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Trolling the Polls (Block 2)
First, let's start by examining the volatility of the coaches poll.
Seven of the top eight teams were the same, with Wisconsin jumping over Florida for the #2 spot and Missouri (who only lost to top-ranked Bama by a touchdown) falling down to #14, while Michigan State moved up to #7. Houston made the most noise in the poll this week. The Cougars, who are 4-0, used a seven-point win at Illinois and a three-point victory at Nevada to vault up the charts 10 spots to #13 and even gained a first-place vote (wait, what?).
HOUSTON COUGARS (4-0)
1. Boston College (W, 48-45)
2. at Miami (Ohio) (W, 24-21)
3. at Illinois (W, 35-28)
4. at Nevada (W, 37-34)
Houston's strength of schedule is 101st in the NDL. The only top-25 team that has a worse schedule is #21 Boise State (107th). OK, voters. Is that worthy of a #1 vote?
Texas A&M entered the poll this week at #18. The Aggies have the 30th-ranked schedule in the NDL and started off 2-0 against Washington State (on the road) and former #9 Penn State. Looking ahead, A&M is going to get strong consideration for the top 10 with wins over Oklahoma State and Hawaii in weeks five and six.
Georgia was the second-highest mover in the charts. The Bulldogs jumped up nine spots from 18th to 9th with a 3-0 record that include wins over Idaho, Temple and Kansas. Good start, but is this body of work better than those produced by #11 Auburn (matchup in week 12), #12 LSU (the Tigers' lone loss was by one TD to then-#18 Oklahoma) or #14 Missouri?
The coaches split 85 first-place votes between seven teams after week 4. Alabama added 15 more first-place votes than after week 2. Many coaches may have looked ahead and saw the Florida/Bama result, which caused the Gators to slip behind Wisconsin. Florida State and Virginia Tech (who won't play each other this season) sit at #4 and #5. At first look, the Hokies have a great resume with a 3-0 mark, and all against ranked teams. But, VT's schedule is ranked 71st in the NDL and only three of their remaining nine opponents have a winning record. FSU has the No. 86-ranked schedule and still have the meeting with third-ranked lurking in the final week of the season.
One team that has lived up to expectations and should be ranked in the top three is Michigan State. The Spartans have the 16th-best schedule in the league and have some heavy hitters waiting (week 8 vs. Michigan/week 9 vs. Wisconsin/week 10 at Nebraska). So far, Sparty rolled up wins over then-No. 13 Cincinnati (17-13), at Bowling Green (33-10) and at Notre Dame (24-21). MSU could be the best team in the Big Ten and if they can beat Wisconsin, they should be meeting Alabama in the title game.
SIDE NOTE: Notre Dame moved into the polls (to #19) with a 1-1 week against the Big Ten Michigan teams.
Connecticut entered the polls for the first time this season after posting a 3-1 record in the first four weeks. The Huskies lost by four to then-#16 Virginia Tech and reeled off win over NC State (24-17) and at Middle Tennessee (38-8) and Eastern Michigan (31-0). I'm surprised this helped them move up to #20, but we won't really know if they are for real until later this season with road games at Pitt (week 9) and Cincinnati (week 14).
Coaches can't seem to figure out who the second-best team in the Pac-12 is (Oregon is the best), so the conference got three teams in the top 22 (Stanford - 15/UCLA - 16/USC - 22). Which of these teams should challenge the Ducks?
Stanford and UCLA meet in week six, which will separate those two teams. Southern California has a big block coming up in a couple of weeks with Notre Dame and Stanford (weeks 9 and 10) and then will meet the Ducks in week 13. The Cardinal also play the Ducks (week 13), while UCLA has that final showdown against USC in week 14.
So, who's number 2? I don't know, but the Pac-12 race could be the one of the top races to watch this season (ACC has to be up there with VT and FSU).
WILDCARD in the ACC race? Arizona State.
Boise State (1-1) is hanging around at #21 even after stumbling in a 13-7 loss at Iowa State in week 2. The Broncos have a pretty good Northwestern team coming up, along with their entire Mountain West schedule. Another loss will knock Boise out of contention for a top bowl, especially with the voters being so giddy over Houston (who will go undefeated).
Kansas State is still hanging around in the polls. The Wildcats dropped six spots to #23 after getting thumped by Virginia Tech (28-3) in week 3. K-State is one of five Big 12 teams ranked (none named Baylor who still hasn't played a game this season) in this week's poll, but could be the first ones out next block.
Miami (the Florida version) has had a tough go in the early weeks, losing to four top-10 teams and limping to a 1-3 mark (only win was 27-24 victory at Maryland in week 2). While the Canes are out of the hunt for the national title, they are 1-0 in the ACC and can make some noise for a BCS spot with Virginia Tech and Florida State still to come on their slate.
Folks, don't forget about Cincinnati (who will challenge UConn for a BCS bid out of the Big East). Cincy started the year at #13, slipped all the way out of the poll last block and still haven't climbed back in. The Bearcats are 2-1 (against the No. 23 schedule in the NDL) with their only loss a four-point setback against Michigan State in week one. They've rebounded to top then-#12 Penn State (31-14) and Cal (24-17). They could run the table to meet UConn in a very important week-14 matchup.
Is Northwestern for real? Sure, the Wildcats are just 2-0, but they've put some points on the board (41 and 38) in wins at SMU and against Oregon State. They have a measuring stick game in week four against Boise State and week seven against Michigan. A 2-0 mark against those teams (as long as they win at Boston College and Illinois), could vault them into the polls by week 8.
Army doesn't play a big-time schedule (ranked No. 99 in the NDL), but the Black Knights are 3-0, which includes a 34-17 shredding at Virginia.
BYU (2-1 through week four) has the most to gain of the "mid-major" teams. They could benefit the most out of a future Boise State loss. The Cougars lost 10-3 at then-unranked Auburn (now #11) before bouncing back with a 17-14 win at Marshall and a 29-zip spanking of Utah in week four. Two games could define the BYU season with UConn (week 8) and Ohio State (week 9) both traveling to Provo.
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