I should have stuck to my guns.
It was staring me in the face last week as I completed my Week 8 SB Nation BlogPoll ballot.
There was every team in the top 10, each with at least one win over a currently ranked team.
LSU had collected the scalps of Oregon and West Virginia. Alabama had Arkansas. Wisconsin beat Nebraska. Oklahoma State outlasted Texas A&M. Clemson surprised both Auburn and Virginia Tech. Oregon was fresh off a killing of Arizona State. Arkansas punked division rivals Auburn and Texas A&M.
And then there was Oklahoma. (And Stanford, too, but the Cardinal acquitted themselves this week with flying color.)
Oklahoma's resume stood out by virtue of its lack of accomplishments. Florida State long since had tumbled out of the polls on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Texas had been exposed as the youth-filled rebuilding project it is.
I wanted to drop the Sooners to around No. 8 or so. It was all there on paper, plain as day. But I succumbed to groupthink. I let the masses tell me Oklahoma was a national-title contender, even after I saw that mess of a game at Kansas, even after the numbers didn't bear it out. And now look where we are.
This week, I stuck to my guns. Follow the jump if you can bear to witness the insanity that ensued.
Some of my decisions probably look baffling to you, so I'll discuss them in groups.
Oklahoma's loss gave me permission to do something I almost did two weeks ago: Elevate Clemson to No. 3.
At the time, the Tigers had joined Alabama and LSU as the only schools with two wins over currently ranked teams.
With Auburn's (hopefully) final exit from the polls, that's no longer the case, but Clemson's win at No. 15* Virginia Tech still stands above anything the other unbeatens have on their resumes:
Oklahoma State: @Texas A&M (16*)
Kansas State: @Texas Tech (19*)
- Boise State: vs. Georgia (22*)
- Stanford: Washington (just fell out)
- Houston: nada
As you can see, I ordered the undefeated teams accordingly.
*Although I probably should be using the BCS rankings at this point, the continued stupidity of the coaches' poll forces me to reject it outright. I'm sticking with the AP poll for as long as I can, even if it does dint K-State slightly.
These teams aren't strictly ranked by resume because you have to consider both the loss and all quality wins. So I separated them into tiers.
Tier One is Arkansas, Michigan State and Oregon, who complete my top 10.
Arkansas has a better signature win than Oregon (No. 16 Texas A&M vs. No. 23 Arizona State) and an approximately similar loss (at No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 LSU in a neutral site). But Oregon jumps back ahead of Arkansas this week based on the eye test. Arkansas' win at Ole Miss was extremely ugly, at best.
While Michigan State's loss is to unranked Notre Dame, that's outweighed by its two signature wins over No. 17 Michigan and No. 12 Wisconsin. Adding No. 13 Nebraska's scalp to that list could move the Spartans up further.
Tier Two follows this ordering of loss "quality," so to speak:
Virginia Tech: Clemson (6)
Wisconsin: @Michigan State (9)
Nebraska: @Wisconsin (12)
Oklahoma: Texas Tech (19)
South Carolina: Auburn (unranked)
South Carolina (@Georgia) and Wisconsin (Nebraska) are the only two of these with wins over currently ranked teams, so there's some subjectivity at play here.
But Virginia Tech passes the eye test in beating a solid Miami squad, while losing to Clemson anywhere carries almost zero shame.
Nebraska has two decent wins over Ohio State and Washington, each of which have been ranked at some point.
OU fares the worst after the losing streaks of Florida State, Missouri and Texas took effect. But I still think the Sooners would handle South Carolina on a neutral field.
Tier Three simply is the remaining one-loss teams in the nation. Michigan and USC rise to the top of the tier, but each has built a resume almost totally dependent on beating Notre Dame, a horrendously overrated commodity.
Penn State has no signature wins and is about to play the meat of its schedule, but the one loss is even more forgivable than Virginia Tech's.
Cincinnati (@Tennessee) and Southern Miss (@Marshall) have much uglier losses and also no signature wins, but hey, they're one-loss teams, so I threw them a bone. Also, as you will see below, I basically ran out of eligible teams.
This is where things will get controversial.
Where's Texas A&M, you ask, with its two losses to top-10 teams and its signature win at Texas Tech? Or the aforementioned Tech, with two home losses to top-20 teams and an unthinkable victory in Norman? Or Georgia, riding a five-game winning streak? Or Arizona State, which only lost at Oregon and to an Illinois team I still ranked?
Well, they're the top four teams on the waiting list for next week, followed by Baylor, SMU, TCU, Texas, Washington and West Virginia. Each has a chance to play its way back in by becoming bowl-eligible in the next two weeks.
I decided to stick to my guns on this point: Once you lose two games with a third of the season still to be played, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate you deserve re-inclusion. To me, that translates to six wins, or a .750 winning percentage.
But I must admit I'm wavering after seeing that principle result in the following placeholders at the bottom of my ballot:
- Georgia Tech and Illinois, both riding two-game losing streaks to unranked teams;
- Louisiana, coming off an ugly and frankly shocking loss at Western Kentucky, which had lost 18 straight at home, and still lacking any quality wins whatsoever;
- BYU, who lost to Texas and Utah (a combined 1-6 in conference play, with the one being a woeful Iowa State team), and has beat no team with a winning record.
Ick. I'll probably earn some demeaning award from the BlogPoll runners for this ballot, but I think it'll be just a one-week phenomenon. And what's a ballot without a little nonsense in it, after all?
Expect to see Texas A&M (Missouri), Texas Tech (Iowa State), Georgia (Florida) and Arizona State (I have no idea; who cares about the Pac-12 anyway?) in next week as long as they take care of their unranked opponent this week.
And if they can't, I would have been dropping them out anyway, so in a way, I'm simply refusing to overreact to recent signature wins until they're followed up with more winning (or, in the case of Georgia Tech and Illinois, recent slumps after perfectly solid 6-0 starts that shouldn't be discarded out of hand until the losing streaks hit three).
Three-Loss Teams or Worse
Call me when you have nine wins. Otherwise, shut up. You had your chance. Three strikes and you're out, Auburn.