Here’s my AP Top 25 ballot for the week. There are some significant changes in the top ten:
1 Ohio State
9 Notre Dame
12 Penn State
17 Michigan State
20 Arizona State
23 Boise State
24 Texas A&M
One team left – that’s Kansas State – while Arizona State rejoined the top 25. Folks fixate too much on the bottom part of the ballot, where all we voters can tend to make principled stands and informed selections, as if the key to the poll is figuring out which team is on the move.
Sometimes, we can all get a little static with our top ten. Heading into the weekend, I already knew I’d be looking hard at the makeup of my top ten based on the games that were being played. After it, I knew: Clemson, which I had dropped to No. 2 last week, needed to drop a lot farther down the poll based on its on-field performance, and Ohio State needed to go way up.
OSU is my new No. 1. The Buckeyes deserve that based on the season-long performance, but especially based on what they did Saturday night in a display so effortless and strong with its offensive and defensive lines that you can’t help but notice it. OSU is playing uniquely well at the moment. My vote reflects that.
Clemson isn’t exactly playing poorly, but its 21-20 win at North Carolina, coupled with its first-half struggles and imperfections in many games, doesn’t quite measure up to the seven teams in front of it. UNC isn’t a bad team, but it is a team that lost to Wake Forest and Appalachian State in the previous two weeks, and it’s a team Clemson barely beat. Similar teams – Texas Tech, Nebraska, Mississippi State – stood no chances Saturday in their games against Oklahoma, Ohio State and Auburn. None.
Auburn? Auburn has won a neutral site game over Oregon, a road game at Texas A&M – which represents Clemson’s best win – that Auburn controlled from the start, and a win over Mississippi State. Ohio State has won its two road games by a combined score of 99-17. According ESPN’s team efficiencies metric, Clemson is seventh. Auburn is eighth. I like what Auburn’s done more on the field.
I expect my eighth-place vote on Clemson to be an outlier – though others may see what I do – and figured it deserved an explanation. Ohio State at No. 1 frankly deserves less of one.
The poll encourages voters to make their selections based on actual performance. Not what a team did last year. Not its recruiting rankings. Obviously, voters can have reasonable disagreements about what’s important about performance.
But Clemson as No. 1 requires pretzel logic or a blanket dismissal of what the team has done on the field to uphold what it did last year or could do later this year.