Final coaches' ballots are public; it's our public duty to dissect them
Every coach ranked Oregon in top two; all but three ranked Auburn in top two
Coaches ranked Boise State from No. 7 (Niumatalolo) to No. 16 (Locksley)
Three-way tie atop the Big Ten caused much voting disparity among coaches
Boise State's loss at Nevada on Black Friday sucked most of the intrigue out of the final balloting process that determined the BCS rankings. Had the Broncos been undefeated, everyone would have pored over the final coaches' poll ballots revealed late Sunday by USA Today to determine whether conference bias or any other factor affected the matchup in the BCS title game.
As it stands, pretty much everyone outside of Fort Worth, Texas, agrees that Auburn and Oregon are the nation's two best teams, so we don't need to go spelunking for conspiracies. Still, don't forget how important it is that the final coaches' poll ballots remain public. The poll includes the ballots of many highly compensated public employees who control how millions of dollars move among conferences made up of mostly public universities. The final ballots should be scrutinized every year, even if it's just to find out whether a blog can accurately predict how Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger will vote.
Every coach ranked Oregon in the top two. All but three ranked Auburn in the top two. Idaho's Robb Akey, New Mexico's Mike Locksley and Utah's Kyle Whittingham ranked the Tigers No. 3.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville may still harbor some ill will over the way his exit from Auburn was handled, but he didn't let that affect his ballot. Tuberville -- who coached Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004 but was denied a chance to play for a BCS title -- ranked the Tigers No. 1.
Akey was the only coach to vote TCU No. 1. But the ballot of the head Vandal wasn't a complete show of non-AQ solidarity. Akey voted rival Boise State No. 14. Only two coaches (Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino at No. 15 and New Mexico's Locksley at No. 16) ranked the Broncos lower.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel respects the head-to-head matchup when it comes to his own team. The Buckeyes' only loss came at Wisconsin on Oct. 16, and Tressel -- even though it harmed his own team's chances to make the Rose Bowl -- voted the Badgers one spot ahead of the Buckeyes. Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, however, ranked his own team two spots ahead of Michigan State, which beat the Badgers Oct. 2. In fairness to Bielema, most of his colleagues agreed with his assessment.
Meanwhile, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio exercised a double standard when it came to head-to-head matchups. Dantonio ranked his own team No. 4, two spots ahead of Wisconsin. Who was in between the Spartans and Badgers on Dantonio's ballot? Ohio State.
Stanford's Jim Harbaugh also did not respect the Badgers' head-to-head win against the Buckeyes. He ranked Ohio State No. 7 and Wisconsin No. 8 -- the lowest any coach had the Badgers on a ballot. Harbaugh ranked his own team No. 3 and joined Notre Dame's Brian Kelly in giving Virginia Tech its highest ranking at No. 6.
Illinois coach Ron Zook was loyal to his conference. Zook had three Big Ten teams in his top five. Wisconsin at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 4 and Michigan State at No. 5. Zook also ranked TCU the lowest at No. 6.
As an AP poll voter, one of the toughest teams to rank at the end of the season was Texas A&M, which lost three consecutive games in the middle of the season but closed with an authoritative six-game winning streak that included victories against Big 12 title game participants Oklahoma and Nebraska. The coaches also struggled, ranking the Aggies anywhere between No. 11 and No. 19. Notre Dame's Kelly liked them best, while five coaches (Harbaugh, Louisiana-Monroe's Todd Berry, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, Oregon State's Mike Riley and Rutgers' Greg Schiano) kept Texas A&M just inside the top 20.
One of the biggest disappointments of Boise State's loss to Nevada was that we wouldn't learn the identities of the coaches who voted the Broncos No. 1 before they fell. Even at 11-1, Boise State elicits a wide variety of opinions. The Broncos finished the season ranked No. 10, but individual coaches ranked Boise State anywhere from No. 7 (Navy's Ken Niumatalolo) to No. 16 (New Mexico State's Locksley).
One of the better semi-regular features of the irrepressible blog Every Day Should Be Saturday is the occasional guess at how Florida Atlantic coach Schnellenberger's poll ballot might look. Here is Schnellenberger's actual top 10: 1. Auburn, 2. Oregon, 3. TCU, 4. Stanford, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Ohio State, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Michigan State, 9. Arkansas, 10. LSU. Sadly, neither SMU nor Suspenders made the cut.