|Last week's ballot|
Tackle Eligible: Auburn, Arizona, Mizzou, Utah, South Florida
Watched: Iowa-Michigan. That's it.
We've reached the midpoint -- at least for Big Ten teams -- and the poll slowly continues to fall into conformity (though the swing factor remains high; exactly one team kept its spot from last week). That's not to say there aren't teams being overrated or underrated by the public at large, however. It seems as good a time as any to look at the undervalued and overhyped.
Tip of the Hat: Nebraska, who is one last-second score away from entering the top 3. Look at this resume: a should-have-been road win against the nation's #2 team, a road win over then-undefeated Missouri, and a thorough curbstomping of three cupcakes to the tune of a combined 142-12. Yes, their schedule isn't the best (12-9 record in games not played against NU, with most of those wins coming from Virginia Tech and Missouri), but it's far from the mid-major smorgasboard feasted on by the likes of...
Wag of the Finger: Boise State, who are tied for the worst schedule strength in the top 25 despite a week one win over #11 Oregon. The win was perfectly timed and choreographed (opening night, ESPN coverage, the Blount incident) to catapult Boise up the charts. Since then, they've been playing against horrendous opposition. Their last 4 opponents are a combined 6-16 (with UC Davis out of I-AA, to boot). For the most part, Boise has done what they were supposed to do; they blew out Miami (OH) and Bowling Green, but struggled with the aforementioned Aggies. Nevertheless, the schedule is 2007 Hawaii-level bad. The rest of the way isn't as horrible as you may think: BSU's future opponents are a combined 20-22. But the best chance of a slip-up may well be tonight's prime-time dustup at Tulsa.
Tip of the Hat: Arkansas, who move into this week's poll after their second-straight beatdown of a then-undefeated opponent. Yes, the early-season loss to Georgia looks worse by the week, but the Razorbacks put a far greater beatdown on Texas A&M on a neutral field than poll darlings Oklahoma State did at home the next week, then played the sun to Auburn's reenactment of Icarus. Look for a team who has played a tougher schedule; aside from Virginia Tech and Arizona, you won't find one. Arkansas' non-Division I-AA opponents are a combined 15-4 against other competition (with three of those four losses attributable to UGA). That number is about to get better: Petrino's troops now travel to Florida and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks. Talk about flying too close to the sun.
Wag of the Finger: South Florida, who is the only undefeated team on the outside looking in. The Bulls have played the worst schedule in the country by far. Their opponents to date: Wofford (1-4 in I-AA), Western Kentucky (0-5, and should still be I-AA), Charleston Southern (2-3 in I-AA, with losses to UF and USF by a combined 118 points), Florida State (2-4, and might as well join I-AA), and Syracuse (2-4). That's a combined 7-20 on the year, bolstered by two games against I-AA opposition and another against a team that just stepped up and joined the Sun Belt. While they have won those games by an average of 27.6 points, it's hardly a resume for staking a claim to the top 15.
Tip of the Hat: Arizona. Yes, they just blew a 12-point lead in the last 4 minutes to the most schizophrenic team in the country, but they've also got a 3-2 record against the nation's toughest schedule (aside from maybe Virginia Tech). Arizona's opponents are a combined 21-8 on the year. Central Michigan has yet to lose since Arizona stalled them in week one. Iowa has yet to lose, period. Even their cupcake, Northern Arizona, is a respectable 3-2. Doc Saturday was forced to "put on the brakes" to keep them out of the top 15 last week; we had to do the same to keep them out entirely this week. Without that meltdown, they're still in the top 10.
Wag of the Finger: TCU, who drops a couple of spots to make way for teams who aren't playing the most "meh"-inducing schedule in the country. Teams like Boise State and Cincinnati have bad SOS numbers because of one or two horrendous opponents (hello, Miami of Ohio!), but TCU is a different animal altogether. They have managed to play a 13-20 schedule against five teams with at least two wins. The mediocrity is really quite stunning, right up until you realize two of those five teams are from the inexplicable ACC. Through five weeks, the Horned Frogs' only win against an over-.500 opponent is 3-2 SMU, a team that lost to Washington State. TCU still has a trip to fellow paper tiger BYU and a home date with Utah to come, but their top 10 status is completely unjustified to date.
Not much for news this week, as the rich keep getting richer: BlogpLOL darlings Alabama, Virginia Tech, Florida, and Iowa got big wins against over-.500 opponents. Technically, Virginia Tech has the most pLOL points, based on their 25-9 schedule and wins over two teams in the top 10. Alabama, the only team to vanquish the Hokies this year, gets the nod at #1. Texas' drop from the top spot is due more to the surrounding teams' inertia than anything else; their 24-point win over Colorado is exactly what the poll would expect against a 1-4 opponent, but the three teams above the 'Horns picked up big points for quality wins. The bottom eight is a revolving door of one-loss and two-loss teams, all indistinguishable from one another and all subject to expulsion at a moment's notice. Only a handful of two-loss teams were up for consideration this week; when the entire slate of two-loss teams enters the discussion next week, expect another reshuffling.