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Pin The Teams On The Ballot: Blog Poll Week 4

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On several occasions I have whined and moaned about casting early-season ballots in the Blog Poll, even going so far as to shoot Brian a note last year expressing that I'm whiny and moan-y about it and why can't he scrap the damn thing until we've seen more football since we all know early polls are evil and foolish and bad-bad-bad. To which he replies something about it being naive to think a fledgling blogger poll that is striving to reach a broader audience can make a mid-season debut. And to which I curtly reply as a PRINCIPLED VOTER HEAR ME ROAR that the only way we can... okay, he's right. 

I dropped my objections, moved on and, when the 2009 poll made its preseason and week one debuts, dutifully filed my best-guess power-pollin' ballots. And then the Week 1 Blog Poll came out and Brian had to explain why he had spiked from the poll a purposefully outrageous ballot:

Anyway… yes, spiked. It's kind of smug to make some sort of point about how no one really knows anything after week one, isn't it? It's doubly so when the poll doesn't require anyone to submit a ballot until after week three. Maybe you're taking the polling thing a little too seriously if you can't just wait, Che. No stunt ballots. (DocSat ballots and other pure resume ballots are not stunt ballots, they're deeply neurotic ballots.)

So before you ask why on my ballot [DELTA = 26 - RANK], I've highlighted in bold the reason for my two-week silence. It's a sensible compromise by Brian -- allowing interested parties to spin the wheel and disinterested parties the opportunity to sit it out until some football's been played. Works for me...

After the jump, a massive chart to provide some statistical context to teams, followed by this week's ballot.

Though I've watched a lot of football over the past three weeks, I've not spent much time thinking about rankings, so before diving into the balloting I compiled a rough-and-dirty guide to help give me a sense of how the teams I'm considering have been faring. Below I've charted teams by points scored and allowed per game (national rank in parentheses), followed by the team's national rankings in third down defense, yards per play gained, yards per play allowed, and strength of schedule as measured by Sagarin.

The chart below includes only the 34 teams I thought to write down when I went through the various stats pages, so if you're curious about the statistical numbers of a team I haven't included, follow the links above. The teams are not charted in the order by which I decided to rank them.

TEAM Scoring Off Scoring Def 3rd Down Def Yards/Play Off Yards/Play Def SOS
Alabama 40.5 (9) 13.0 (13) 9 8 3 70
Texas 49.5 (1) 15.2 (23) 4 22 5 101
Florida 45.5 (2) 7.3 (4) 15 2 2 95
Va Tech 30.8 (44) 16.5 (28) 17 55 45 4
Cincinnati 43.4 (5) 14.0 (16) 70 3 23 84
Boise St 41.8 (7) 14.0 (16) 36 8 26 48
LSU 28.8 (53) 11.5 (8) 83 79 26 48
Houston 43.0 (6) 23.3 (61) 113 16 61 79
Iowa 25.0 (75) 11.5 (8) 57 79 38 5
USC 25.5 (55) 10.0 (5) 17 8 3 36
Kansas 40.5 (9) 13.5 (14) 14 19 45 150
Ohio St 28.5 (55) 11.7 (3) 75 51 21 42
Oklahoma 40.7 (8) 4.7 (1) 25 26 1 81
Okie St 39.0 (12) 21.3 (44) 30 22 38 104
Missouri 36.8 (20) 15.5 (25) 79 29 38 91
Nebraska 39.3 (11) 7.0 (3) 53 5 23 78
California 37.3 (18) 20.8 (42) 46 29 38 28
Oregon 29.8 (49) 20.5 (38) 39 74 16 3
UCLA 25.0 (75) 12.7 (12) 11 93 5 62
Arizona 26.8 (66) 20.5 (38) 81 35 30 21
TCU 33.3 (29) 15.0 (21) 28 29 11 47
Auburn 45.3 (3) 24.3 (69) 90 5 30 107
South Car. 24.5 (81) 17.5 (31) 49 70 16 24
Michigan 37.5 (16) 22.8 (58) 51 35 80 105
Notre Dame 31.5 (40) 22.3 (50) 66 28 103 29
NC State 37.8 (14) 14.8 (20) 3 51 7 146
South Florida 37.8 (14) 6.8 (2) 1 11 16 131
Georgia 30.8 (44) 29.8 (95) 34 40 61 6
Georgia Tech 27.0 (65) 21.0 (43) 66 40 61 6
Penn State 25.0 (75) 10.3 (6) 21 55 11 83
Ole Miss 35.7 (24) 12.0 (10) 6 48 16 117
Miami (FL) 26.0 (72) 27.3 (84) 72 35 68 1
BYU 34.5 (26) 23.3 (61) 104 19 61 20

 

THE TOP THREE

1. Florida -- Alabama is the sexy pick this week, but while Greg McElroy (Southlake Carroll HS) is coming into his own, unless the concussion takes out Tebow, I at this point still like the Gators better at quarterback and, yes, defense. One gets the feeling the Gators are just warming up.

2. Texas -- The Miners are a bad football team, but I'm not sure I've ever seen so thoroughly lopsided a boxscore as Texas' 64-7 win over UTEP on Saturday. Like Florida, the Longhorns are just getting started; with the nation's best special teams unit, and a deep, physical, and smart defense realizing its destructive potential, it's not a stretch to think Texas could win the Big 12 with a freshman quarterback. The senior they've got earns them the #2 spot.

3. Alabama -- I haven't seen BZ's media hype curve for this week yet, but I'm fully expecting the 'Bama buzz to make an appearance. Rightfully so, as the Tide have probably looked the best through the early going, with the offense (learn the name: Trent Richardson) catching up to what we knew would be a stout defense. While the nation obsesses over Tebow's health status, Tide fans must fret about the season-ending injury to the exceptional Dont'a Hightower.

YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE

4. Virginia Tech -- I honestly have no idea how to sort out the next grouping of teams and I won't quibble with anyone who prefers a different ordering. The Hokies' defensive excellence against Nebraska and Miami nudge them up my ballot for now, but I remind the readership that Tyrod Taylor is completing 47% of his passes. My confidence in this team is low.

5. Southern Cal -- Perhaps the most enigmatic of them all, the Trojans should have won at Washington (red zone turnovers) and should have lost at Ohio State (Jim Tressel's existence). Nevertheless, among this grouping, USC seems to me the team most likely to be excellent by year's end; at least this early in the year, with the ballot still tilting towards power poll, the Trojans get a higher ranking than their on-field performance might suggest.

6. Oklahoma -- I apologize for writing about this grouping like it's a big game coached by Bob Stoops -- slight variations on the same story -- but I'm not sure we can at this point say anything definitive about this Sooners team. If they win their next two (at Miami, versus Texas in the Cotton Bowl), they'll be legitimate national title contenders.

7. TCU -- The Cougars and Broncos are getting more love, but Gary Patterson has quietly put together another strong football team perfectly capable of beating up BCS schools. Andy Dalton has turned a corner, and if they can develop their running game a bit more the defense is strong enough for the Frogs to win out.

8. Houston -- The wins at Oklahoma State and versus Texas Tech are outstanding, but the defense is a big problem. Keenum's an entertaining player to watch, that's for sure.

9. Cincinnati -- Hello, Token Big East favorite. You look pretty good and have a comfortable path to your conference title, but nonetheless will lose a game or two along the way, finishing in the Top 10 after winning the BCS Bowl in which nobody thinks you deserve to play. Goodbye.

10. Iowa -- The offense is a delight to watch, but I'm not sure the Hawkeyes have the offense to win the shootouts of Big 10 conference play.

Okay I'm losing my fracking mind trying to talk meaningfully about this. "But PB, that's why you must rank strictly by resume!" Thank you, Helpful Reader, that would be lovely, only we haven't many games by which to figure out how to weight the wins and losses. How bad was Oklahoma State's loss to Houston? Two weeks later, is it even a bad loss?

Wins and margins and all the rest help a lot more today than they did after week one, and will more and more with each passing week, but it's still too early to draw many conclusions about most of the teams. That's true every year, of course, but seems particularly challenging this year when four weeks in fans keep comparing it to the schizophrenic 2007 season.

Ballot is below. Your help is welcome in the comments. I probably won't argue with you. Let's talk in November?

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Alabama
4 Virginia Tech
5 Southern Cal
6 Oklahoma
7 TCU
8 Houston
9 Cincinnati
10 Iowa
11 LSU
12 Ohio State
13 Kansas
14 Boise State
15 Oklahoma State
16 Miami (Florida)
17 Nebraska
18 Penn State
19 Missouri
20 Oregon
21 California
22 Mississippi
23 Georgia
24 Brigham Young
25 Michigan