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Starting from scratch

Unbelievable weekend flips my ballot upside down

Posted: Tuesday October 2, 2007 12:41PM; Updated: Tuesday October 2, 2007 5:37PM
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Following the mother of all Upset Saturdays (and Fridays), I put more time and energy into this week's rankings than any I've ever compiled. I tinkered and revised and scrutinized and re-revised until I could barely see straight, all in an effort to produce something that will likely go up in smoke again as soon as this weekend. But that's OK -- if polls were a perfect science, there would never be any upsets, now would there?

The first thing you need to know before reading this week's edition is that, in light of such mass upheaval, I threw out my previous week's rankings and started from scratch. I asked my editor to leave the "Last Week" column next to each team blank because in many cases there's no logical connection. Theoretically, this is what the AP or coaches poll might look like if this week was everyone's first ballot of the season.

But since it's not, my ballot deviates significantly from the main polls in several areas. So I might as well go ahead and answer some inevitable questions.

You have South Florida No. 4. Do you honestly believe USF could beat [fill in more traditional school here]? Why shouldn't I? The Bulls have already beaten Auburn (on the road) and West Virginia. In doing so, they've shown off an incredibly fast and suffocating defense, one that helps compensate for a thus-far ragged offense. It's the same exact formula Florida rode to a national title last season. The biggest difference for South Florida: the extra word in its name.

• You moved up both Cal and Oregon after their game last week? Is that even allowed? I'm not big on treating close losses as wins, so in a normal week, I would have moved the Ducks (previously ranked 11th) down at least one spot. But this was no normal week. Half the teams in the top 10 lost, all of them to lower-ranked foes than the Ducks did. Why go scrounging for six other teams to place ahead of Oregon if I don't genuinely believe they're better?

• Why don't you have 5-0 Wisconsin as high as everyone else? What evidence have the Badgers offered to display their resemblance to a top five team? Was it that big 20-13 win at UNLV, or that 45-31 display against The Citadel? That heart-stopping 17-13 win against 2-3 Iowa or that 37-34 thriller against unranked Michigan State? Every year there's at least one of these "house of cards" teams -- think Notre Dame last year, or Alabama and UCLA the year before.

• Did you have any reservations about including Colorado and Auburn? Not really. The Buffs clearly have a heck of a defense, and their defeats both came against opponents (Arizona State and Florida State) I now have ranked. Similarly, the Tigers' poor early performances against K-State and USF don't look quite as bad now. The Mississippi State loss was admittedly baffling, but beating Florida on the road is a pretty powerful counterargument.

• Wait a minute ... where's Virginia Tech? It's not just that LSU walloped the Hokies 48-7 (though Tulane did put up a better fight). Tech's three biggest wins have been: 17-7 over 2-3 East Carolina (lost 48-7 to West Virginia), 17-10 over 1-4 North Carolina (lost 37-10 to USF) and 28-7 over 2-3 Ohio (it was 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter). Surely one can find 25 more impressive teams.

• How can you leave out 5-0 Purdue? The Boilers' four Division I-A victims to date (Toledo, Central Michigan, Minnesota and Notre Dame) are a combined 4-16. (The other foe was I-AA Eastern Illinois). Two weeks ago, Purdue gave up 31 points to the Gophers; last week they allowed 426 yards to the Irish, more than double ND's previous high of 203. In other words, Purdue's 5-0 resume is a lot like that of a job candidate who graduated from Harvard -- with all Ds.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 -- Les Miles' reaction to the Tigers' ascension to No. l? "We're complimented by the votes [but] it also tells you the voters didn't ... watch our game." LSU came out flat against Tulane and led just 10-9 at halftime, but after what happened to everybody else, I'm not going to nit-pick a 25-point win.
Last game: Beat Tulane, 34-9.
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida.
2 -- USC's injuries are piling up. Two O-linemen (Chilo Rachal and Kris O'Dowd) went down on the same play against Washington, as did CB Shareece Wright (himself an injury fill-in). Meanwhile, former No. 1 tailback C.J. Gable sat out with a groin injury, but the Trojans still ran for 224 yards.
Last game: Beat Washington, 27-24.
Next game: Saturday vs. Stanford.
3 -- Last Saturday's win at Oregon was huge not only for the Bears' championship hopes but also for QB Nate Longshore's confidence. The junior shook off his previous road struggles -- not to mention a fairly significant fourth-quarter ankle sprain -- to finish 28-of-43 for 285 yards, two TDs and no INTs.
Last game: Beat Oregon, 31-24.
Next game: Oct. 13 vs. Oregon State.
4 -- Behind unblockable DE George Selvie (9.5 sacks), game-changing LB Ben Moffit (two INTs vs. West Virginia), playmaking safety Nate Allen (five turnovers) and lockdown corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, the Bulls' defense has allowed just eight touchdowns over their past six games.
Last game: Beat West Virginia, 21-13.
Next game: Saturday at Florida Atlantic.
5 -- Besides LSU, no defense has been more dominant than the Buckeyes'. They've allowed a combined 36 points in five games while holding their opponents (most of them admittedly weak) to less than 200 yards per contest. As a result, OSU has yet to win a game by less than three scores.
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 30-7.
Next game: Saturday at Purdue.
6 -- Though it scored only 24 points, Oregon's offense was its usual explosive self vs. Cal, piling up nearly 500 yards. Turnovers ultimately did in the Ducks. Their last three drives all ended in miscues (two Dennis Dixon interceptions and Cameron Colvin's goal-line fumble).
Last game: Lost to Cal, 31-24.
Next game: Oct. 13 vs. Washington State.
7 -- The Eagles seem to be sleep-walking through their current stretch of schedule and may well continue to until Oct. 25. That's when BC begins a crucial string of season-ending games (at Virginia Tech, vs. Florida State, at Maryland, at Clemson and vs. Miami) to determine its ACC fate.
Last game: Beat Massachusetts, 24-14.
Next game: Saturday vs. Bowling Green.
8 -- Just how puzzling was the Sooners' collapse at Colorado? For one, OU's previously powerful offense gained just 39 yards over the final 20 minutes. Star receiver Malcolm Kelly didn't catch a pass. And normally sure-handed Reggie Smith muffed a punt return. Let's see how they respond.
Last game: Lost to Colorado, 27-24.
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas.
9 -- Since its breakout win over Louisville on Oct. 15, 2005, West Virginia is 21-3, but just 1-2 against USF. The Mountaineers' have averaged 19.7 points in those three meetings, 42.2 in all others. And Steve Slaton has averaged just 61 rushing yards against the Bulls, compared with 141.6 against other teams.
Last game: Lost to South Florida, 21-13.
Next game: Saturday at Syracuse.
10 -- The Badgers have played just good enough to win in three-consecutive home games against inferior opponents (The Citadel, Iowa and Michigan State). They have no choice but to get better in a hurry as they go on the road the next two weeks to face 4-1 Illinois and 3-2 Penn State.
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 37-34.
Next game: Saturday at Illinois.

Click below for teams 11-20

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