Blogpoll Week 6: The Doldrums

Not much to talk about in this week's poll, as the teams that we expected to win did just that.  Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Michigan maintain their spots at the top.  The margin between the top three is razor thin; while OU's win over then-#10 Texas was impressive, but their prior big wins (against Florida State and Missouri) lose luster with every passing week and move them behind LSU.  The Bengals have nearly identical overall results (+156 MOV vs. OU's +147 in one fewer game) against a superior slate both in raw data (18-11 overall vs. OU's 13-13) and ranking (Oregon's higher-ranked than Texas; Florida and WVU are higher than Florida State and Missouri).

Boise State jumps into the top five, as their wins over Georgia and Toledo (#42 this week) improve.  Compared to Wisconsin, Boise's schedule-to-date actually looks competitive.  That will change in the upcoming weeks, obviously.

The big loser this week was Clemson, as losses by Florida State and Auburn (and a lackluster performance by Virginia Tech in a three-point home win over dawdling Miami) coupled with the negative effect of having to play Boston College to destroy their previously-untouchable schedule.  It's becoming clear that Clemson is destined to be one of the two "those" teams for the season.*  Every year, the conventional polls send a star up the charts on the basis of early-season wins over big names from the previous year (Auburn) and hype magnets of the preseason polls (FSU) and forget to account for the reduction in schedule strength when we learn that some things (like Cam Newton) have changed and others (like Florida State being Florida State) have stayed the same.  Clemson's FBS schedule is an even 14-14 on the season.  They beat Wofford (who is good for an FCS, but is still Wofford) by one possession before the current run of form began.  They have a win over the best three-loss team in the country, a feat that meant something when they were the best two-loss team in the country last week.  They beat Auburn, which sandwiched a shocking win over South Carolina between two losses and a trio of closer-than-expected wins over Utah State (#54), Mississippi St. (#65), and Florida Atlantic (#118).  This schedule isn't that good anymore, but Clemson was anointed last week and will stay there in the minds of voters until they lose, other relevant information be damned.

The bottom of the poll remains a mess; as an example of how close it is, the difference between #1 Alabama and #4 Michigan is wider than the gap between #10 Clemson and unranked Texas A&M.  Arkansas' win over Auburn gave them a bit of a bump.  Every team that dropped out either lost or won over a three- or four-loss opponent outside the top 50.  Iowa is #49 after their loss to Penn State, who moved up the polls mostly because their scoring defense is awesome (only Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Central Florida are better) and Alabama keeps winning.

Blogpoll Games O' the Week

#4 Michigan at #30 Michigan State: Raise your hand if you had these two teams at 10-1 entering this game and the only loss belonging to Sparty.  It's a classic unstoppable force vs. immovable object game, but (assuming the UM offense and MSU defense is a push) the Spartan offense desperately needs to get on track if they're going to have a chance.  I'm not one to condone gambling, but Michigan is +3 and you don't really need to make that mortgage payment before the weekend...

#8 Oklahoma St. at #26 Texas: No rest for the money-grubbing, as Texas Fight could go all Texas Flight against Mike Gundy's Cowboys.  Oklahoma State has been a juggernaut so far against some pretty average competition; their schedule is only 13-14 on the season, and its one potentially serious non-conference opponent (Arizona) just lost to Oregon State, sealing its status as "Worst BCS Conference Team Not Named Minnesota" and forcing it to fire its coach.  They're basically one fluke win over aTm from being the Stanford of the Plains, and not in a good way.  This game could change that, at least momentarily.

#15 Arizona St. at #18 Oregon: Yes, the game is under the lights in Eugene.  Yes, Oregon is a double-digit favorite.  Yes, Dennis Erickson is still prominently involved.  But ASU has played better opposition (their loss, in Champaign against Illinois, doesn't match Oregon's neutral-site loss to LSU, but wins over Mizzou and USC are better than Oregon's victories over Cal and Arizona) and has nearly identical results to Oregon.  The Ducks are good, and they probably win eventually, but it could be closer than your local oddsmaker thinks.

The Battle of Who Could Care Less: #114 Western Kentucky at #118 Florida Atlantic:  You throw out the records when these two Sun Belt heavyweights mix it up, and for good reason: The records suck.  WKU finally got a win last week, in overtime.  At home.  Against the equally 1-4 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.  Western Kentucky is so bad, they lost to UK.  As for Florida Atlantic, the Fightin' Schnellenbergers have been blown out by Florida, Auburn, and Michigan State in the early-going and haven't been able to pull it back together, losing by two touchdowns to North Texas last week.  Have no fear, Owls fans: That Big East invite is only days away.

 

* -- The other of "those" teams every season is the team that keeps beating really good under-the-radar teams and gets no respect.  In 2009, Iowa was this team: Their strength of schedule was phenomenal through October but they remained behind a handful of other undefeateds because the SOS was from teams like Arizona and Michigan State that pollsters discounted out of hand regardless of record.  It's too soon to tell, but it looks like this year's version might be Illinois; Arizona State is a legitimate top 25 team so far, Arkansas State and Western Michigan are a combined 8-4, and Northwestern will improve once Persa is back to being Dan Persa.

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