Apologies for missing last week -- issues with SBNation's ballot page, story-editing software, and nearly every browser and operating system combination known to man, conspired to keep Week 8 under wraps and away from your prying eyes.
(Actually, the technical difficulties gave me an unexpected, yet appreciated break following Week 7's mammoth piece).
So, back to the ballot-based
|2||Alabama Crimson Tide||--|
|3||Oklahoma St. Cowboys||--|
|5||Boise St. Broncos||--|
|6||Kansas St. Wildcats||--|
|8||Michigan St. Spartans||--|
|14||South Carolina Gamecocks||--|
|16||Texas Tech Red Raiders||--|
|20||Penn St. Nittany Lions||--|
|21||Arizona St. Sun Devils||--|
|22||Virginia Tech Hokies||--|
|24||Texas A&M Aggies||--|
Breakdown of the Top 10 after the jump:
1. LSU - Despite the suspension of three key players (including two of their best), the Hat and company helped remind fans of all stripe (not just those of the Tiger variety) how aptly-named Death Valley is. In Saturday's evisceration of Auburn, there was no clearer metaphor for LSU's domination of the season than the vicious circle that played out time and time again in the second half: flexing of offensive muscle, inevitable score, kickoff, ensuing return game carnage reminiscent of Gallipolli, and merciless crushing of feeble opposition. This team is an absolute juggernaut at this point in the season, and it's a mystery to this pseudo-pollster how anyone could argue any other team as top dog.
2. Alabama - Although they're exhibiting a level of dominance that's roughly on the same level as LSU, there's still a marked gap between the two (see? there's even an extra paragraph break up there just to prove it!). Remove three key players from Alabama's lineup, and how do they fare against a Top 25 team? Due to the interchangeability that Alabama's recruiting depth has allowed them, they'd almost certainly win -- but almost certainly in a much less-convincing manner than LSU. With that said, there couldn't have been a college football fan out there (excepting the most diehard of Vol faithful) that saw the Tide's early game deadlock ending any other way. It was never a question of if the turbo would kick in and leave Tennessee sputtering in their wake, but simply a question of when and how.
3. Oklahoma State - This team brings to mind the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" when it's firing on all cylinders. There may not be a better QB-WR batter than Weeden and Blackmon; and scheming defensively against these two and their supporting cast is like applying a tourniquet -- it's a measure of desperation with its own set of risks, but gives you your only real chance to stop the bleeding (but ask Texas A&M how that works out). As the season progresses, the annual Bedlam game looks less like a season-ending dream-crushing for the Pokes than it does for the Sooners (that is, of what remains for the latter).
4. Stanford - Despite some first-quarter struggles, the Cardinal never had any doubt in their own ability to pull away and destroy the Huskies -- and the only thing that we may really have learned from this game was just how foolish it was for the rest of us to entertain such doubt (including this guy). Historical patterns and statistical analysis seem to suggest that Stanford's success is always cyclical and relatively short-lived. Be that as it may, woe betide the pundit (amateur or otherwise) that bets against them while they're in one of those extended moments.
5. Boise State - While some detractors would point to a close game over Air Force as their long-awaited validation that this year's Broncos are just the standard yearly update to the blue-and-orange flavored football chicanery and hucksterism that detracts from the elite conferences and traditional powers...those would be the same detractors who are offering their standard yearly update to the tired excuse that such teams don't deserve consideration. Just remember folks: a close, ugly win over hapless Utah State merits ranking and validation of your team's superiority; but a not-as-close win over a scrappy Air Force team in no way demonstrates an ability to win a close game and overcome a (relatively) dysfunctional offense.
(NOTE: Yes, I am aware of the irony of constantly taking up for Boise State, while their fans continue to demonstrate some of the most grating, obnoxious hypocrisy churned out this side of mainstream media. Classic case of "hate-the-fans-not-the-team" syndrome.)
6. Kansas State - Despite some claims of a resume far too weak to merit placement this high (which may, admittedly, be true), I'm inclined to cut some slack to an undefeated BigXII-2-1+2 =??? team, since I've done so with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It may be true that the Wildcats are just ripe for a market correction, thus making there placement here inappropriate, but Oklahoma already gave us that, Oklahoma State nearly did, and so here K-State stays (obligatory: "that's the way the cookie crumbles" joke).
7. Oregon - Yes, this is a one-loss team immediately ahead of a pair of undefeated BCS-conference teams; however, outside of the opening week loss to LSU, the Ducks have done little to dissuade me from the notion that they could go toe-to-toe with nearly any other team in the top 10 (this week's or otherwise). Kenjon Barner's 115 yards against Colorado (and even more impressive 171 yards against a tough Arizona State team, the week before) are just one demonstration of this team's ability to replace one strength with another when roster attrition sets in. A team that can do that at multiple positions -- as Oregon has -- is a team not to be underestimated.
8. Michigan State - Sparty don't surf, but he does continue to win. Michigan State also gets a bump from me for finally proving what some had suspected all along -- that Wisconsin had been allowed to masquerade as a top team for too long, and that a solid set of defensive players giving Russell Wilson a variety of confusing looks, could trump the overconfident Badgers. Done and done.
9. Clemson - Nothing to say here, except that Clemson appears to be the anti-Wisconsin in my rankings -- remaining at the top, and increasingly giving me the uncomfortable feeling that they actually belong there. As much as Wisconsin was begging to be exposed and then was, Clemson appears to be, but continues to find ways to surge through second halves of games. Of partial consolation to Auburn fans is that the high valuation of Clemson by polls that actually matter makes them look like a quality loss. Any port in a storm, as the saying goes.
10. Oklahoma - Though the Texas Tech team that the Sooners lost to may not be highly-regarded by the polls or by fans at large, they are dangerous in every sense of the word (undefeated through five games, followed by two losses to undefeated teams). The Oklahoma defense made a very strong case for sending the Sooners plummeting the maximum-allowable 10 spots in my poll (having surrendered a ghastly 572 yards and 41 points); still, this is a team with a tremendous amount of upside that managed to keep it close, unlike many of the other Top 25 teams that have stumbled this season.
Argument, disagreement, long-held grudge over a land-dispute involving the Board of Regents at one of the schools I've included? As always, discuss below.