences, for the reasons i've clearly explained.

atomsareenough: I think it's totally fair to argue that Marshall is ranked too high. But not ranked at all?? That doesn't seem fair. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State hasn't beaten anyone of note, they just got hammered (albeit by an excellent TCU team), and they only beat Kansas, one of the worst power 5 teams, by a single TD. You're hanging an awful lot on a relatively close loss in the first game of the season against Florida State. BTW Thank you Berkelium for voting for LSU and not UCLA, which allowed the Tigers to bump the Bruins out of the poll. I would've been annoyed if UCLA somehow made it in this week on the strength of Fiat's abiding season-long love affair with them. No offense, Fiat :)

FiatLux: Of course it's fair not to rank Marshall for the reasons cited by others. There schedule would make an SEC team blush in embarrassment. As for Okie State, I have them 25th... Because someone has to be 25th.

atomsareenough: By "others", you mean Nick, and even Nick ranked them. So what are they supposed to do, in your opinion, and how many blowout wins in a row would it take for you to rank them again? I'll note that you yourself had ranked Marshall the past two weeks (at #22 and then #20), but now suddenly you have taken them off your poll, despite the Herd doing nothing but winning, and winning big. So what's changed, and why are they no longer worth ranking?

I'll also point out that Nick had them at #21 last week, and dropped them to #25 this week for unexplained reasons.

Again, I'll say that it's totally reasonable to think they're a fringy 20-25-ish team, but this week, as your Oklahoma State comment attests, it was pretty hard to come up with 25 teams at all, so it just feels like you have to really invent a reason to exclude them at this point. There are only 4 undefeated FBS teams left in the country, and while yes (to channel Sesame Street here), one of these teams is not like the others, I'd feel hard pressed to say that that team doesn't belong entirely.

Nick Kranz: Well, I'm not 100% sure which teams jumped over Marshall in my poll, but I think it would be Duke, West Virginia, Minnesota and Clemson. Three of those four teams recorded wins last week over solid opponents - better opponents than any team on Marshall's schedule. That's basically the issue - with every passing week, other teams have the chance to add to their resume, while Marshall never will. After reevaluating Marshall's performance this week in context with everything else, I decided that 25th is basically where they belong, as a token acknowledgement for doing the best they can with a schedule that, quite honestly, is probably worse than North Dakota State's schedule.

I'm basically agnostic towards Marshall football. Is it possible that Marshall is, say, the 20th best team in the country? Or the 15th best? Or even the 10th best? Yeah, sure. But there's no proof of it, and until there is proof, I'm not going to believe. Sadly, that proof may never come, and only potentially during bowl season.

atomsareenough: See, token acknowledgement is all I'm calling for! :) Was that so hard? I do think that each successive week that they maintain a high level of performance, even against a weak schedule, does mean something. Maybe not a lot, but it's very hard for any team to play so well week after week with no letdown.

FiatLux: I firmly believe UCLA has a far better claim to being in the top 25 than Marshall. If UCLA played their schedule and they played UCLA's, UCLA would have a perfect record. I'm not remotely convinced at all Marshall would be 5-2 and in fact would more likely be 2-5.

atomsareenough: If UCLA played Marshall at a neutral site, I think UCLA would lose.

Berkelium97: I agree with atoms' assessment here. Even against a weak schedule, it is difficult to win week after week (especially by Marshall's margins of victory). This is why I am perfectly fine with ranking mid-major teams who start the season undefeated, like Utah State, Northern Illinois, and UCF usually do (although not this season). They'll always hit a ceiling in my rankings, but I respect consistency against weak schedules. It's easy for teams to get complacent and have an off game (see us vs. UW) when the wins come so easily to them.


I see you're wiping sweat from your brow.

If UCLA and Marshall swapped schedules, you think Marshal would be 5-2? You don't think UCLA would be perfect?

atomsareenough: I do think UCLA would be perfect, because Marshall's schedule is very light, but the Bruins wouldn't have the lopsided scores by which Marshall has been perfect. I think Marshall would have beaten Virginia, Memphis, and Cal by larger margins than UCLA did. They still would've lost to Oregon, probably in similar fashion. I suspect they would've beaten Utah, but who knows, maybe they would've dropped one to Texas or ASU.

So yeah, I bet Marshall would be at least 5-2.

FiatLux: You realize we can read what you're typing there right?

atomsareenough: ...that I think Marshall > UCLA?

FiatLux: Yeah, stuff like that. We can read it when you type it and send it out... ;-)

atomsareenough: Well, everybody is going to read it, because it is correct!

There are 3 of us that ranked Marshall and did not rank UCLA. There is 1 person that didn't rank Marshall, but ranked UCLA because he is in love with them. So who's the wrong one here, exactly? :)

FiatLux: Actually let me ask the group. Do you think if the teams swapped schedules Marshall would be 5-2 and UCLA would be 6-0.

I could see voting Marshall 25th I guess. But that would be about it.

Berkelium97: Would UCLA be 7-0 with Marshall's schedule? Yes.

Would UCLA have an average margin of victory of 31 or 7.75 yards per play? No.

Nick Kranz: I hate to take the cowardly way out, but it's impossible to know. I have seen exactly zero Marshall football this year, so I can't pretend to make any kind of scouting judgment. If you believe in the advanced metrics, Marshall is ever so slightly worse than UCLA, and thus would most likely have the same record as UCLA.

Of course, part of my UCLA skepticism is that they have played five games decided by a possession, and have managed to go 4-1 in those games. UCLA was lucky to beat Cal, required a late, late touchdown to beat Texas, and probably would have lost to Virginia if the Cavaliers had started a different quarterback. UCLA could easily be 3-4 right now rather than 5-2. And I think the same goes for Marshall. One or two likely wins, one or two likely losses, and a handful of games that could go either way, for a possible record anywhere from 6-1 to 2-5.

atomsareenough: This is also hard to capture with metrics, but UCLA also played Arizona State at the most fortuitous possible time. Bercovici was making his first ever college start in place of a just-injured Taylor Kelly, and the Sun Devils threw up all over themselves with stupid mistakes the whole game. I'm not saying UCLA didn't deserve to win that game, but the final margin isn't fully as reflective of UCLA's quality to simply take the scoreboard at face value.

FiatLux: So why rank Marshall and not UCLA?

atomsareenough: The bottom line for me is that Marshall has been impressive in every single game they have played, and UCLA has looked quite unimpressive in several of their games.

Full ballot below: