We've made our way through the first week of November, and the transitive property is under attack. It begins, as it does virtually every year, in that place where the laws of mathematics and physics are suspended: The Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson and Virginia Tech are both 8-1 on the season, and are virtual equals on every other level: Virginia Tech has better defensive numbers and is +12 in net margin of victory; Clemson has faced a slightly better schedule in both quantity (38-25 in games against other opposition vs. 37-26 for VT) and quality (2 wins over the Blogpoll top 20, 4 in the top 45). Clemson also holds the trump card: They beat Virginia Tech soundly in early October. Yet the polls have the Hokes on top, as Clemson's loss to Georgia Tech looks worse and happened more recently. We don't fall into that trap, at least not until next week. Virginia Tech goes to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech, and a win would create that most wonderful of circumstances, the win triangle.
A win triangle/parallelogram has already consumed the Big Ten, where Wisconsin > Nebraska > Michigan State > Wisconsin, with Michigan figuring in only through a sloppy loss to MSU and Penn State enters the fray this week when Nebraska comes to town. It was a mess before this week, where Iowa knocked off Michigan, Northwestern stunned Nebraska, and OSU and MSU struggled with the dregs of the conference.
There is also a cluster of transitive messiness in the middle of the Big East. Cincinnati has risen to the top, undefeated in the conference and already holding a victory over #2 Louisville. The middle of the conference is a mess, though. Rutgers, ostensibly third in the conference standings, lost last week to West Virginia. The Mountaineers only won that game after losing to Syracuse the previous week. The "Cuse has a loss to Rutgers, of course, as well as Connecticut. UConn lost badly to WVU and Pitt, and the Panthers lost by 24 to -- wait for it -- Rutgers. Yeah, I don't get it, either.
Blogpoll Games o' the Week:
#7 Stanford vs. #6 Oregon -- The next elimination game, this time in the Pac-12. We've been skeptical of Stanford; while their net margin of victory is the best in the nation, Stanford has done it against one of the worst schedules in BCS conference football. Stanford's opponents are 32-41 in games against other opposition, and only two of the Cardinal's nine wins have been against teams in the top half of football. Oregon, on the other hand, has been sixth in net margin, but against a far stronger slate (37-26 opposition record, with a good loss and a win over Arizona State). Both of these teams run unconventional offensive sets, and this game could be fascinating.
#5 Boise State vs. #23 TCU -- The Horned Frogs enter the poll for the first time this week, and just in time for the biggest game of their season. Boise is slipping down the poll as their schedule weakens; wins over Georgia, Toledo, and Tulsa helped early, but UNLV, Colorado State, and Fresno are who they thought they were (all in the bottom 20). This isn't the end for the Broncos, with SDSU and Wyoming still to come on the schedule, but it's the best chance that Boise loses before bowl season. They sure are lucky to have this game at home...
#1 LSU vs. #81 Western Kentucky -- LSU will win this by 50, but Western Kentucky is worth a paragraph. The Hilltoppers jumped to bowl subdivision in 2008 and got destroyed. They lost all 10 games against FBS competition in 2008. They lost all 12 games against FBS and FCS competition in 2009. They finally broke a 27-game FBS losing streak last season, but still finished 2-10. WKU opened this season with four losses, including a four-touchdown defeat against Indiana State. And then something clicked. Western Kentucky beat Middle Tennessee in a Battle of Who Could Care Less in double overtime, then shut out Florida Atlantic. They stunned Louisiana Lafayette, the Sun Belt frontrunner, and followed it with an overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe and a one-point victory this week over Florida International. That's a five-game winning streak that has the Hilltoppers in the heat of the Sun Belt race with two winnable games left to play. Well done, WKU. Now go get crushed.
Battle of Who Could Care Less: #120 New Mexico vs. #113 UNLV -- New Mexico finally fell to last in the poll this week after losing their ninth straight. The Lobos haven't scored more than 7 points in their last four games, and have lost those four games by a combined 195-14. UNLV has a couple of wins this season and played Boise relatively closely this weekend. They shouldn't have a problem here, which is why New Mexico will win. Welcome to the Mountain West.