Monday, October 12, 2009

My first Top 25 list of the season

Until this point, I’ve resisted coming up with a top 25 list. Silly me. I figured it would be better to have seen the majority of the candidates for such a list before composing it.

At this point, I think I’m ready to come up with a list, having seen just about everybody with a record to qualify themselves. Now, I still haven’t seen TCU or Tulsa, I’m going to stick to ranking teams I’ve actually seen, and while that shouldn’t be held against TCU or Tulsa, bur rather me, neither of those teams will be ranked by me. Beyond that, I have seen a full game by each of the other teams who in my estimation (an estimate not entirely derived with the benefit of, you know, necessarily seeing those teams play) could claim a spot in my top 5.

I’m going to go on a completely random combination of “how they look” and “who they beat”, and I’ll try to give some marginal comment of why each team is where they are, based more on my sight than on anything statistical or meaningful.

1. Florida – I’ll admit this is more of a lifetime achievement award. I suppose I’m not supposed to consider what has happened in the past or what I expect to happen in the future at this point, but all of this is so subjective, it is hard to completely eliminate this stuff. The Gators didn’t look entirely great in knocking off LSU this weekend, but given their history and potential, I’m going to take these guys over a close #2 team.

2. Alabama – Now, Ole Miss has not shown a whole lot this season, but Alabama completely dominated them this weekend. Beyond that, Alabama has convincingly defeated a strong Virginia Tech squad. I think Alabama has probably done more so far this season to deserve the #1 spot, but I’m going to give it to Tebow and Florida by a nose so far. Can’t wait for the SEC Championship.

3. Cincinnati – I don’t want to put Cincinnati this high, but I think they deserve it over Texas, Boise State and Virginia Tech, if only because the Bearcats have look very good in winning against better teams than the other contenders for this spot have been. I find Cincy’s wins over teams like Rutgers, Oregon State and Fresno State to be more significant than Virginia Tech’s win over Nebraska, Boise State’s win over Oregon and Texas’ win over Texas Tech. Is that sick? That’s gotta be sick. Well, at least I recognize that, and by next week I will perhaps correct that issue. Unless Cincy beats up South Florida on the road next week and proves it to me all over again.

4. Boise State – If I’m gonna go with Cincy #3 on slim reason, I’m gonna go with the Broncs here this week, if only to make some type of internal sense in my ranking. I’m going to put Oregon pretty high in a few spots, so if Boise whooped up on them, the Broncs deserve the nod over some close competition, no? And, besides, as Boise continues to whoop up on the New Mexico States and Idahos of this world, they will seem less impressive and surely drop. I wish they could have scheduled someone more impressive than UC Davis in week five to possibly improve their strength of schedule.

5. Virginia Tech – so this boils down to me finding a win over Nebraska and a semi-decent loss to Alabama as more impressive than a win over Texas Tech, although we will definitely know more next weekend. The win over an overachieving Boston College team this weekend was decent, but expected.

6. Texas – This may be severely underrating this team. We’ll know more next weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Longhorns to jump all the way to #2 in my ranking next week. At this point, they receive an “incomplete” for a grade.

7. USC – To me, we’re sorta to tier three here. Florida/Alabama = tier one. Cincy/Boise/ VaTech/Texas = tier two. And tier three is brief but impressive. USC and LSU. After the 8th spot, I think we’ve got a pretty significant fall-off to the next round of teams. The Trojans have a big win over Ohio State coupled with a bad loss to Washington, while LSU has a unimpressive loss to my current #1, Florida, paired with a marginally controversial win over Georgia and a dominating win over those same Huskies that knocked off ‘SC. And yet I’m putting ‘SC over LSU? Doesn’t make a lick of sense, does it? Oh well, it’s done.

8. LSU – See above. I will add that the rest of the LSU schedule will give the Tigers a phenomenal platform to launch themselves up the rankings, with Auburn coming up after a bye week and a phenomenally tough roadie to Alabama coming up in November followed a couple of weeks later to a marginally tough roadie to Ole Miss.

9. Ohio State – The Buckeyes are here, rather than 10th, based more on their win over Wisconsin (a team I had a bit of a crush on the last two weeks) this week than on their close loss to USC in September. This is where the rankings start to get more convoluted.

10. Miami – Do I want to put Georgia here? Maybe. But, if I’m going to start considering two-loss teams, doesn’t Oklahoma perhaps belong in the discussion? What about Oregon, a team that has looked very impressive for three straight weeks to temporarily erase the memory of the season opening debacle in Boise. But, since we’re considering Oklahoma and we’re trying to give the benefit of the doubt to teams that have played tough schedules and we’ve already even given thought to a two-loss team, what about a team that has (until this weekend) gone after nationally respected opponents with excellent success. The Hurricanes deserve this spot based on schedule and success.

11. Oregon – opened terribly, but a strong climb since there.

12. Oklahoma – two losses, to strong opponents, without their Heisman winning QB. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for one more week.

13. Iowa – a couple impressive wins in conference, and the nation’s second-longest win streak, but they may still be a bit underrated here.

14. Kansas – the only thing the Jayhawks have done so far is beat the teams that they are supposed to. The back half of their schedule is significantly more difficult.

15. Nebraska – their only loss is a rather impressive loss to my #5 team, and it looks like Bo Pelini has this program started on the path back to relevance.

16. Notre Dame – a heartbreaker of a loss to Michigan and a couple heart-stopping wins get them this high, but the Trojans loom.

17. Georgia Tech – Miami handled the Ramblin’ Wreck pretty easily, but beyond that Tech has performed well.

18. BYU – dominated by Florida State a couple weeks after their win in the opener against Oklahoma, but the Cougars have righted the ship in recent weeks.

19. Auburn – came crashing back down to earth in a tough conference roadie against Arkansas, but Gene Chizik and Gus Malzach have this team headed in the right direction.

20. South Carolina – they don’t often look pretty, but a tough defense and competent play out of quarterback Stephen Garcia and the Ol’ Ballcoach is a tough matchup again.

21. Wisconsin – Ohio State took advantage of some mistakes by quarterback Scott Tolzein this past weekend, but Bret Bielema is getting back to Badger ball of old: tough defense, grind-it-out offense and a load in the backfield in running back John Clay.

22. South Florida – senior quarterback Matt Grothe’s career ended prematurely, but this Bull squad has playmakers all over the field on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a monster game coming up at home against Cincinnati on Thursday, and a win there could vault this squad up near the top 10.

23. Pittsburgh – they’ve done what they’ve had to do so far, but the Panthers will have plenty of chances to prove themselves one way or the other on the back half of their schedule.

24. Penn State – graduation and injuries have hurt the Nittany Lions more than was expected, and Darryl Clark’s offense has yet to get on the same page.

25. Houston – a terrible loss at UTEP, but I’m still gonna give the Cougars a spot in my top 25, if only because I briefly considered both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech for this spot, two teams that Houston has already beaten.

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