Resume Earns Irish a Spot

It's not a spot that matters, ranked No. 21 in my final Fox Sports Poll for the 2013 regular season, but the presence of nine bowl foes with three quality wins -- including one against the BCS's No. 4 team -- and but one bad loss among the team's four defeats is better than most of college football's also-rans this fall.

Asked in early October to be one of 17 to participate in the inaugural Fox Sports college football poll, I jumped at the chance.

I promised (myself) I'd pour over teams' resumes, slotting them first as undefeated, one-loss, two-loss (and later three- and four-loss teams) and not reverting to the crutch of moving each up and down the rankings due merely to the results of the most recent college football weekend.

Each week I took 35-40 teams that were on my radar and re-ranked them using criteria such as top tier wins, quality wins, quality road wins, acceptable ("no-shame") losses, bad losses (both in terms of the opponent and potentially the game score/tenor), and to a lesser extent, whether a close victory or puzzling defeat came against an arch-rival, and then finally, the eye test.

It wasn't easy. There's the sport's top tier, then a collection of 20-25 teams that could beat each other on a given day.

In the interest of full disclosure, below is my final Fox Sports Poll for the regular season.

#1 Florida State

No. 1 in every poll that exists outside of the state of Alabama.
Why No. 1 for me? Completely dominated decent teams (Miami, Duke, Maryland), their chief rival in Florida, and BCS Bowl participant Clemson…in Death Valley. Their only scare was on the road against a decent Boston College squad and they won by 14. They're an A+ on the eye test and have the best offensive player in the nation.

Playing Devil's Advocate How good is Clemson, the best team Florida State beat? Clemson beat…Georgia. And?

#2 Auburn

No. 2 in the BCS...
Why No. 2 for me? Wins over Alabama (the best win of the college football season), Texas A&M, Georgia, and in the SEC Championship game over Missouri…A zero shame loss at LSU…Wins over bowl teams Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Washington State -- the latter in the opener out of conference, represent a top-tier season resume. Another A+ team on the eye test.

Playing Devil's Advocate It took a miracle to beat Alabama in Jordan-Hare. Are they actually better than the Tide? Alabama would be favored over Florida State while Auburn is more than a touchdown underdog.

#3 Alabama

No. 3 in the BCS...
Why No. 3 for me? A+ on the eye test…A no-shame loss at Auburn (the best game of the college football season)…Wins over Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State -- two of them true road games with one neutral -- are quality wins with a convincing victory against LSU the best on their resume…They absolutely annihilated poor teams, not many can claim that.

Playing Devil's Advocate I think they'd win the national championship in a four-team playoff. Other than that, No. 3 appears obvious.

#4 Stanford

No. 5 in the BCS...
Why No. 4 ahead of Michigan State? Stanford played six teams of high quality (Oregon, Arizona State twice, Notre Dame, USC, and UCLA) and beat five of them while Michigan State (below) played two and beat one…The Cardinal defeated three more bowl teams in Washington, Washington State and Oregon State. Defense is an "A" on the eye test while the offense is a solid B at worst.

Playing Devil's Advocate for Michigan State: You can cancel out Stanford's loss at USC with Michigan State's at Notre Dame, but the Cardinal also lost to Utah; Michigan State avoided such a defeat. For those that disagree with two-loss Stanford over one-loss MSU, I hear you. And we'll find out on January 1.

#5 Michigan State

No. 4 in the BCS...
Why No. 5 for me? A no-shame loss at rival Notre Dame is their only blemish…Broke then No. 2 Ohio State's 24-game winning streak…destroyed chief rival Michigan…won at Iowa and Nebraska and at home vs. Minnesota -- three more bowl teams. Defense is an A+ on the eye test.

Why Behind Stanford? Seven victories vs. legitimately bad teams litter their resume…As noted above, Stanford played a much harder schedule with six teams of high quality and beat five of them while the Spartans played two and beat one…The MSU offense is nowhere near BCS Championship caliber.

In the end, I believe Stanford had a better season and would have beaten Michigan State had they played in September, October, or November. But we'll find out in January.

#6 Missouri

No. 8 in the BCS...
Why No. 6 for me? SEC East champs have two no-shame losses -- in double overtime vs. South Carolina and in the SEC Championship game vs. No. 2 Auburn, a game in which the powerful Tigers won in the fourth quarter…Quality wins include Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Georgia…Their second loss only occurred because they won their division and were forced to play the nation's No. 2 team as a result.

Playing Devil's Advocate Non-conference schedule was pathetic…A previously fine defense was overwhelmed vs. the best team it faced in Auburn…Lost at home to South Carolina (ranked below, same record)…Were a missed 24-yard field goal (in the second overtime) away from an undefeated regular season.

#7 South Carolina

No. 9 in the BCS...
Why No. 7 for me? Two top tier wins, at Missouri and against Clemson with quality wins at Central Florida, against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt and a no-shame loss at Georgia.

Why behind Missouri South Carolina beat the Tigers in 2OT but also dropped a decision at 5-7 Tennessee (their schedules were otherwise similar) and Missouri won the SEC East -- ahead of South Carolina.

#8 Baylor

No. 6 in the BCS...
Why No. 8 for me? Destroyed BCS at large team Oklahoma in Waco but were overmatched in their only road test, losing 49-17 at Oklahoma State. Handily defeated a fine Texas team to conclude the regular season and won two more vs. bowl participants Kansas State (on the road) and Texas Tech, though the latter lost its last five and were annihilated in four of them. Aside from one embarrassing defeat in which they were exposed as fraudulent among title contenders, the Bears offense looked awesome.

Why below both Missouri and South Carolina Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas, and TCU. Come on. Baylor effectively started it's season on November 7 against Oklahoma and then finished 4-1. The rest is cosmetic.

#9 Central Florida

No. 15 in the BCS...
Why No. 9 for me? Only loss was at consensus Top 10 South Carolina, 28-25…Won handily out of conference at 7-5 Penn State…Won at then No. 8, eventual 11-1 Louisville…Beat bowl teams Houston and Rutgers (easily)…Won final eight games.

Playing Devil's Advocate Needed the best catch of the college football season to beat 2-10 Temple. TEMPLE!! Winning the American Athletic Conference isn't overly impressive.

#10 Oregon

No. 10 in the BCS...
Why No. 10 for me? A no-shame loss (aside from the reality that they were petrified of the Cardinal front seven) at top-tier Stanford…Absolute destruction of inferior teams…Stepped out of conference to take on Tennessee (59-14) and traveled to Virginia (59-10)…Bundled bowl teams Washington and Washington State…Destroyed a quality UCLA team (42-14)…Held off chief rival Oregon State to win their second close game of the season.

Playing Devil's Advocate Arizona? Really? 42-16 at Arizona with the Pac-12 title still up for grabs? Then again, I think they'd beat #9 UCF. You see how this can be difficult through 25?

#11 LSU

No. 16 in the BCS…
Why No. 11 for me? They're the best three-loss team in the nation by a wide margin…No shame loss at both Georgia and Alabama…Defeated No. 2 Auburn…Destroyed Texas A&M…Held off chief rival Arkansas…Beat bowl-bound Mississippi State in Starkville, 59-26.

Playing Devil's Advocate Finished 1-3 on the road in conference…Furman, Kent State, and UAB were out of conference, as was 4-8 TCU (though that was good faith scheduling by the Tigers).

#12 Ohio State

No. 7 in the BCS…
Why No. 12 for me? A no-shame loss against Michigan State…Best win was against a quality Wisconsin team with victories over (7-5) Penn State, a 63-14 bloodletting in which the Buckeyes looked to be a contender, and then at rival Michigan, a narrow escape in which the Wolverines played at an extremely high level.

Why behind LSU, Oregon, Baylor and Central Florida? Aside from the reality that LSU and Oregon would score 60 and 70 respectively against the Buckeyes all-crease defense? How is their one-loss season more impressive on paper than Central Florida's?

I had Baylor behind OSU for the entire season but at the end of their respective slates, Baylor's wins over Oklahoma and Texas rank higher than Ohio State's over Wisconsin and Michigan. (Too bad the Buckeyes didn't get matched with the Bears in January.)

#13 Oklahoma

No. 11 in the BCS…
Why No. 13 for me? Stepped out of conference to win handily over Notre Dame…Won at top-tier Oklahoma State, their chief rival...

Playing Devil's Advocate Were bludgeoned at Baylor, who proved eminently beatable by a focused defense…Eye test isn't overly impressive on either side of scrimmage, but especially the one-dimensional offense.

#14 Oklahoma State

No. 13 in the BCS…
Why No. 14 for me? Registered a seismic win over one-loss Baylor…Handled Texas easily in Austin…Won out of conference vs. bowl foe Mississippi State…Held on vs. bowl foe Kansas State…Rest of schedule is underwhelming.

Why behind Oklahoma? I'm not sure they should be, but they lost at home to the Sooners in the last game of the season and finished with the same record. Prior to the game, I favored the Cowboys over Bob Stoops' squad (consider the outcomes vs. top common foe Baylor) but Oklahoma proved it on the field.

#15 Arizona State

No. 14 in the BCS

Why No. 15 for me? I had originally dropped the Sun Devils around 19 but later realized that their final poll fall was by virtue of playing an extra game against a top team in Stanford, something I didn't penalize Missouri for, previously. ASU stepped out of conference to play Wisconsin and Notre Dame…ASU was hammered twice by Stanford and famously robbed Wisconsin of the chance to win in late-September with an egregious clock management error by the officials.

Playing Devil's Advocate: They missed Oregon in conference play, a huge break… The win over USC came when the Trojans were an utter mess under the guidance of Lane Kiffin…Not sure where else you'd want to rank them considering they beat UCLA in November in Los Angeles.

#16 UCLA

No. 17 in the BCS…
Why No. 16 for me? Three no-shame losses to Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona State, though Oregon put a west coast whooping on the Bruins…Won at Arizona in November…Destroyed chief rival USC in the Coliseum in their most recent outing…Beat bowl-bound Washington and won in a rout at Nebraska -- kudos for out of conference scheduling effort.

Why ahead of Clemson in my poll? A far tougher schedule…Clemson played two top tier teams and lost both games, one in epic fashion at home...

#17 Clemson

No. 12 in the BCS…
Why No. 17 for me? Best win was in the opener against Georgia when the Bulldogs were at their best…Beat a decent Boston College team and won at Maryland and against bowl-bound Georgia Tech…Their only losses were to the nation's best (FSU) and a very good South Carolina team…Deserve credit for playing two strong SEC teams out of conference -- it's Clemson's actual conference that's the issue.

Why behind the three-loss Bruins? As noted above, Clemson matched up twice with top tier teams and lost first by 100 points to Florida State at home (I think it was 100, I lost track) and then by two touchdowns, though they played chief rival South Carolina fairly well. You're splitting hairs between the Bruins and Tigers, I like UCLA's resume.

#18 Louisville

No. 18 in the BCS

Why No. 18 for me? Beat bowl-bound Rutgers, Houston, and Cincinnati, the latter in overtime on December 5…They can score…No-shame loss to conference champion Central Florida.

Why so low with one loss? Nice schedule…

#19 Texas A&M

No. 21 in the BCS

Why No. 19 for me? A collection of no-shame losses to Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, and LSU (my God). Then again, who'd they beat? Bowl foes such as Vanderbilt (whom I've ranked), Mississippi State, and Ole Miss are the best the Aggies have to offer.

Playing Devil's Advocate: Well, I actually think they'd beat Louisville, but you can't lose four games and complain about your No. 18 slotting, either.

#20 Wisconsin

No. 19 in the BCS

Why No. 20 for me? Played Ohio State tough in Columbus…Won at Minnesota, a quality home team and easily at a decent Iowa team that hasn't lost since (November 2)…Stepped out of conference for a win against Brigham Young and did everything it could to have a chance for a win at Arizona State before game officials mis-managed a final spike sequence, thus not allowing the Badgers a chance for a game-winning field goal…Quality eye test team offensively.

Playing Devil's Advocate: Where do you want them? 9-3 without a win of true merit. A home loss to Penn State to end the season was puzzling…

#21 Notre Dame

Not ranked in the BCS

Why No. 21 for me? Beat (BCS) No. 4 Michigan State…Beat No. 15 Arizona State and No. 25 USC…Beat bowl teams Brigham Young and Navy while losing to bowl teams Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, and Stanford -- two of the four BCS Bowl participants…At rival Michigan, at Stanford, and against Oklahoma are all no-shame defeats…The Pittsburgh loss precludes a higher ranking by any reasonable human…Despite a top tier resume, the eye test is not overly impressive on either side of the ball.

Playing Devil's Advocate: Pitt stinks. Also, upon further review, I think I should have ranked them No. 22

#22 Georgia

No. 22 in the BCS

Why No. 22 for me? Not much shame in close losses at (BCS) No. 12 Clemson, against No 8 Missouri, and at No. 2 Auburn -- on a Hail Mary, no less. The loss at bowl bound Vanderbilt (31-27) is the only minor blemish, and only because the Commodores don't have a history of beating such programs…Wins over LSU and South Carolina are of the highest quality…Played a great schedule that includes stepping out of conference to face rivals Clemson and Georgia Tech, the latter another bowl-bound team…

Playing Devil's Advocate: I think they might have a case ahead of Notre Dame, actually. Pending a win over Nebraska, the Bulldogs will likely leapfrog the Irish in my post-season poll.

#23 Northern Illinois

No. 23 in the BCS

Why No. 23 for me? Pass the eye test offensively…Stepped out of conference to win at Iowa ...Handled a decent Ball State team and they won at Toledo, a decent MAC team…Epic no-show vs. Bowling Green should and will haunt the program.

Reality Check: I included Toledo in the "plus" column above…

#24 Fresno State

No. 20 in the BCS

Why No. 24 for me? Faced five teams with a pulse in Rutgers (52-51 OT win), Boise State (41--40 win), San Diego State (35-28 OT win), San Jose State (62-52 loss), and Utah State (24-17 win). The latter is their most impressive victory of the season…Pass the eye test offensively.

Playing Devil's Advocate: I have a new rule: give up 62 to San Jose State and you lose the right to speak on your own behalf.

(Of note: both Bowling Green and Fresno State found out late what it's like to have game pressure during a completive contest. And they folded.)

#25 USC

No. 25 in the BCS

Why No. 25 for me? Played nine bowl teams and defeated five (each of their four losses came against bowl-bound programs)…Stepped out of conference against Boston College (a 35-7 win), Utah State (17-14), and Notre Dame and played to a 14-10 loss against an arch-rival…Recorded one of the college football season's 10 best wins upsetting Stanford in the Coliseum in November…Of their two blowout losses, one came with a since-deposed head coach.

Playing Devil's Advocate: Missed Oregon in-conference, a huge scheduling break…Also did not have to face a peer team in Washington…Did not look the part against cross-town rival UCLA in a humbling 35-14 defeat…As noted above, gave up an astounding 62 to Arizona State.

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