Around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, I had a long explanation written out for why I voted the way I did at No. 2 and No. 3, having broken down schedules, ranked wins, road wins, etc.
And then Michigan State rallied back to beat Ohio State, and it was all for naught. Oh well.
So here is how my ballot ended up looking on Sunday morning:
1. Florida State
5. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
11. South Carolina
12. Oklahoma State
13. Arizona State
20. Texas A&M
21. Northern Illinois
Out: Notre Dame
- I was prepared to keep Ohio State at No. 2, but Michigan State took care of that. Auburn's resume' is strong enough that it is clearly the most deserving one-loss team. If anyone's curious for that long, drawn-out explanation for why I was going to keep Ohio State second, I have a mailbag this week. Otherwise, I won't bore you with it here. It's moot.
- Alabama is the next one-loss team because it has five road wins, and two over ranked teams. Baylor gets the nod because it has three road wins, and its lone loss was to Oklahoma State, while Michigan State's was to Notre Dame. Ohio State is further down, behind some two-loss teams, because the Buckeyes just haven't done more overall than Stanford and Missouri.
- I didn't penalize Arizona State or Duke for its losses. Arizona State only dropped a spot, and Duke actually rose a spot, after the loss by Northern Illinois. Yes, Duke was demolished, but it was by the nation's best team (at least as a result of the regular season.) And it wouldn't have been fair to jump Texas A&M, Iowa or anybody immediately behind Duke, just because those teams had the good fortune to not have to play Florida State on Saturday, or to not have to play anybody.
- The thing with Northern Illinois is that it didn't really beat teams convincingly, the way you want a non-BCS team to do and deserve to be ranked. But it did win at Iowa, which otherwise was 8-5,a nd whose only other losses were to top 25 teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin.)
- Finally, this week I took a harder look at Notre Dame's schedule and resume and decided to drop the Fighting Irish. I had them No. 21 last week. My reasoning had been quality losses (at Michigan, vs. Oklahoma and at Stanford), but I didn't put enough emphasis on the loss at Pitt, and the lack of of quality wins, beyond a home win over Arizona State. So Notre Dame was out, and Georgia in.
And if nothing else, being able to say it had the No. 2 team beat before a miracle play should count for something.
- An additional note: A number of people have criticized my ranking of Missouri ahead of South Carolina, so I thought I'd explain the reasoning. Yes, they both have two losses and South Carolina won at Missouri. And yes, the Gamecocks have slightly more wins over ranked teams. But:
1) Head-to-head is only part of the overall body of work.
2) Missouri has five road wins, two more than South Carolina.
3) Missouri beat two teams that South Carolina lost to (Georgia and Tennessee).
4) That loss to Tennessee is a bad one for the Gamecocks. Missouri, on the other hand, lost to two top 10 teams (Auburn and South Carolina, using the completed rankings, not mine.)
5) Missouri's home loss to South Carolina was in overtime, and was without starting quarterback James Franklin.
6) I did not feel Missouri should be penalized too heavily for playing an extra game, and hanging with Auburn for most of the way.
That's my reasoning. I understand any (civil) criticism. But it's my reasoning and I stand behind it.