After volunteering to take on the thankless task of ranking 25 college football teams each week for BON's ballot in the BlogPoll, real life obligations have forced Hopkins Horn to pass the baton, as his Saturday and early week schedules make it all but impossible for him to watch games, study results, and compile a Top 25 ranking with commentary.
So I'm stepping in, ready to stumble through the fog. My Week 3 ballot below, with assorted comments after the jump.
(1) Alabama -- I'm less annoyed that the Crimson Tide are No. 1 any time they deserve to be, but when it spills over into nonsense like last year's rematch with LSU, that's when I get disgusted. They lost, at home, to the No. 1 team, and Oklahoma State should have had the chance to play LSU. There's nothing to complain about yet this year, though; the Tide are pantsing opponents with frightening dominance.
(2) Florida State, (3) Oregon, (4) LSU -- Rearrange these however you please, but the 'Noles defense looks like what we were thinking the Texas defense might be this year, and EJ Manuel has quietly but steadily been progressing up the consistency curve over his last 12 games. Add in a good offensive line and a backfield that is as deep with talent as ours, and I see more balance in the Noles than Oregon and LSU.
(6) Texas, (7) Oklahoma, (8) West Virginia, (9) Kansas State -- They can't all be here at the end, but while two of them should be (and perhaps even three), ask yourself how confidently you'd bet on sorting out how the Big 12 will shake out this year. Has there ever been a deeper and more competitive year for the conference than 2012 appears to be shaping up to be? 2008 was pretty damn wild, and I wouldn't count on seeing three Big 12 teams in the Top 5 again this time around, but it's going to be a wild, exciting round robin, week in and week out. The only safe bet out there? That Kansas State will ruin Texas' season in the finale. Bank it.
(10) Florida -- From dire straits at halftime in College Station but ending in back-to-back road wins to open SEC play, the last two weeks have been exactly what Will Muschamp needed, and the Gators look like they're starting to come together.
(15) Stanford, (16) UCLA, (17) USC -- I almost like UCLA better (at least on paper) but it's hard to trust UCLA football at this point, while David Shaw -- I know what I think he's capable of doing at Stanford. However it shakes out, the Pac-12 is relevant again, a clear third in the pecking order this season behind the Big 12 and SEC. As for USC, am I overreacting to one loss? Maybe, and there's definitely plenty of time for them to climb back into the national title picture, but I've got a feeling this team is one batch of adversity away from completely derailing. They're thin, they're vulnerable on the lines, and Lane Kiffin is the head coach. With Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA all looking capable of running the ball on USC, I'm leaning towards the odds being higher that they suffer multiple losses the rest of the way than running the table to get back in the title chase.
(18) Ohio State -- Charitably ranked for projected improvement as the year goes on, but man is the Big Ten a dreadful mess. As I type that, I actually just realized I neglected to rank Michigan State. Of course, now that I think about it, I can't come up with many reasons to rank them, either. Show me something?
The Rest -- Baylor going to be dangerous all year with Nick Florence running the Briles offense, but the defense hasn't made enough progress to project them as conference title contenders... This TCU team is starting to look like a classic Gary Patterson MacGuyver job -- cobbling together competence out of scraps where he has to, and putting his best players in positions to succeed. They're going to get made to look bad at least a time or two this year, but they're not likely to lose any games that they shouldn't. (Pro Tip to the bored: TCU fans are almost as easy to troll as Aggies. Poke one with a stick, you'll see...
Your turn now. Gripes, agreements, suggestions, blatant errors? I'm open to it all, and interested to hear where others come out at the quarter-pole of the 2012 season.