OK, so the AP Top 25 poll should've just been released, and with it comes my weekly analysis of how (my) top 25 fared. As I did with the preseason poll, I'll try to give you a glimpse each week into why I placed the teams where I did.
1. Alabama - No brainer here. The Crimson Tide are still reigning national champions, and they pounded San Jose State in just the fashion they should have during Week 1. These guys won't come down until I feel someone is worthy of knocking them down -- sans Ingram and Dareus and all.
2. Boise State - I'm sure some voters struggled with where to put these guys, but I feel the Broncos deserve to be in this 1, 2 or 3 discussion for sure. I picked Boise No. 2 on my preseason ballot, and after last night's win, I had to leave it there. Now, if the Broncos had lost... Well, I'm not quite sure how far they would have fallen.
3. Ohio State - So far (after one week, ha!) the only team that appears it could hang with Alabama or even Boise State is Ohio State. The Buckeyes, like most of these top 25 teams, looked strong in their opener against Marshall. They also came in at No. 3 in my preseason poll, and I don't think they should budge from that spot.
4. TCU - Now things start to get interesting. TCU rises on my ballot given some of the turmoil teams like Texas, Florida and Oklahoma went through just to get wins over teams they should have steamrolled. Because of their struggles, they all fell and TCU took advantage by beating a very good Oregon State team on an intimidating bowl-type stage. (Of course, had the Horned Frogs lost, I'm not too sure where I would have put them).
5. Texas - The Longhorns did beat Rice rather handily, but Gilbert's debut at quarterback was relatively ho-hum. Texas' defense struggled a little more than it seemed it should have, as well. But given their Big 12 schedule and the fact that Gilbert should get more comfortable as the season goes along, the Longhorns must remain a top 10 team, and, I believe, are still a top 5 program.
6. Nebraska - I had an interesting conversation with a Nebraska friend of mine last night, and I can't lie, it reminded me how much I actually like this team. Bo Pellini is on track to make this program nationally relevant again, and a 39-point win (Western Kentucky's 10 points Saturday came with mostly backups in the game) proves that. Minus a home game against Texas and a road game at Oklahoma State, the Cornhuskers' schedule is quite manageable. But again, I do preface this pick by saying that the less than stellar play by Oklahoma and Florida prompted a team like Nebraska to rise on my poll.
7. Oregon - This is another program I felt should leapfrog Oklahoma and Florida. I mean, 72 points?! And a shutout out at that?! The Duck mascot had to do 506 push-ups; that's unreal! Originally (call it East Coast bias or whatever), I didn't think Oregon deserved a top 15 even a top 10 billing. Well, the Ducks showed me they can live up to that standard by blowing out a team their opening week like a top 10 team ought to do. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain this position.
8. Iowa - I said it during the preseason, but I really like Iowa based on what I saw in last year's Orange Bowl. A big, physical and now more experienced defensive line anchors this group. The Hawkeyes' offense appeared to flow well also in this weekend's big win over Eastern Illinois. Like Oregon, we'll see if this can last.
9. Florida - Now I get to the Gators. I do think, ultimately, like Texas, Florida will get hot at the right time and will potentially become a no-doubt-about-it top 5 team. I can see John Brantley getting a little more comfortable, shaking off the first-game nerves and leading this team to big blowout victories. But when it takes some late fourth-quarter magic to beat lowly Miami (Ohio) -- apologies to my Miami buddies there -- you've got to fall. Again, in time, this program can be special. Just not this week.
10. Oklahoma - Yes, I had the Sooners at No. 4 in the preseason and now I have them 10th. I wasn't sure if that No. 4 billing was appropriate at the time, and now I know my suspicions were correct. Oklahoma has a good team -- as always, Texas will be the real test to how legit it is -- but top 10 good may even be a stretch. There are just too many other talented teams. The Sooners, if they aren't careful, may be on the outside looking in at some point this season.
11. Virginia Tech - The Hokies were 10th in general body balloting last week, and I didn't think that should change too much. A lot of people are saying the Virginia Tech loss makes the ACC look bad once again... I disagree. Although the game calls were somewhat questionable (but of course, I have never experienced the pressure of making such decisions on a stage like that on a split-second's notice) in the last two minutes for Virginia Tech, still, the Hokies were mere plays away from walking away with a HUGE win for themselves and the conference. I do believe Virginia Tech remains a strong team, and could easily pop back into the top 10 discussion. Let me say this once: Boise State is just that good.
12. Wisconsin - By schooling, I am a Big Ten guy. I do believe the conference gets overlooked certain years for having good teams. This is one of those years. The Badgers are one of those under-the-radar kinds of teams that could really pop up and upset the balance of the poll as the year goes forward. Of course, they also must later play Iowa, Ohio State, a possibly back Michigan program and even my alma mater Northwestern (who, despite last week's narrow win over Vandy...oy...still is on the rise in the conference, too).
13. Miami - I still don't have my finger on the Hurricanes. While the blowout win over FAMU was big, I'm still not sure if I've bought all the "Miami's back" hype yet. I kind of do want to believe it, because I like Randy Shannon, but I'm just not sure how good this team is. This week with Ohio State, we'll find out. If the Hurricanes can sneak away with a win, they could very well vault into a No. 9 or 10 spot next week. A loss, and they'll probably plummet into the 20s.
14. Georgia Tech - Of course, this is the team I see everyday and I know the most about. I personally want to see the Yellow Jackets do well because I do think there is an unfair perception about what their offense is. If the Yellow Jackets flip on the switch, play like Paul Johnson believes they can, I'll try not to say "I told you so." But if they cannot do that, particularly next week with North Carolina, they could fall far much like they did last season. Also, if you saw my preseason ballot -- I had Tech 13th -- you'll see I dropped the Jackets a notch. Nothing against them, I just felt Oregon deserved to be a top 10 team. By default, that's knocked a few of my previous teams down.
15. Penn State - We'll see a lot more about this team when it travels to Alabama this weekend. I believe a good Nittany Lions team isn't just good for the Big Ten, it's good for college football. We'd all love to see JoePa around coaching well as long as he can. (Well, maybe not Ohio State fans). Even a close loss at Alabama legitimizes this ranking, to me.
16. West Virginia - The Mountaineers are clicking, but I must confess that this ranking has more to do with the fact that Southern Cal and Auburn, in particular, were less-than-impressive with how they handled their first-week games.
17. South Carolina - Is South Carolina really the third-best team in the SEC? We'll find out when the Gamecocks host Georgia this weekend. I do believe South Carolina deserves a top 20 ranking, and at least right now, I do believe they are the second-best team in the SEC East. While Georgia handled Louisiana-Lafayette well, as it should have, the Bulldogs are traveling to Columbia, S.C. While Mark Richt actually does quite well there, this year could be different. Whenever the 'Dogs and Gamecocks get together, it's always a close game. This time, with one of Spurrier's strongest teams of late, that closeness may tip out of Georgia's favor.
18. Southern Cal - OK, the Trojans scored 49 points on the road...er, on the island, er, on the long plane ride. They still deserve a top 20 ranking for that alone. But Lane Kiffin has to corral his father's defense if Southern Cal hopes to make a statement in the polls this year.
19. Auburn - I still like this Auburn team; they were in my preseason top 15. But after letting Arkansas State amass 26 points, I felt the Tigers should fall. Of course, my No. 19 ranking is still higher than the 22 ranking the general body gave them in the preseason.
20. Florida State - Yes, it was Samford, but Samford very easily could have been Arkansas State or Jacksonville State or Utah State (lotta "State" schools there). The Seminoles rolled to a nice win in Jimbo Fisher's debut game. Now, we'll have to see if Christian Ponder is indeed the man who can sustain it.
21. Georgia - Like the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs fell a spot in poll, but that has more to do with the teams who I placed above the both of them that knocked them down a notch. You'll note, I had Georgia 20th in my preseason poll. I do believe the South Carolina game will be a struggle for the Bulldogs, but if Richt can surprise me and pull off another win in Columbia, then these guys may just be cracking the top 15 before too long.
22. Arkansas - I'm still impressed with Ryan Mallett and company. The 'Hogs will be in the top 25 discussion the rest of the year. Although, the whole "Is the SEC West weak" argument will haunt them all season.
23. LSU - Yep, I had the Tigers higher in the preseason, but when you let a team of backup players climb back from down 20 in a big, primetime game as last Saturday's was, you've got to fall. I'm still not sure if LSU is as good as even 23rd, but I believe the Tigers are good enough. Enough being the key word. The deeper into the year we get, we'll see if they're for real.
24. Arizona - The Wildcats may have only played Toledo, but the convincing win has to get them some recognition. I had them on my preseason ballot, and I believe they should definitely be in the top 25 discussion.
25. Oregon State - Aside from the Ducks, Trojans and Wildcats, the Beavers are also the pride of the Pac-10. The game they gave TCU the other night was great. And, they did it in a hostile "road" type atmosphere at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Yes, they weren't in my original top 25, but after that outing, they had to make the cut. The Boise State game will be a great test, but I do believe the Beavers are for real.
Teams left off:
North Carolina - There's just too much still going on in Chapel Hill. Once things get a little less hazy, I'll have a better handle on this team. Until then, they fall out of the top 25. A win over Georgia Tech in two weeks, and they definitely are back in.
Utah - After beating Pitt, these guys are close. I wanted to include them this week, but there were just not enough spots.
Pitt - The Panthers lost to Utah, so they had to fall. I believe they'll be back in before it's all said and done.
Notre Dame - Yes, one of these weeks, Brian Kelly will have this team on my list. The Irish are close, and a win over Michigan will really help.