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In football. Yes, I know. It’s perverse to me too.
There comes a point when pollsters have to start acknowledging the present season for what it is, and no longer rely on preconceived notions of what teams ought to look like or what they did last season.
For that reason, we have to point out the disappointments of the year: Michigan and Michigan State fielding some remarkably suspect secondaries; Wisconsin falling even further behind the rest of the Big 10; Iowa stuck in a nepotistic hell of its own creation; Clemson’s defense not living up to its billing, practically the entire Group of 5 underperforming the mark this year; Baylor unable to reload (as we predicted). Because, for the two or three high profile wins that have been had, far more times the midmajors have been dispatched by their major conference foes.
But, so too does that calculation require that we acknowledge the unexpected successes: Minnesota and Ole Miss and NC State may actually be really damned good. Washington is really damned good. For that matter, the freaking Kansas Jayhawks look to have finally gotten off the mat after a dozen years and half a dozen coaches. Road wins at Houston and West Virginia, and blowing everyone out along the way, is better than a lot of the resumes out there. And, we welcome to the show the only Group of 5 team that has consistently chalked up dubs week-in-and-out; they’ve done so on the road and at home; they’ve done it through the air and on the ground; they’ve put up points and won defensive struggles. It is a team we thought would pose some problems this year, but that were a year or two out from being a major player — the James Madison Dukes. In a loaded Sun Belt, this may actually be the best team going.
Yet at the tippy-top, the same ole’ names endure: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State.
On to the poll, and the usual caveats apply. The criteria are nebulous, far-ranging, and capricious — strength of schedule, bad and good coaching, injuries, exigent circumstances, home/away results, defense or lack thereof, offense or lack thereof, line play, power poll-ishness, can you cover a spread (Vegas is pretty smart about how good a team is), head-to-head where possible or prudent, and my own lying eyeballs.
You can put UGA / OSU / Alabama in any order you want. UGA’s SOS has actually been sort of trash. The best defense they’ve played, Oregon, is 76th in efficiency defense — on par with Vandy (78th). They are 1st in the nation in offensive efficiency for a reason. Alabama is 3rd in Offense, but 2nd in defense (UGA is 6th). OSU has the 2nd best offense, but has also notched two Ws against Sagarin Top 30 teams. Any order works here and will sort itself out. Let the Dawgs ingest the rat poison a while longer.
In must-win seasons, Dino Babers and Mike Norvell are getting it done. They are a combined 8-0, though FSU has had the far tougher haul so far and is doing it with a banged up Frankenroster.
Given the fluidity of the Big 12, you have to think Baylor will regret no-showing in Provo and that Kleiman is going to be sick to his stomach all year about dropping a home game to Tulane.
USC actually beat a team with a pulse. Barely. So we can sort of rank them. Same ole’ Lincoln Riley, TBH. Poor road play, beat up on cripples at home. Like his OU days, I suspect this team has two losses in front of it.
Washington is frighteningly good…at home. Eventually they will have to leave Seattle, then we’ll see. DeBoer bringing in a modern offense to go with UW’s NFL-stocked defenders is nightmarish for the P12. You can apply this bottom line to NC State, for that matter.
Also frighteningly good, so far: Minnesota, Penn State. They are quietly seal clubbing their schedule. UMN could be a bit fraudulent at day’s end; it’s a weaker SOS. But you beat who you play and they’re thrashing everyone.
Tennessee’s defense is an absolute abomination. Not a lick has changed when you let that impotent Gator offense do you like that at home, in the biggest Knoxville game in a decade.
UK had a scare. But, with a conservative team, those are going to happen. We all doubted Levis’s ability to actually be a functional QB before the season. He’s not proved us wrong yet.
Texas has had a ridiculously tough schedule out of the gate: very good UTSA team, Alabama, at TTU — a rival that hates them more than life itself. That could have been manageable with a passing game. But Card simply isn’t the answer. Play .500 ball and then hope for a nice winnign streak to end the season. There’s definite improvement in Year Two for Sark, but the schedule may not actually reflect it at year’s end if Ewers can’t go.
Getting a big ole’ whiff of fraud coming off of Clemson and Oklahoma State this year. The Pokes face more top-end parity that can exploit it though.
This coaching thing is pretty hard, huh Brent?