Mon Jan 12 11:58am EST
This is the real prize, don't ya know ...
Now in its fourth year, the Blog Poll is a weekly effort of dozens of college football-centric Web sites representing a wide array of schools under the oversight of founder/manager/guru Brian Cook at MGoBlog, and now appears on CBS Sportsline. It’s an effort to provide a more rigorous check on the mainstream polls that actually, like, count toward the mythical championship, and enthusiastically shines a light on its voters' biases. But mainly, it’s fun.
If there is one position I am absolutely certain about at the end of this chaotic year, it's Florida at No. 1. The Gators defeated 10 bowl teams (second-best was Oklahoma with seven), faced the second-toughest schedule in the nation based on opponents' collective winning percentage and won by the highest average margin of victory. Eleven of their 13 wins were by 23 points or more, with only one rock-bottom embarrassment on the schedule (The Citadel, which UF trounced by 51) and four wins over teams that finished in my top 15, twice as many as anyone else except Southern Cal, which beat three top-15 outfits. Florida beat two top five teams, Oklahoma and Alabama, by double digits. As I said on Friday, a missed extra point against Ole Miss -- which subsequently won nine and finished in everyone's top 15 its own self -- isn't nearly enough to bring a resumé that strong to earth. The Gators are No. 1, and for all of the (legitimate) talk of a split title, it's not close.
As for the teams that were snubbed from the mythical championship process, I throw my hands up. I don't see any foolproof way to distinguish between USC, Texas and Utah, and almost resent having to do it. For the record: All four teams deserved a chance at the title, and should be read as 2a, 2b and 2c here rather than two, three and four.
But the entry form doesn't give voters that option, so I came to that order -- USC, Texas, Utah -- the way I've tended to break ties all year: Who has the best wins? Texas arguably has the single best win, over Oklahoma, and Utah has a pair of strong wins over Alabama and TCU. But neither can quite match the three unadulterated blowouts the Trojans put on the best teams on their schedule. Considering the lopsided scores, USC had the best pair of wins (Penn State and Ohio State), the best trio of wins (PSU, OSU and Oregon), the best quartet of wins (PSU, OSU, Oregon, Cal) and so on, all the way down the schedule until you get to the Washington teams. The Huskies and Cougars are absolute death according to two of the indicators I use in the abstract, strength of schedule and opponents' combined winning percentage, but USC also beat them 125-0, so I decided not to let them diminish the Trojans' excellence at the top. Again, this can go any way you want it to:
I reiterate that the most underrated team by far in the final mainstream polls was Texas Tech, which was hit with a much more severe punishment than Alabama and Penn State for getting waxed in the bowl game, despite identical 11-2 records and virtually identical season arcs (strong start, tough late loss to ruin a perfect season, sour finish in the bowl). The Raiders' win over Texas remains about as impressive as any single victory anyone collected all season, and Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Kansas aren't bad heads to have on your wall, either -- especially compared to Ohio State and Georgia, which for some reason leapt Tech in the AP and Coaches polls for ... I dunno, beating Michigan State? Only losing to Texas by three? I'm not sure what's going on with Tech in those polls, but late fade aside, the Raiders had a legitimate top-10 season in my opinion. Even if you heavily weigh your order to the end of the season (which I do not) you certainly can't separate them from Alabama and Penn State; other than maybe TCU, I don't know who has any claim to move in front of that trio, which looks about the same to me.
I spent most of November arguing against the sanctity of head-to-head, but it is useful here among very closely-ordered teams with no real separation on one another: Boise State is one ahead of Oregon because Boise beat Oregon; Florida State is one ahead of Virginia Tech because FSU beat Virginia Tech; the Hokies are one ahead of Cincinnati because they beat Cincy; Oregon State is one ahead of Pittsburgh because OSU beat Pitt; Cal is one ahead of Michigan State (a revision from my draft ballot) because Cal beat MSU; the Spartans are one ahead of Iowa because they beat Iowa, somehow. You've got the West Virginia-North Carolina-Boston College-Wake Forest win chain going in the 'Waiting' section, too. That's about as much discussion as those teams deserve.
Per Pollmaster Brian's instructions, next year's Blog Poll is cancelled: Spots 1 through 24 will be occupied by Tim Tebow, and Duke will be No. 25 throughout the season. Thanks for reading and for suggestions all year, and especially for accepting the idea that East Carolina can be No. 1, at least temporarily.