I must apologize, dear reader, for not more quickly posting my ballot this week -- or last, if memory serves me correctly -- so that you can react in time to change things.
But the fact of the matter is that I'm being far more careful with my ballot now, or trying to be. The first couple of weeks, it was easy to just rank 25 teams based largely on projection, with all but a few teams cutting their teeth on cupcakes. Now, though, it's important to get things right, and there are a scant few weeks left to correct any errors. The ballot must be next to perfect.
And with that said, I give a little insight as to how I do my ballot now.
Late Saturday or on Sunday, I sit down and write out what I can come up with off the top of my head as the Top 25 teams in the country. Then, I compare it to my ballot from last week and look at the schedules of all but the most obvious teams. I reconcile any differences somewhere in that process.
This week, that process produced this, maybe my most satisfying effort of the season:
Now, to explain all this mess.
Clearly, the best two teams against the best schedules in the land. This is not to say that Kansas, should it dispose of Missouri and Oklahoma without a doubt about the outcome, will not move into second. But, right now, Oregon has the better schedules and the better win, and its loss is not quite bad enough to drop it down the list.
Ah, the Big XII muddle. The good news is that these teams will likely play one another in some form over the next few weeks, with the only ambiguous denouement being a Missouri victory over Kansas followed by a Missouri victory over Oklahoma.
The rest after the jump...
6 Ohio State
The Buckeyes are tough to figure out, at least for me. Their toughest opponent was the one they lost to. Otherwise, the schedule is filled with teams that bounce in and out of the Top 25 and seem destined to end up in that 26-30 neighborhood. But they certainly have a better schedule than...
7 West Virginia
Though barely. Upcoming games against Cincinnati and Connecticut, though, should give ample time for the Mountaineers to prove themselves.
8 Virginia Tech
10 Arizona State
11 Boston College
This is a strange neighborhood. Some of the competitors (Virginia Tech, Georgia) have good wins but bad losses. Another (Arizona State) has a good record but a soft schedule. And the last (Boston College) is questionable after two tough losses.
16 Southern Cal
All of these teams have a reason to be ranked. All of them also have a reason not to be. There are black marks among them -- Appalachian State, Stanford, et al -- and some moments of brilliances -- including Florida waxing Tennessee.
Two teams that, again, have moments where they seem to have joined the club and moments where they seem to still be locked out in the cold. Virginia leaps back into the Top 25 after demolishing Miami, in the OB, on the last game in the stadium. The Canes aren't good this year, but I don't think they're that bad.
Why, Big East? Why? What pleasure do you get from playing these sick games with us?
22 Mississippi State
24 Boise State
25 Brigham Young
Four teams I could take or leave. Yes, I do believe Mississippi State is that good, but the Alabama win does more to justify my ranking -- though some might disagree -- than to boost my perception of the Bulldogs.
By the sheer virtue of being better than any alternatives, Kentucky clings to dear life after narrowly beating Vanderbilt. Boise State and BYU are the best of the mid-majors, with the Cougars getting the nod after almost putting Hawaii there filled me with guilt.