BlogPoll ballots are due tomorrow, which gives us a little bit of time to talk out this week's submission. Below is my tentative draft, with a note urging you to chime in if you feel especially strong about something. I've provided a little bit of explanation and commentary about each team.
My ranking methodology depends heavily on a team's resume. The resume takes on more and more importance as more data is gathered throughout the season, but even now, after just one week, I'm beginning the process of rewarding strong wins, punishing losses, and weighting - in some manner - the quality of a team's win. Still, with just one game played, there's a lot of projecting in play.
I will say, as I did with the preseason ballot, that as inexact a science as it is in November, it's practically meaningless in September. Still, talking about these teams now is relatively harmless, so long as we're willing to revise our ballots dramatically as more data is gathered.
1. Southern Cal Not a great night for the Trojans, but nothing to be worried about yet, either.
2. West Virginia A year ago, the defense looked too average to justify optimism of a top-five caliber season. This year? I like the offense a lot, but the same question remains. Bottom line: this ranking may not stick. We'll find out more 9/28 when the Mountaineers travel to play South Florida.
3. Florida They were vastly superior than their opponent, sure, but Tim Tebow looked so, so good out there. Replacing nine starters on defense is worrisome, but the new guys aren't exactly duds.
4. Oklahoma Sam Bradford hasn't faced a real test yet, but he's looked just fine picking on the weak stuff. We'll learn much more this week as the Sooners try to score on a real defense.
5. LSU Mississippi State sure didn't test them, but the LSU offense doesn't look elite to me. Plus, I'm contractually obligated to ding Les Miles points.
6. Hawaii I'm projecting here, obviously, as Hawaii won't have any notches on its belt until it beats someone of note. One loss and they're out from the poll.
7. Louisville Beat up a bad team. As expected.
8. Georgia Absolutely buried Oklahoma State. So much for the Cowpokes turning the corner, huh? (Can Georgia sustain this ranking? I have no idea, but they earned some love with a real win.)
9. California I went straight to someone who was at the game for a report on the Golden Bears and how high I could rank them. Holly isn't as optimistic as some: "Nate Longshore seems inhuman, and I don't mean that in a good way. He was like a simple machine; he didn't make any big plays on his own. As for their defense, the Vols hung 31 on 'em, on the road, with a totally green offensive unit. Tennessee isn't there yet, but I'm not totally sold on Cal just yet."
10. Texas We've covered this already. If Texas' performance wasn't an aberration, things could get ugly. Starting next Saturday.
11. Penn State If Georgia Tech can beat the Irish by 30 in South Bend, the Nittany Lions won't have any excuses next Saturday evening if they fall flat. The Notre Dame offensive line is truly awful.
12. Ohio State Ohio State can snack on Akron this coming Saturday, but they'll get a much stiffer test a week later when they travel to play Washington on the road.
13. Missouri Gary Pinkel is going to blow this, just like Missouri almost blew their win against Illinois.
14. Virginia Tech The offense still looks inept. How do they plan to score in Baton Rouge? I'm not sure they will.
15. TCU This is a big, big game for both programs. Did you know TCU's won five straight against the Big 12? Did you even want to know that?
16. Arkansas A week off before a trip to Tuscaloosa. Show me time for both schools.
17. Nebraska I was legitimately impressed, which is an odd thing to say about a Bill Callahan-coached team. We'll see if it lasts.
18. Alabama A road trip to Vanderbilt presents a real opponent. The real test awaits a week later.
19. Clemson In progress.
20. Texas A&M Fresno State next week, Louisiana-Monroe the week after. Then they get tested at Miami.
21. UCLA If Karl Dorrell's critics are right, this week's home game against BYU could be a big problem.
22. Wisconsin I'm a skeptic here. What can I say?
23. Georgia Tech Tashard Choice is fun to watch, that's for sure. Notre Dame was dismantled.
24. Boston College An impressive win, considering their atrocious start.
25. Rutgers Buffalo makes everyone look good, of course, but I'd forgotten how speedy Ray Rice really is.