THE RANKS: The regular season wrap
Okay, let me explain something here, real quick: I'm judging based on the whole season now, because it's all over. So some teams, even if they were idle, could move up or down, based on how I assessed the season at the close. I also took a closer look at some teams' records as opposed to simply what they did last week. This is the closest I can come after a bizarre season to a satisfying Top 25. Again, I claim no responsibility for anything outside of the Top 25.
I give up.
Feel free to assail. (For Michigan fans: Only if you have something new to say.)
1 (Last week: 1) Ohio State: IDLE. One last game to go to prove they are the No. 1 team in the nation. But watch out -- Urban Meyer is good in the big game. Oh, and I have mad respect for Jim Tressel for abstaining from the final ballot. It should be a rule. I only wish I could abstain from Nos. 7-25.
2 (4) Florida: def. Arkansas, 38-28. Wow. Chris Leak kind of sort of redeems himself. Percy Harvin said, "Reservations for New York in December 2007, thank you very much." And the Gators made reservations for Tempe in January. A tough, gutsy win by a tough, gutsy team. Sorry, Michigan doesn't have a single win that compares.
Yes, Chris, you finally did it.
3 (2) Michigan: IDLE. You feel bad screwing them like this. Really. They had a great run. But they're not getting punished for being idle per se. They're falling because Florida finally proved Saturday that the Gators are the better team. Or at least as good. And a tie goes to the team who hasn't already had a chance. And who has the intangibles.
4 (8) Oklahoma: def. Nebraska, 21-7. What if? What if there hadn't been such a bum call in Oregon? Then Oklahoma would have been in the NC discussion. They should have been. They shouldn't have ended up in Tempe, but they should have been in the conversation. So they get rewarded.
5 (6) LSU: IDLE. Look out. This is a monster team that could very well hang 40 on Notre Dame when man-monster JaMarcus Russell drags four defenders as he makes a picture-perfect throw to the endzone. Having two losses, as talented as they are, is another argument for why doing what Florida did in the SEC deserves to be rewarded.
6 (5) Wisconsin: IDLE. Another victim of the post-season review, as Oklahoma and LSU leapfrog them. Yeah, Big Ten fans will gripe that I'm systematically screwing their teams for the SEC. But that's nonsense. I'm reviewing the whole records of teams where I have qualms. And Oklahoma completed its season, and ended up being better in my estimation than the Badgers.
7 (2) Southern California: lost to UCLA, 13-9. Ding, dong, the witch is dead! What's that about the best conference in the nation, Sagarin? Really? The one whose champion lost to UCL-freaking-A? Kudos to Karl Dorrell and the Bruins. And don't be alarmed if you get flowers signed, "Thanks a bunch. Urban." Or a text message.
8 (7) Arkansas: lost to Florida, 38-28. Gotta give USC-West the head-to-head here. But the Hogs still did better than I and all but a few foresaw. They had a great season this year. Next year, with seasoning, Arkansas could be the favorite for the SEC crown. If they avoid the injury bug.
9 (15) Auburn: IDLE. Again, I'm giving Arkansas the edge on the head-to-head. Yeah, Auburn had a disastrous game against Georgia. But they beat what is now the No. 2 team in the nation, and a look at their schedule leads one to believe that the Ugha game is the exception instead of the rule.
10 (13) Louisville: def. Connecticut, 48-17. Putting up points is what the Cardinals do best, and they've done it all season -- except the second half of the Rutgers game. Again, what might have been. But you have to dock a team for being in the Big East, who are still a BCS conference because of an accident of history. Still a solid year, though.
11 (10) Texas: IDLE. The more I look at them, the uglier those two late-season losses look. Sorry, this team doesn't deserve to be in the Top 10. But, really, who thought they would be after losing Vince Young. This is a team to be dealt with next year. A return to Arrowhead should be penciled into the schedule. But don't use ink yet.
12 (9) Tennessee: IDLE. Um, this is the answer to those who might say I relentlessly moved the Big Ten down and the SEC up. Here, the Vols take a tumble because they just come out looking not as good as I thought they were. But a consistent Erik Ainge could cause ten kinds of trouble for the SEC East next year.
13 (11) Notre Dame: IDLE. Again, the more I look at them, the less impressed I am. Granted, it was still a good season. But take the name off the school, look at the record and tell me you would put this team in the Top 10. I'm still not sure they're not overrated here. Charlie Weis will have his years. This wasn't one of them.
14 (14) West Virginia: def. Rutgers, 41-39 (3 OT). Ah, but for the losses to South Florida and Louisville, Rich Rodriguez' (former?) boys would have won the Big East and been in the middle of the NC discussion. But they lost focus at critical moments. Something for Bama to consider? Really, the Moutaineers hold this spot by a slender lead.
15 (16) Boise State: IDLE. I will give this team a Top 10 spot if they manage to win the bowl game. But I'm sorry, you have to have some stout out-of-conference games to get a high ranking from the WAC. A game against a slumping Oregon State team early in the season isn't quite enough to move them up higher.
16 (12) Rutgers: lost to West Virginia, 41-39 (3 OT). Did we overhype the Scarlet Knights? Maybe a bit. But consider their only losses were a fluke to Cincinnati and a nail-biter to West Virginia, and you have to say Rutgers had a great year. Too bad their "reward" is the Texas Bowl. But a preseason ranking next year could lead to great things if they can beat the teams they need to.
17 (20) Wake Forest: def. Georgia Tech, 9-6. Maybe this is, at times, a Florida-esque team, winning even if it's ugly. Or maybe they need to try not running the peacock in the red zone. But, any way you slice it, Wake Forest had a season no one saw coming. And if they can pick off Louisville in the Orange Bowl, who knows where they might end up?
18 (17) California: def. Stanford, 26-17. At some point, you have to wonder if Tedford is ever going to get it done. The stars line up, he has the talent, and something happens. In this case, there were the implosions against Tennessee, Arizona and USC-West. Maybe the Golden Bears are destined to be also-rans in the Pac-10.
19 (18) Virginia Tech: IDLE. Say what you want about Beamerball, but it gets the Hokies into the polls every year. Kudos to a VT team that got it done without a Vick.
20 (22) Texas A&M: IDLE. Franchione saves his job with the big win over Texas. But he'll have to start doing a bit more next year and the year after if he wants to keep it long term.
21 (NR) Boston College: IDLE. Looking back at it, the Eagles had a good year. And the win over BYU looks more impressive as the Cougars move up the polls. So I'll bump BC onto the poll but not into the Top 20. Seems fair.
22 (23) BYU: IDLE. This is one of those teams where you wonder, "If they were in the Big East..." "If they were in the ACC..." But they're not. So we'll never know. But this seems to fit.
23 (21) Nebraska: lost to Oklahoma, 21-7. Still could be the turnaround year for Callahan's boys. We'll have to wait and see. But a good season nonetheless.
24 (24) Oregon State: def. Hawaii, 35-32. Talk about a team that looked good going down the stretch. The Beavers are looking good enough for their coach to be mentioned for the Alabama vacan... Oh, never mind. That's not an honor.
25 (25) Hawaii: lost to Oregon State, 35-32. Why didn't I drop them. Because they lost to the No. 24 team by a FG. Yes, it was at home. But you would expect the No. 25 team to narrowly lose to the No. 24 team.
FALLING OUT: Georgia Tech looked horrible again...
ON THE BUBBLE: TCU just doesn't have the wow win...Houston and South Carolina could be playing for one of the bottom slots...