Sunday, October 04, 2015

Poll Position: October 4th

With the introduction of the College Football Playoff last season, polls are a superfluous endeavor. However, they still give us a rough approximation of the general consensus of teams. With five weeks of the college football season in the books (frowny face), and with the internet being invented so that random people can bitch about trivial things they have no control over, here are my thoughts on the latest AP Poll. If you find this piece enjoyable, keep in mind I plan on making this a regular feature for the rest of the season.

Ohio State (1st) - The 'consensus' number one team in the country. If you only look at this season, its hard to make an argument for Ohio State as the top team in the nation, much less a prohibitive top team (the Buckeyes currently have 38 of 61 first place votes). A road win against Indiana is the highlight of their resume now.

TCU (2nd) - I know they blew out Texas, but they needed a deflected fourth down pass to beat Texas Tech and SMU was within five points of them in the fourth quarter (in Fort Worth!). The offense is elite, but their defensive issues will keep them put of the playoff.

Michigan State (4th) - That three-point win over Oregon has lost some of its shine and the Spartans needed a late stop to escape Purdue at home. Let that prepositional phrase sink in for a moment: To escape Purdue at home.

LSU (7th) - Put down your pitchforks. Yes, the Tigers have the best running back since Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson, but who exactly have they beaten? I'll give you a minute. Winning in Starkville is nothing to dismiss, but let's not start carving Fournett's name into the Heisman yet. 

Utah (5th) - Are they really the best team in the Pac-12? Probably not, but their resume is pretty sparkling. The Michigan win looks much better than it did a month ago, Utah State is a solid mid-major, and they gave last season's runner-up an existential crisis thanks to the severity of their beating. Probably have the best resume in the country at this point.

Oklahoma (10th) - Once bitten, twice shy? After starting the 2014 season in the top five and subsequently crashing and burning, pollsters have been reluctant to move the Sooners up despite some impressive wins. The Tennessee win is not as valuable as it looked two weeks ago, but beating West Virginia at home by three scores is something a vintage Bob Stoops' team would do.

Northwestern (13th) - I know it was Minnesota, but Northwestern may have one of the best defenses in the country. The Wildcats held Stanford to six points in their season opener, and since then, the Cardinal have averaged over 42 points per game. Incidentally, I fully expect if Northwestern loses a tight game at Michigan next week that Stanford will be ranked at least ten spots ahead of them.

Notre Dame (15th) - It feels weird including Notre Dame here, but the Irish lost a road game against a top ten team by two points. If you dig into the box score of that game, you will see that the Irish averaged nearly two more yards per play than the Tigers. 

Leaving the Poll:
Wisconsin - Paul Chryst has made it his mission to drag every team he coaches to 6-6. All kidding aside, Saturday marked the first time Wisconsin has been held below ten points at home since 2008.

West Virginia - No shame in losing in Norman, particularly when you have five turnovers. Not sure if I believe in them as much as some advanced stats, but seeing them back in the poll at some point this season wouldn't shock me.

Mississippi State - Troy, Louisiana Tech, Kentucky, and @Missouri are their next four, so they could be back soon.

Joining the Poll:
Iowa (22nd) - Kirk Ferentz appears to have navigated the Hawkeyes out of the jungle of mediocrity. Don't worry, they'll be back soon though.

Toledo (24th) - 'Bout damn time. All they have done is beat two Power 5 schools, blowout a perennial Sun Belt bowl team, and win their conference opener on the road. Its way too early to start talking about an undefeated season, but keep it in the back of your mind. With Kent State, Eastern Michigan, and @Massachusetts their next three, the Rockets have a chance to reach or exceed the highest ranking in school history.

Boise State (25th) - The Broncos return after a brief hiatus. The competition has not been the best, but the Broncos have outscored their last three opponents 163-14. The Mountain West is not as strong as it usually is (every other team has at least two losses already and eight have three) so seeing the Broncos run the table would not be surprising. 

The American Athletic Conference currently has four, count em' four, undefeated teams. That is tied for the most of any conference (Big 10 and Big 12). Guess how many are ranked? Houston, Memphis, Navy, and Temple are all unbeaten with wins against Air Force, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Louisville, and Penn State to name a few. What does it take for them to get some dap from the pollsters?

Elsewhere in Mid-Majordom:
I am an admitted mid-major apologist, so I always enjoy it when some non-traditional powers find their way into the poll. Outside of Boise, Toledo, and the quartet of American teams, the mid-majors with the best chance to get into the poll at some point this year are Western Kentucky (currently 4-1 with a three-point loss at Indiana their only blemish), Louisiana Tech (two tight losses, but a chance to beat Mississippi State in two weeks), Marshall (more of a pipe dream as Herd have just one loss, but no marquee wins and no real opportunities to get any), Ohio (see Marshall comment), BYU (two losses, but the schedule eases up significantly), and Georgia Southern (just one loss, but no Sun Belt team has ever graced the polls).

Ranked Matchups This Week:
Northwestern (13th) @ Michigan (18th): The early over/under point total for this game could be six and a half. Big Ten football!

Cal (23rd) @ Utah (5th): Who predicted this would be the biggest Pac-12 game on the second weekend of October?

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