By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
The biggest upset of the week was USC falling to Washington. No kidding. The mere fact that you've found this blog means you've already seen at least 10 headlines on your way here. Accordingly, USC dropped in the polls, but the Trojans were fortunate to stay in the top ten in the Coaches' Poll and only dropped to No. 12 in the AP. Meanwhile, Washington entered the AP Poll for the first time since 2003, checking in at No. 24. That was a long drought for the Huskies considering they had been in the AP Poll every year prior since 1977. For what it's worth, only 11 AP voters made the bold choice of ranking the Huskies over the Trojans this week.
While it's still early in the season, Sagarin also thinks highly of the Huskies and ranks them No. 12. If nothing else, LSU fans can feel a lot better about their closer-than-expected win at Washington to open the season.
A tale of three teams:
Oklahoma (No. 9), BYU (No. 20) and FSU (No. 25). That's how they're ranked in the Coaches' Poll…in exactly the opposite order of their head-to-head victories. Unfortunately, without the Coaches' ballots we really can't figure out why it worked out this way. However, we can look to the AP with its public ballots and get some sense of what is going on.
In the AP, we see: Oklahoma (No. 10), FSU (No. 18), BYU (No. 19). So many AP voters are making the same decisions but not quite as drastic. Even after FSU soundly beat BYU 54 – 28 in Provo, 8 voters have BYU ranked but not the Seminoles, and in all, 19 voters (out of 60) still ranked the Cougars over the Noles. Leading the way is Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune who ranked BYU No. 11, but left FSU unranked.
Following this train of thought, 48 voters now have Oklahoma ranked over BYU. That's up from three people last week. This isn't completely surprising considering how badly BYU lost at home, but the Sooners and the Cougars now have the same record and BYU won the head-to-head. It's hard to justify a spread like Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal who ranks Oklahoma No. 7 and leaves BYU unranked.
Riding the train full circle, it's also surprising that only 12 voters have FSU ranked over Oklahoma. After all, all three teams have one loss. BYU beats Oklahoma on a neutral field. FSU beats BYU on the road. You would think most people would put FSU over both BYU and Oklahoma, but it isn't even close. Could Oklahoma's lopsided victories over Idaho State and Tulsa really warrant the Sooners earning so much respect? Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle feels strongly enough about it to rank the Sooners No. 8 while leaving the Seminoles and BYU unranked.
When I say "surprising" above, I don't mean that I'm surprised that the polls shook out this way. After all, many voters have used the classic method of only shifting teams a limited distance with each ballot for years. What does surprise me is that people still think this is acceptable years after the AP provided guidelines to the contrary and sites like Pollspeak have been shedding light on these antiquated voting styles. (Coaches are not provided with these guidelines, by the way.) These voters are still using wishbone ballots in the era of the spread and west-coast voting.
Of course, if Oklahoma beats Miami in two weeks…that's another story and a whole new set of problems for voters. Follow this hypothetical scenario if you can: Oklahoma beats Miami who beat FSU who beat BYU who beat Oklahoma….and they all have one loss! I don't even want to guess what the voters would do. They might shut down like one of Harry Mudd's android women from the original Star Trek when faced with illogical data. Okay, that's a lot of "if"s. Miami, FSU and BYU all have to win next week, and then Oklahoma has to beat Miami. However, that is just the type of scenario that proponents of a playoff should hope to see at the end of the season. Having situations like last year's Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech tie-breaker on a national level would certainly fuel the playoff fires, and if we're really lucky, a few of the more confused voters may actually shut down in the process.