The Blog Poll welcomes The Bootleg

The Bootleg has been honored with a vote in the national SportsNation Blog Poll, which features over 100 voters from blogs representing virtually every team in Division I-A, capturing a true national snapshot of fans' perception of college football. Every week, we'll post our ballot, and you get to help us fix it before we submit it for good on Wednesday!

Shh, we're not really a blog. Don't tell anyone, because your author was nonetheless able to finagle The Bootleg a vote in the weekly Blog Poll, helping ensure that Stanford and the Pac-10, both woefully underrepresented in this national poll and throughout college football, would have a voter who was familiar with West Coast college football (and, unlike some of our local voters in the AP poll, actually didn't disdain it).

Feel free to comment on the poll on our Boot Board Plus Tuesday, and we'll incorporate that feedback into our ballot before submitting it for good first thing Wednesday morning.

Between the opportunity for revision and constructive criticism, the fact that every voter's every ballot is transparent (unlike in the coaches' poll, which is used by the BCS) and the fact that us diehards might follow the sport a little harder than people for whom it's just a job, and can watch more games than a coach who cares obsessively about his team and his team only, the Blog Poll has acquitted itself pretty well in its short history. Voters here seem more likely to think for themselves, and not just keep voting a team No. 1 just because their peers was No. 1 last week. Quoting from the poll's explanation, "the BlogPoll has an explicitly declared poll philosophy that voters are directed to follow. Not every voter and every ballot manages to do so, but the philosophy affects the poll as a whole. This usually manifests itself in a skepticism of teams that play very weak schedules. The 2007 Hawaii team, which cruised through its regular season and was crushed by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, is the most obvious example."

Very well then, enough with the overview: we'll be voting weekly in this poll for the rest of the season, posting draft ballots on Monday, welcoming your feedback all Tuesday and incorporating it into our final ballots Wednesday. On to our actual rankings for this week.

First, quick sanity check. By conference, we've got six in the Big 10, six in the SEC, four in the Pac-10, four in the Big 12, one in the ACC and four from non-AQ conferences. Seems balanced enough among the "big four" conferences (especially because the Pac-10 has fewer members than the Big 10, Big 12 or SEC). Speaking of conference balance, how about the WAC (Boise State and Nevada) outrepresenting the ACC and Big East combined (Florida State)?

Here are some teams I struggled with, thoughts welcome:

USC. I know they keep winning ugly. However, with this season only kinda sorta counting, that could be a byproduct of a total lack of motivation. They are USC, and they have the talent to run the table. So they're playing like a No. 20 team now, but if they get up for their big games, who's saying they couldn't revert to their form of old? They've earned the benefit of my doubt after the last decade of proving naysayers wrong time and again, and so I have them at 12.

Similarly, Texas has played worse than their No. 18 rank right now, and Oklahoma and Florida worse than their lofty ranks, but they all have the talent to run the table the rest of the way, no? Have to account for that possibility.

Stanford, meanwhile, has looked like a top-three team the way we've played thus far. Obviously, however, the next two weeks will tell, so I'm hedging my bets here. Win those and let the debate for, dare I say it, No. 1 begin in earnest. Until then, No. 9 is more than enough for a team yet to beat a Top 25 opponent.

I have Ohio State over Alabama at the top. Ohio State's way more likely to win the national title in my opinion, partially because it's looked more dominant thus far (I don't think it would have needed to come from behind against Arkansas), partially because it has an easier schedule in a meh Big 10 with no conference title game, and thus an easier path to that title game. We'll see if the Buckeyes earn it once they, you know, actually play a game on the road. And Florida/Alabama this weekend will be plenty revealing too.

Michigan's another outlier, with the Wolverines just No. 25, about five spots behind their placement in the professional polls. Michigan has more walk-ons and freshman throughout the defensive two deep than I've ever seen on a Division I-A team, and still have to play Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan State, all teams I rank higher. RichRod will win seven or eight, make a bowl and save his job, but I don't see him winning many more than that.

Okay, without further ado, here's the ballot:


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