It's time for the argument to begin. Their schedule really sucks. They've only played one legitimate team. Sure they've steamrolled their inferior opposition, but at the end of the day, don't you have to go with a team who has a little more meat on their slate? It's an argument we have heard against Boise State for five years, so then why all the love for this year's cupcake killers, the Ducks of Oregon?
In performance, they are nearly identical: Boise State has an average margin of victory of 32.6, Oregon 38.0; only TCU, Utah, and Ohio State are even in the same vicinity of BSU and UO for pure point spread dominance. But, shockingly for a team from the WAC, the Broncos have played a far stronger schedule, 13-15 (.464) versus Oregon's 13-25 (.342). In fact, of the undefeateds, only Utah and Nevada have played a schedule as bad or worse than the Ducks.
When you take a deeper look at Oregon's schedule, it's even worse than the raw data would make it appear. If you take out Oregon's one win over a top 25 team, their admittedly stellar victory over Stanford, the Ducks' five opponents have won a combined eight games, and six of those eight wins are against I-AA opposition. Those five teams are 2-23 against I-A teams, a level of futility that doesn't just make Oregon's schedule the worst of the contenders, but places it high in the running for worst nationwide. It's only the Stanford win that lends Oregon even a shred of credibility, that gives them the top 5 rating they now hold.
Contrast that with the much maligned Broncos, who have dispatched of 4-2 Virginia Tech (BlogpLOL #21) and 3-2 Oregon State (BlogpLOL #22 after last week's win over previously unbeaten Arizona). They also hold a blowout victory over 3-3 Toledo, and nothing on their calendar approaches the buffet of crap that Oregon's faced; even their worst opponent, New Mexico State, dispatched of Oregon sacrificial lamb New Mexico over the weekend.
Where Boise and Oregon differ is in what is still to come: The Ducks will have to knock off USC, Cal, Arizona, and Oregon State -- all currently ranked or in contention -- if they are to cross the finish line unscathed. If Oregon pulls off that feat, they'll certainly pass Boise State and likely every other team. But future games and guesses as to how Oregon will finish don't matter. What they've done so far is all we measure, and so far, the Ducks haven't done anything that would make them worthy of the number one spot.
Sandwiched between Boise and Oregon are the new kings of the South, Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers. Buoyed by an 18-16 schedule and holders of the newly-minted highest-rated win in the nation (their 35-27 victory over South Carolina), as well as a victory over 4-2 Mississippi State (BlogpLOL #26), War Eagle ekes past Oregon, TCU, and LSU into the runner-up position. With back-to-back games against Arkansas and LSU to come, should Auburn survive the next two weeks, the top spot is almost certainly theirs. The other SEC Tigers, the aforementioned Bayou Bengals of LSU, are the only undefeated team with wins over four team in or dangerously near the poll: Florida (#20), Mississippi State (#26), West Virginia (#29), and North Carolina (#31). That would be enough to catapult them into contention if they weren't winning every game by a field goal.
There are limits to reason, never more so than in the polls. Head-to-head results matter until the weight of evidence to the contrary; you can't keep placing a 2-6 team above the 7-1 team it defeated four weeks ago. Unfortunately, many voters -- AP, Coaches, and Blogpollers -- have given up on the on-field evidence far too early. Take, for instance, my Iowa Hawkeyes. I have yet to see a Blogpoll ballot this week that places the Hawkeyes behind Arizona, a team that defeated Iowa three weeks ago but had the misfortune of losing to Oregon State over the weekend. There's no transitive circle of death in play here, either: 3-2 Oregon State can be placed safely ahead of the Wildcats and behind its two vanquishers, TCU and Boise, without problem. Arizona can be placed behind Oregon State and ahead of Iowa. And Iowa, whose strength of schedule was crippled when all five of its opponents to date were beaten last week, can take the requisite slide to the bottom of the charts. This isn't the only circumstance. South Carolina, who -- I don't know if you heard about this -- beat Alabama by two touchdowns Saturday is nevertheless behind the Crimson Tide in virtually every poll I've seen. I'm not knocking "power pollsters" who prognosticate the remainder of the schedule, even if I think their methodology is clearly flawed. But the results on the scoreboard have to count for something. Right now, that isn't the case in the vast majority of ballots, Blogpoll or otherwise.