Week Seven: Blog Poll

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 abhor 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 the team 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, with commentary below:

Novinson, WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME ARE YOU DOING? Where the heck did you get these rankings from?

Glad you asked. My rankings come entirely from here, a listing of each team's resume. Before, I felt it was too early in the season to rank teams purely on what they've accomplished in 2010, lest you get Toledo or someone crazy No. 1 in the country after the first week just because of who the teams happen to play that week. Now, however, the season is nearly halfway over (well, that's somewhat misleading because the competitive games are backloaded, but still) and so I chose this week to shift to resume-based rankings, in keeping with the blog poll's ideology. We're not ranking based on the name on the front of the jersey, or what we thought of the teams preseason – it's 100 percent who you have beaten this year and how.

The switch to resume rankings is why you see some weird results like LSU and Auburn No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. If I were voting predictively – how good do I think the teams are, and thus where do I think they'll end up ranked at the end of the season – Auburn would probably about fifth and LSU might or might not make the top ten. However, now that I'm evaluating what teams have actually shown on the field, not what I think they might do in the weeks and months to come, LSU and Auburn have to be your top two teams. (Similarly, that we made the switch this week to a resume-based system is the reason for all the weird movement from last week's poll.)

LSU has beat Florida, West Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. That's two top-25 teams by my accounting and, just as importantly, nary a creampuff on the schedule. We rightfully beat up on SEC schools for generally playing soft out-of-conference schedules, but LSU is the exception thus far this year – no one in the country has played a tougher top-to-bottom slate, let alone run the table against it. Now LSU is extremely lucky to be 6-0, both because they've won three one-score games and because they've won several of those in ridiculously fluky manners, most recently on a bounce-pass fake field goal versus Florida, but margin of victory is less important than the quality of your opponent, and so an LSU with squeakers over legit BCS-conference teams gets the nod over an Ohio State or an Oregon, which have more blowouts of tomato cans to their names. Similarly, Auburn has already beat South Carolina (the Gamecocks' only loss), Clemson, Kentucky and Mississippi State, and with the next most impressive resume, they're my No. 2.

Okay, so we are in love with LSU and Auburn. Who else? Michigan State hasn't beaten anyone truly great, but there are only 13 undefeateds left, and the Spartans have beat Wisconsin, Michigan and Notre Dame, so that's good enough for No. 4 overall. Nevada is one of our later undefeateds to make the poll, and comes in behind one-loss Alabama and South Carolina, but with wins over Cal and BYU, we still have them at No. 11, well ahead of their AP rank and ahead of Boise State. No one's come within two touchdowns of the Wolfpack, and given that Virginia Tech has struggled since losing to Boise, we think Nevada's resume is better than the Broncos'. Judge for yourself at the link above to the resumes.

Stanford is at No. 14, about where they are in the big-boy polls. To their credit, the Card have played only one gimme in Sacramento State, and Oregon looks as legit as ever, but working against Stanford is that they really haven't beat anyone yet. UCLA, probably Stanford's best win, just got trounced by Cal, Wake Forest has nothing to disprove its preseason rap of an ACC bottom-feeder and Notre Dame already has three losses. Still, USC (ridiculous talent) and Notre Dame (easy schedule down the stretch) could both rally to challenge for ten wins, plus there are plenty of quality teams left on the schedule, so Stanford might have a quality win or three to its name come BCS selection time.

So we're an optimistic hold on Stanford and a buy on Auburn and LSU. Who else do we like? Well, Missouri hasn't beaten anyone great, but they've definitely done more than some other undefeated teams (cough, cough, Utah and Oklahoma State) now that Illinois looks legitimate, so we have them at No. 15. We're selling Boise State (I mean, they're No. 13 so we don't think they're awful but there's no way their resume merits a top-three ranking)… who else? Utah's only win of note is at Pitt in overtime, and the Panthers don't look all that great, having just gotten clocked by Notre Dame and playing in a conference that we wouldn't trade straight up for the Mountain West, so we have the Utes at 18. That's our take for this week. We look forward to reading and responding to your comments, and adjusting our ballot for its Wednesday submission.

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