So, yeah, that really happened. Iowa really beat the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State 21-10 in Happy Valley on national television. It was Iowa's first road win against a top-5 opponent since dispatching the Fighting Illini in Champaign during the 1990 season. The nation is on notice: Iowa is a contender for the Big Ten championship and a bona fide player on the national stage.
|23||North Carolina State|
|Last week's ballot|
Tackle Eligible: Penn State, Pitt, TCU, USC, UCLA, South Florida
Watched: Missouri-Nevada, Minnesota-Northwesern, Ohio State-Illinois, Iowa-Penn State
Well, at least most of the nation is on notice. The exceptions, of course, are the people who actually decide the national championship: The coaches' poll, which is a determining factor in the Bowl Championship Series, ranked Iowa 4 points behind a team it beat in the most hostile of environments for reasons passing understanding. It's not the only egregious fuckup by the coaches this week, either: Oregon, which just finished curbstomping Cal, is six -- SIX -- spots behind the Golden Bears. Houston, which beat Oklahoma State 3 weeks ago and has yet to lose, is nevertheless 2 places behind the Cowboys.
Aggregate polls, by definition, have some internal inconsistency. The USA Today poll is no different: getting a consensus from 59 coaches is tough enough, and when Tim Brewster is voting "grilled cheese sandwiches" as #2, it's downright impossible. But inconsistency should not excuse widespread ignorance. The AP poll was able to place Iowa 2 spots ahead of Penn State despite the ballots of morons like Jay Tate (who put Iowa 11 spots behind PSU) and Desmond Conner (10 places). Outliers should be killed by those on the other side and the weight of the meaty center, as we can see from the AP poll. Unfortunately, there is apparently no consensus among the coaches or, if there is, it goes to bed early. What you get, then, is something void of logic or reason or common sense or a basic understanding of what happened Saturday. That this is the basis of our championship determination is beyond wrong. It's tragic.
Conformity is coming; stability is sure to follow. Florida ascends to the top spot, not only for their ridiculous margin of victory but for their vastly improved strength of schedule; all three of the Gators' previous opponents won Saturday, and Florida dispatched of 2-0 Kentucky with ease. Texas is nearly identical to UF, with a slightly better schedule and slightly less impressive results. Alabama takes the third spot more for internal consistency than actual results; Virginia Tech scores huge with a 3-1 mark against the toughest schedule in the poll, and Alabama has to be higher than the Hokies until their alleged superiority is proven false.
Which brings us to the #4 Iowa Hawkeyes. As I said last week, if we were ignoring victory margin Iowa would almost certainly be the top team in the poll. They remain the only undefeated team in the country whose opponents are 12-0 against other opposition. They are one of only two undefeated teams (along with LSU) to have defeated three BCS conference opponents. They have won two of their four games on the road, including the only road win ever in a Happy Valley whiteout. If you take out the preseason rankings and look solely at performance, Iowa has unquestionably played the most difficult slate of the 4-0 undefeateds.
Cincinnati drops from the top spot to #6, as their schedule strength dropped with the addition of 1-3 Fresno State and losses by Oregon State and Southeast Missouri State. The eight-point win over Fresno wasn't enough to overcome that dip. It's impossible to untangle the Oklahoma-BYU-Florida State-Miami-Virginia Tech-USF knot, and I'm not going to try; I still hate the Sooners' placement in the top 10, but the numbers speak for themselves. Nebraska and Michigan make big moves up. NU does it on the basis of three big wins over lesser opposition and a near-miss against Virginia Tech. The Wolverines capitalize on an undefeated mark against an 8-7 schedule void of I-AA opposition. Boise State rounds out the top 10, boosted by Oregon's performance against Cal, but still knocked for a schedule-to-date playing at a disappointing 5-11.