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Unboxing the College Football Polls: Week Six

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It gets even closer at the top, but Florida State still clings, ever so precariously, to the lead.

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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing their grip on the number one spot in the coaches poll, Florida State retains their advantage over Alabama in our combined analysis this week -- but the pack at the top is getting tighter and tighter.

If you're new, a look at our methodology is within our week one post.

TEAM AP COACHES RK 1st PPB LW +/- PPBLW +/-
Florida State 1 2 1 53 23.639 1 0 24.040 -0.401
Alabama 3 1 2 28 23.470 2 0 23.298 0.172
Oregon 2 4 3 20 23.055 3 0 22.981 0.074
Oklahoma 4 3 4 21 22.937 4 0 22.684 0.254
Auburn 5 5 5 21.181 5 0 21.180 0.001
Texas A&M 6 7 6 19.502 6 0 19.920 -0.418
Baylor 7 6 7 19.180 7 0 19.307 -0.127
Notre Dame 9 8 8 16.745 8 0 16.300 0.445
UCLA 8 9 9 16.246 11 2 13.967 2.279
Michigan State 10 10 10 15.730 9 -1 14.961 0.769
Mississippi 11 11 11 14.865 10 -1 14.465 0.400
Georgia 13 12 12 13.212 12 0 12.769 0.443
Mississippi State 12 14 13 12.776 15 2 10.101 2.675
Stanford 14 13 14 11.286 16 2 9.998 1.287
Louisiana State 15 15 15 10.034 17 2 8.653 1.380
Wisconsin 17 16 16 8.788 18 2 7.936 0.852
Nebraska 19 17 17 8.216 21 4 5.959 2.258
Southern California 16 20 18 7.828 19 1 6.317 1.511
Brigham Young 18 19 19 7.565 20 1 6.206 1.359
Ohio State 20 18 20 6.306 22 2 4.916 1.390
East Carolina 22 21 21 4.031 23 2 2.734 1.298
Kansas State 23 22 22 3.840 24 2 2.124 1.716
Oklahoma State 21 23 23 3.792 25 2 1.987 1.805
Arizona State 26 24 24 2.002 13 -11 12.237 -10.235
Missouri 24 26 25 1.878 40 15 0.147 1.731
Texas Christian 25 25 26 1.602 30 4 0.647 0.955
South Carolina 27 27 27 1.170 14 -13 11.447 -10.278
Clemson 28 28 28 1.087 28 0 0.908 0.178
Arizona 29 29 29 0.834 32 3 0.438 0.396
Marshall 30 30 30 0.728 31 1 0.525 0.203
Georgia Tech 31 31 31 0.623 33 2 0.401 0.222
West Virginia 32 39 32 0.208 39 7 0.149 0.059
Arkansas 33 36 33 0.190 36 3 0.212 -0.022
Louisville 35 33 34 0.098 42 8 0.048 0.049
Washington 37 32 35 0.097 29 -6 0.750 -0.653
Duke 40 34 36 0.056 26 -10 1.967 -1.910
North Carolina 40 34 37 0.056 48 11 0.000 0.056
Maryland 34 42 38 0.042 48 10 0.000 0.042
North Dakota State 36 42 39 0.025 44 5 0.025 0.000
Iowa 40 37 40 0.024 48 8 0.008 0.016
Minnesota 40 37 40 0.024 48 8 0.000 0.024
North Carolina State 38 42 42 0.008 41 -1 0.057 -0.048
Virginia 38 42 42 0.008 48 6 0.000 0.008
Cincinnati 40 39 44 0.008 38 -6 0.197 -0.188
Texas 40 39 44 0.008 48 4 0.000 0.008
Penn State 40 42 46 0.000 27 -19 1.215 -1.215
Utah 40 42 46 0.000 34 -12 0.323 -0.323
Boston College 40 42 46 0.000 35 -11 0.215 -0.215
Oregon State 40 42 46 0.000 37 -9 0.203 -0.203
Boise State 40 42 46 0.000 43 -3 0.040 -0.040
Memphis 40 42 46 0.000 45 -1 0.024 -0.024
Indiana 40 42 46 0.000 46 0 0.008 -0.008
Pittsburgh 40 42 46 0.000 46 0 0.008 -0.008

NASCAR's got nothing on this

Alabama, which is the new number one in the coaches' poll, narrowed their deficit by about two-thirds this week. The Seminoles are now a mere 0.169 points per ballot ahead of the Tide, and fourth-place Oklahoma has closed to within 0.703 -- which means that for all intents and purposes, we may as well have four #1 teams.

The Noles remain in front largely because the AP is more enamored of Oregon than Alabama. Reverse the Tide and Ducks in the AP, and Alabama is in first place here by a hair. What is (or, shall we say, remains) fascinating is that Florida State lost first place in the coaches' poll despite having almost twice as many first-place votes as any of the other teams in the mix. Again, this is a clear indication that voters are, by an large, either putting the Seminoles first or somewhere below third. There's very little middle ground here; the math doesn't allow for it.

Bold prediction: it's going to tip next week. If Alabama beats Ole Miss, they're going to take over first place in both polls as well as here. If Oklahoma also beats TCU, Florida State could be in real trouble. An Oregon win (against #29 Arizona) will also be troublesome, and even Auburn and Texas A&M -- who clash with LSU and Mississippi State, respectively -- could impact the Seminoles. The Noles are in danger this week because they're playing hapless Wake Forest, and beating them -- by any margin -- isn't going to score points when compared to what the other teams atop the rankings are facing.

(Of course, we should also note that having so many ranked teams colliding this week is almost a guarantee that at least one of the teams in the top six is going to stumble.)

Looking for an opening

The gap between Oklahoma and Auburn has widened to almost two full places, even as Auburn gained ground on Texas A&M (who in turn lost a bit of space against Baylor). The 5-6-7 pack is just sitting in a holding pattern, awaiting the opportunity to pounce either on the misfortunes of the leaders... or on the leaders themselves. Because the question of who the #1 team is right now is so unsettled, an Alabama loss to A&M in two weeks could vault the Aggies all the way to the top. Auburn and A&M can just sit back and wait for their own opportunities here.

You should also circle your calendar for November 8, because it's entirely possible that Oklahoma will play Baylor and Auburn will play A&M with all four teams being in the top six. Or five. Or four. Scared yet?

Milling around aimlessly

Sitting almost two and a half points behind Baylor is Notre Dame, who once again didn't look all that impressive despite remaining unbeaten. UCLA and Michigan State are bunched behind the Irish, UCLA making a decent jump back into things after a comprehensive beatdown of Arizona State. From there, the spacing is nominally correct all the way down to #16 Wisconsin, at which point things start bunching up a little.

There are five teams packed into a space meant for three from Wisconsin on down to Ohio State, which inexplicably holds a 2.3 PPB lead over East Carolina despite losing to a team ECU beat. Whatever.

The final fifth of the top 25 begins with ECU only 0.191 PPB ahead of Kansas State, which on a PPB basis was actually one of last week's biggest gainers. (Only five teams gained more points per ballot than the Wildcats, including this week's biggest jumper: Mississippi State, moving up 2.675 PPB thanks almost entirely to Arizona State and South Carolina both losing right in front of them.)

Clinging to relevance

The 'Cats are just barely ahead of Oklahoma State, mostly because Oklahoma State is two spots ahead of K-State in the AP poll. After that, it's a massive drop relative to actual position in the rankings. Arizona State trails the Cowboys by a whipping 1.79 PPB, which is really a ridiculous gap this far down in the poll. Missouri is hot on the Sun Devils' heels, and is in turn being pursued fervently by TCU, leaping to #26 this week after landing at #25 in both polls. Arizona State's remaining support with the coaches and Missouri's return to the AP top 25 leave the Frogs out in the cold.

Rounding out the list of teams at at least a half a point per ballot, signifying the theoretical concept of at least half the voters thinking they're a top 25 squad: South Carolina and Clemson, both above the 1.0 PPB threshold, along with Arizona, Marshall, and Georgia Tech.

The rest, and superlatives

It's a big, big dropoff behind the Ramblin' Wreck, as West Virginia checks in at #32 with only .208 PPB -- that's courtesy of 24 points from the AP but only a single 25th place ballot from a coach. Duke and Washington tumbled down into this netherworld, while Louisville, North Carolina, Iowa, and Minnesota all jumped back into it. They're joined by this week's sole team to receive their first ballot mentions of the season, Maryland.

Departing our fair shores for the time being are an entire dinghy worth of teams: Penn State, Utah, Boston College, Oregon State, Boise State, Memphis, Indiana, and Pitt all came up empty this week after having received some votes last week. Penn State is the winner of our ignominious biggest fall award, dropping 19 spots from #27 to goodbye. The largest dropoff in PPB from last week belongs to South Carolina, who shed 10.278 points; just missing out was Arizona State, who lost 10.235. As mentioned, Mississippi State gained the most ground in terms of points, but our big winner this week was Missouri, bouncing back up 15 places and into the top 25 after plunging off the cliff last week. The Tigers will be saved from their yo-yoing existence next week: they're off Saturday.