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Power Rankings

Throw out the polls -- it's time to rethink the Big Ten

Posted: Monday October 20, 2003 11:33AM; Updated: Monday October 20, 2003 12:36PM
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By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

  Jeff Smoker
Michigan State is now 7-1 on Jeff Smoker's comeback tour.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In reviewing last week's edition, it occurred to me that the Power Rankings have deviated recently from their original intent.

Rather than sticking to on my own judgment in ranking the nation's most powerful teams as they stand today, I'm afraid I've been guilty of falling into the same customary traps of the AP and coaches polls -- this team lost, so everybody else moves up a spot; this team beat that team, so they have to stay higher, etc.

As a result, some teams, in my opinion, had risen far higher than is actually merited, and vice versa.

Something needed to be done.

So, after a Saturday spent on the couch watching as many games as possible, I decided to set aside conventional "rules" and give the rankings an overhaul, particularly in regards to the Big Ten teams.

For instance, it's clear to me that Purdue and Michigan State are the best teams in the Big Ten, so why should they have to remain behind Ohio State, just because the Buckeyes started higher?

Why should I have to keep Iowa in the rankings after they lost to the aforementioned Buckeyes -- who, it should be noted, seem to be on a mission to set a new modern standard for offensive ineptitude by a major college football team -- just because they were No. 6 last week? Did you watch that Iowa-OSU game? Dear Lord. Someone should tell Ohio State that when Woody Hayes talked about three yards and a cloud of dust, he meant three yards forward.

And why can't I bring Michigan back into the mix, just because they lost to the aforementioned Hawkeyes a few weeks back? At this point, with games against Purdue and Michigan State the next two weeks, the Wolverines have a lot better chance of reaching Pasadena than Iowa does.

And then there's Washington State, whose coach, Bill Doba, joked last week that his team could use another bye week after vaulting into the top 10 without playing a game. I myself was one of those who reluctantly jumped Wazzu five spots last week for no reason other than everyone else lost, so, even though the Cougars took care of business against Stanford, I still felt the need to make a downward adjustment. Don't worry, Bill, it's nothing personal.

Finally, Northern Illinois makes its long-awaited return to the Power Rankings this week, but who knows? By this time next week, the Huskies could be replaced by Bowling Green.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW   Team
1 1 Oklahoma Sooners (7-0)
When Brad Smith ran in for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game 10-10 five minutes into the second quarter, you thought the Sooners might actually be in for a struggle. They held him to minus-five rushing yards the rest of the way.
Next game: Saturday at Colorado.
2 2 Virginia Tech Hokies (6-0)
The Hokies better be on their guard, because Wednesday's game has all the classic ingredients for a look-ahead. Yes, West Virginia is 2-5, but you saw what nearly happened to Miami in its pre-FSU game, and this one's in Morgantown.
Next game: Wednesday at West Virginia.
3 3 Miami Hurricanes (7-0)
Yes, it was only Temple, but the 'Canes had to be encouraged by the play of their running backs. Jarrett Payton notched his first career 100-yard game, gaining 115 on 16 carries, and true freshman Tyrone Moss had 135 yards on 15 tries.
Next game: Nov. 1 at Virginia Tech.
4 4 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1)
D.J. Shockley's season-ending knee injury, while unfortunate, may be the best thing that could happen to David Greene. With Shockley no longer taking a couple series, Greene may finally be able to put up some Heisman-type numbers.
Next game: Saturday vs. UAB.
5 5 USC Trojans (6-1)
NBC showed a graphic during Saturday's game that's got to be downright scary to Pac-10 defensive coordinators. The Trojans' top two quarterbacks, top four tailbacks and four of their top five receivers are freshmen or sophomores.
Next game: Saturday at Washington.
6 12 LSU Tigers (6-1)
Talk about rebounding from a loss. The Tigers simply dominated South Carolina, bottling up the Gamecocks' touted freshman running back, Demetris Summers, and uncorking a couple of their own, Alley Broussard (108 yards) and Justin Vincent (77).
Next game: Saturday vs. Auburn.
7 15 Purdue Boilermakers (6-1)
The Wisconsin win had to be particularly pleasing for Joe Tiller because A) he got to throw the ball around for the first time in a while, B) he found out he's got a pretty good kicker and C) his team was able to win a close game, unlike last year.
Next game: Saturday at Michigan.
8 16 Michigan State Spartans (7-1)
Yeah, apparently the Spartans are for real. Jeff Smoker's been getting all the press, and rightfully so, but Michigan State's run defense, which came in ranked in the top 10 nationally, held Minnesota to about half its 290-yard rushing average.
Next game: Nov. 1 vs. Michigan.
9 10 Auburn Tigers (5-2)
You know that ultra-powerful Auburn running game everyone wrote about this summer? Yeah, it's back. The Tigers ran for 405 yards against Mississippi State, including finally unleashing monstrous juco transfer Brandon Jacobs (182 yards).
Next game: Saturday at LSU.
10 11 Florida State Seminoles (6-1)
With all due respect to Greg Jones, the 'Noles ought to think about making Leon Washington their featured back. The sophomore, finally healthy, showed off some serious speed against Virginia, carrying 13 times for 69 yards
Next game: Saturday vs. Wake Forest.
11 9 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1)
It's a tremendous credit to the Buckeyes' defense and special teams that they're still ranked this high, because I'll tell you what, the only way they could get less from their offense is if the entire unit decided not to dress out.
Next game: Saturday at Indiana.
12 7 Washington State Cougars (6-1)
After sleepwalking against Stanford, the Cougars better give themselves a swift kick in the rear, because the next two weeks will define their season. After hosting Oregon State, Wazzu travels to USC in a revenge game for the Trojans.
Next game: Saturday vs. Oregon State.
13 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-1)
I'll be honest, I expected the Huskers to fold it in after the loss to Missouri. Instead, they played their most complete game of the season against Texas A&M, with the offense running for 333 yards and the defense holding the Aggies to 244 total.
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa State.
14 -- Northern Illinois Huskies (7-0)
The biggest thing working against the Huskies in their quest for perfection is the schedule. This week they have to face 6-1 Bowling Green -- a team that beat Purdue -- on the road, and later comes a trip to two-time division champ Toledo.
Next game: Saturday at Bowling Green.
15 -- Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1)
Anyone else noticed how far has this program has come in three years under Les Miles? After going 4-7 his first season and starting last year 2-4, the Cowboys have won 12 of their last 14 dating to last year's breakthrough against Nebraska.
Next game: Saturday at Texas A&M.
16 -- Michigan Wolverines (6-2)
OK, here's the deal. So far, Purdue has been the most complete team in the Big Ten. Considering who it has, though, Michigan should be that team. The Wolverines still have a chance to redeem themselves, starting Saturday.
Next game: Saturday vs. Purdue.

Dropped out: Iowa, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oregon State.

Stewart Mandel updates his Power Rankings every Monday during the season. They also serve as his ballot in the Football Writers Association/Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll.

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