Clardy’s Corner: Poll Dancing

Stanford had the best loss of any ranked team last week, but suffered one of the steepest drops in this week’s polls. What gives?



I taught Mike Leach how to use Google. True story.

In October 2005, Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech. I had just started at ESPN Radio in Bristol. I had booked Leach to appear on the old GameNight show, and he requested that we call him 30 minutes before to remind him of the interview.

Sure enough, 30 minutes out, I called Leach on his cell phone. He thanked me for the reminder, then—out of the blue—he asked, “How can I find out which writers voted for which teams in the poll?” I told him I wasn’t totally sure, but that he could probably Google it.

“Google?” a puzzled Leach asked. “What’s that?”

With that, I taught one of the most innovative coaches in college football about one of the basic parts of the internet experience.

Nine years later, Leach and I will cross paths again. This Friday, we’ll both be at Stanford Stadium, just five miles from Google’s campus, as he coaches Washington State against Stanford. Interesting timing, too, because after I saw this week’s college football poll, I had the same question that Leach had for me.

I expected Stanford to fall in the polls following its loss to No. 9 Notre Dame. That’s usually how the polls work. And, in an especially anarchic week of college football, eight teams in last week’s AP Top 25 poll lost. I wasn’t prepared for just how far the mighty Card would fall.

I don’t exactly think of Notre Dame as top-ten material, but—according to the polls—Stanford had the best loss. After all, no one else who was ranked lost to a top-10 team on the road on a last-minute touchdown. But the Cardinal did. And they were penalized by dropping eleven spots in this week’s poll, hanging by a thread at No. 25. How the hell does that work? Who’s responsible for this?

Now that the Oakland Athletics’ season is done, I have a little more free time on my hands these days. I spent a good part of my Tuesday afternoon sorting through all 60 of the ballots for this week’s Associated Press Top 25 college football poll. Of the 60 voters, 24 saw fit to not put Stanford on their ballots.

On the flip side, Larry Vaught of the Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger put the Card No. 15 on his ballot. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press had Stanford as his 16th-best team in the country right now. In all honesty, that seems about right to me. I certainly don’t think there are 24 teams in college football that are better than Stanford right now. Not with the Treefense.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. The indications were there in the national discourse all through the weekend. The SEC West has some pretty good teams, but when that division beats itself up, everyone stumbles over themselves to declare it the best collection of teams in college football.

Meanwhile, Arizona beats Oregon and everyone cracks on the Ducks. UCLA loses to Utah and the Bruins immediately get written off. A loss by a Pac-12 team always somehow reflects poorly on the conference. That narrative, sadly, is also reflected in the polls.

Even among the Pac-12’s teams, Stanford seems to have drawn a raw deal in the polls. The Cardinal didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, getting totally outclassed in the second half in the process. They didn’t lose at home, falling asleep and completely forgetting to defend a Hail Mary pass at the buzzer along the way. They didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, watching as their former Heisman candidate QB got sacked ten times.

These events happened to Oregon, USC, and UCLA, respectively. The Ducks and the Bruins each slipped ten spots. The Trojans fell out of the poll completely, going from No. 16 to No. 28. Stanford got short shrift from the voters, but only U$C had a steeper drop of any team from last week’s AP poll to this one.

Equally shocking was Arizona’s 19-spot leap to a No. 10 ranking in this week’s poll. No, the Wildcats’ win over Oregon wasn’t exactly a fluke. As bad as the Ducks offensive line looked against Washington State, it looked far worse against Arizona. And Oregon’s defensive line got totally erased, especially in the second half.

But if the Wildcats played the Ducks ten times on a neutral site, do you really believe Arizona would beat Oregon more than five times? I’m having a little trouble coming to that conclusion.

If you told me a few weeks ago that California would be a factor in the polls at any point this year, I’d have told you to stop hanging out on Telegraph Avenue. But Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, the Arizona Daily Star’s Daniel Berk, and Seth Emerson from the Macon Telegraph/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Ga.) all had the Bears No. 24 on their ballots. That makes cal the 36th-best football team in the country, according to the AP poll.

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but how can I put cal in my poll when they have next to no defense at all? If we’re ranking offenses, the Bears make my top ten easily. A top-25 team? In Berkeley? I need to see them tackle somebody before I can do that.

Let’s widen the camera shot from just the Pac-12, because the Cardinal weren’t the only ones to come up short on the road in a battle of ranked teams last weekend. Alabama lost to then-No. 11 Ole Miss on the road, getting outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma’s defense was beaten by big plays all day, as they lost to then-No. 25 TCU on the road. Texas A&M was down 41-24 after three quarters, losing to then-No. 12 Mississippi State in Starkville.

Did those teams fall as hard in the polls as the Cardinal did? Nope. The Tide fell just four spots, from No. 3 to No. 7. The Sooners were No. 4, now they’re No. 11. The Aggies dropped eight spots to No. 14.

Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M lost to ranked teams on the road, none of which were ranked in the top 10. In all of those games, the lower-ranked team won, in some cases, convincingly. And neither the Tide, the Sooners, nor the Aggies paid the price in the polls that the Cardinal did for losing to a higher-ranked team on the road. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

That’s not even the most perplexing thing about all this. On Saturday night, No. 19 Nebraska played No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, in raw, rainy weather. The Spartans almost ran the Huskers out of the building, rolling to a 27-3 lead. Nebraska decided to show up in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points, but still lost 27-22.

There were similar playing conditions in East Lansing as there were in South Bend. And that game wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt to look at, either. So in similar situations, how does Nebraska fall only two spots to No. 21 while Stanford darn near falls out of the poll?

By the way, a check of all 60 ballots for this week’s poll unearths some doozies. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy has Arizona No. 2 in his poll. You read that right. I saw Arizona State as high as No. 13 (according to Logan Lowery of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal). Just as a reminder, less than two weeks ago the Sun Devils dropped a 35-point stinkbomb of a loss to UCLA. At home.

There’s more. Doug Doughty from the Roanake (Va.) Times doesn’t have Stanford on his ballot, but has Penn State No. 25. The same Penn State that got throttled by Northwestern. NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant goes one better. He has Penn State No. 22, ahead of Utah (No. 24), UCLA (No. 25), and Stanford (NR). I can’t believe it myself.

Of course, the larger problem with this is that there are September polls in the first place. There probably shouldn’t be any polls of any sort in college football until the first weekend of October, at the earliest.

Stanford Football has been ranked in the AP polls for 71 consecutive weeks, a school record. It wasn’t that long ago when Cardinalmaniacs were pumped just to see Stanford in the “also receiving votes” category. But if the Cardinal fall into that pile again, at least they’ll know whom to send their stern emails to. Without having to learn how to Google them.

(By the way, my top 10 this week is as follows: Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Oregon.)

********** ********** **********

RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

Stanford’s biggest problem on offense is not the quarterback. It’s not necessarily the inability to consistently get Ty Montgomery the ball. The biggest problem is that the Card have no running backs who can break a tackle or move a pile. On Tuesday, I asked David Shaw if that’s a fair assessment of his backfield. Shaw’s response: “Yup. It is.” And he didn’t seem too thrilled about admitting it…

When you have a running back who can break a tackle and move a pile, many times you’re facing second and three instead of second and nine. Anyone who has watched football for any length of time knows that’s a huge, huge difference. That’s especially true for this offense…

Take a bow, Arizona. Wait, on second thought, don’t do that. You might get flagged…

On Friday, I predicted the first team to nine points would win Stanford-Notre Dame, and the first team to 50 points would win cal-Washington State. I was right on Stanford. I was wrong on cal…

They Couged it. In the Cougiest fashion possible…

I can’t be the only one who thought Gerard Wicks actually scored a touchdown on first and goal for the Cougars with seconds to play. I’m shocked no one reviewed it. Maybe if they had, it wouldn’t have come down to that missed field goal that would have won it…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… if the NFL insists on playing Thursday night games, they need to give those teams a bye the week before. That’s one way to avoid the absolutely unwatchable product Thursday Night Football has been for years…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… the first thing I saw when I flipped on my TV Saturday morning was Katy Perry flipping corn dogs all over the set on College GameDay. I should’ve known right then what kind of day we were in for. Between the chaos in college football and the drama in the MLB playoffs, last Saturday may have been one of the weirdest, most dramatic, most amazing sports days we’ve seen in a long, long time…

********** ********** **********

PAC-12 PICKS

For drama? Greatest week in the Pac-12 in a while. For my picks? Worst. Week. Ever.

Oregon @ UCLA. This game should be sponsored by Safeway, because I expect a lot of sacks. Bruins will have more. I like UCLA by 10.

Washington @ cal. With that defense, I should be staying away from picking the Bears. I really should. Why do I have a feeling they’ll come through again? I like cal by four.

U$C @ Arizona. Have the Trojans learned from their mistakes against the Sun Devils? The bigger question is: can they do anything about it? I like Arizona by 13.

Last week: 1-4 (straight-up), 0-5 (ATS).
This year: 7-5 (straight-up), 4-8 (ATS).
Last year: 35-10 (straight-up), 24-21 (ATS).

********** ********** **********


Troy Clardy hosts evenings 7p-11p and Oakland A’s pregame & postgame shows on San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game. The 2014 season marks his 22nd year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 13th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy’s Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or follow him on Twitter @TroyClardy.






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The Bootleg Top Stories

\r\n\r\nFollow @TheBootleg\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nI taught Mike Leach how to use Google. True story.\r\n

\r\nIn October 2005, Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech. I had just started at ESPN Radio in Bristol. I had booked Leach to appear on the old GameNight show, and he requested that we call him 30 minutes before to remind him of the interview.\r\n

\r\nSure enough, 30 minutes out, I called Leach on his cell phone. He thanked me for the reminder, then—out of the blue—he asked, “How can I find out which writers voted for which teams in the poll?” I told him I wasn’t totally sure, but that he could probably Google it.\r\n

\r\n“Google?” a puzzled Leach asked. “What’s that?”\r\n

\r\nWith that, I taught one of the most innovative coaches in college football about one of the basic parts of the internet experience.\r\n

\r\nNine years later, Leach and I will cross paths again. This Friday, we’ll both be at Stanford Stadium, just five miles from Google’s campus, as he coaches Washington State against Stanford. Interesting timing, too, because after I saw this week’s college football poll, I had the same question that Leach had for me.\r\n

\r\nI expected Stanford to fall in the polls following its loss to No. 9 Notre Dame. That’s usually how the polls work. And, in an especially anarchic week of college football, eight teams in last week’s AP Top 25 poll lost. I wasn’t prepared for just how far the mighty Card would fall.\r\n

\r\nI don’t exactly think of Notre Dame as top-ten material, but—according to the polls—Stanford had the best loss. After all, no one else who was ranked lost to a top-10 team on the road on a last-minute touchdown. But the Cardinal did. And they were penalized by dropping eleven spots in this week’s poll, hanging by a thread at No. 25. How the hell does that work? Who’s responsible for this?\r\n

\r\nNow that the Oakland Athletics’ season is done, I have a little more free time on my hands these days. I spent a good part of my Tuesday afternoon sorting through all 60 of the ballots for this week’s Associated Press Top 25 college football poll. Of the 60 voters, 24 saw fit to not put Stanford on their ballots.\r\n

\r\nOn the flip side, Larry Vaught of the Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger put the Card No. 15 on his ballot. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press had Stanford as his 16th-best team in the country right now. In all honesty, that seems about right to me. I certainly don’t think there are 24 teams in college football that are better than Stanford right now. Not with the Treefense.\r\n

\r\nMaybe I should have seen it coming. The indications were there in the national discourse all through the weekend. The SEC West has some pretty good teams, but when that division beats itself up, everyone stumbles over themselves to declare it the best collection of teams in college football. \r\n

\r\nMeanwhile, Arizona beats Oregon and everyone cracks on the Ducks. UCLA loses to Utah and the Bruins immediately get written off. A loss by a Pac-12 team always somehow reflects poorly on the conference. That narrative, sadly, is also reflected in the polls.\r\n

\r\nEven among the Pac-12’s teams, Stanford seems to have drawn a raw deal in the polls. The Cardinal didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, getting totally outclassed in the second half in the process. They didn’t lose at home, falling asleep and completely forgetting to defend a Hail Mary pass at the buzzer along the way. They didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, watching as their former Heisman candidate QB got sacked ten times.\r\n

\r\nThese events happened to Oregon, USC, and UCLA, respectively. The Ducks and the Bruins each slipped ten spots. The Trojans fell out of the poll completely, going from No. 16 to No. 28. Stanford got short shrift from the voters, but only U$C had a steeper drop of any team from last week’s AP poll to this one.\r\n

\r\nEqually shocking was Arizona’s 19-spot leap to a No. 10 ranking in this week’s poll. No, the Wildcats’ win over Oregon wasn’t exactly a fluke. As bad as the Ducks offensive line looked against Washington State, it looked far worse against Arizona. And Oregon’s defensive line got totally erased, especially in the second half.\r\n

\r\nBut if the Wildcats played the Ducks ten times on a neutral site, do you really believe Arizona would beat Oregon more than five times? I’m having a little trouble coming to that conclusion.\r\n

\r\nIf you told me a few weeks ago that California would be a factor in the polls at any point this year, I’d have told you to stop hanging out on Telegraph Avenue. But Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, the Arizona Daily Star’s Daniel Berk, and Seth Emerson from the Macon Telegraph/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Ga.) all had the Bears No. 24 on their ballots. That makes cal the 36th-best football team in the country, according to the AP poll. \r\n

\r\nMaybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but how can I put cal in my poll when they have next to no defense at all? If we’re ranking offenses, the Bears make my top ten easily. A top-25 team? In Berkeley? I need to see them tackle somebody before I can do that.\r\n

\r\nLet’s widen the camera shot from just the Pac-12, because the Cardinal weren’t the only ones to come up short on the road in a battle of ranked teams last weekend. Alabama lost to then-No. 11 Ole Miss on the road, getting outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma’s defense was beaten by big plays all day, as they lost to then-No. 25 TCU on the road. Texas A&M was down 41-24 after three quarters, losing to then-No. 12 Mississippi State in Starkville.\r\n

\r\nDid those teams fall as hard in the polls as the Cardinal did? Nope. The Tide fell just four spots, from No. 3 to No. 7. The Sooners were No. 4, now they’re No. 11. The Aggies dropped eight spots to No. 14.\r\n

\r\nAlabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M lost to ranked teams on the road, none of which were ranked in the top 10. In all of those games, the lower-ranked team won, in some cases, convincingly. And neither the Tide, the Sooners, nor the Aggies paid the price in the polls that the Cardinal did for losing to a higher-ranked team on the road. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?\r\n

\r\nThat’s not even the most perplexing thing about all this. On Saturday night, No. 19 Nebraska played No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, in raw, rainy weather. The Spartans almost ran the Huskers out of the building, rolling to a 27-3 lead. Nebraska decided to show up in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points, but still lost 27-22.\r\n

\r\nThere were similar playing conditions in East Lansing as there were in South Bend. And that game wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt to look at, either. So in similar situations, how does Nebraska fall only two spots to No. 21 while Stanford darn near falls out of the poll?\r\n

\r\nBy the way, a check of all 60 ballots for this week’s poll unearths some doozies. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy has Arizona No. 2 in his poll. You read that right. I saw Arizona State as high as No. 13 (according to Logan Lowery of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal). Just as a reminder, less than two weeks ago the Sun Devils dropped a 35-point stinkbomb of a loss to UCLA. At home. \r\n

\r\nThere’s more. Doug Doughty from the Roanake (Va.) Times doesn’t have Stanford on his ballot, but has Penn State No. 25. The same Penn State that got throttled by Northwestern. NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant goes one better. He has Penn State No. 22, ahead of Utah (No. 24), UCLA (No. 25), and Stanford (NR). I can’t believe it myself.\r\n

\r\nOf course, the larger problem with this is that there are September polls in the first place. There probably shouldn’t be any polls of any sort in college football until the first weekend of October, at the earliest.\r\n

\r\nStanford Football has been ranked in the AP polls for 71 consecutive weeks, a school record. It wasn’t that long ago when Cardinalmaniacs were pumped just to see Stanford in the “also receiving votes” category. But if the Cardinal fall into that pile again, at least they’ll know whom to send their stern emails to. Without having to learn how to Google them. \r\n

\r\n(By the way, my top 10 this week is as follows: Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Oregon.)\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\nRANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS\r\n

\r\nStanford’s biggest problem on offense is not the quarterback. It’s not necessarily the inability to consistently get Ty Montgomery the ball. The biggest problem is that the Card have no running backs who can break a tackle or move a pile. On Tuesday, I asked David Shaw if that’s a fair assessment of his backfield. Shaw’s response: “Yup. It is.” And he didn’t seem too thrilled about admitting it…\r\n

\r\nWhen you have a running back who can break a tackle and move a pile, many times you’re facing second and three instead of second and nine. Anyone who has watched football for any length of time knows that’s a huge, huge difference. That’s especially true for this offense…\r\n

\r\nTake a bow, Arizona. Wait, on second thought, don’t do that. You might get flagged…\r\n

\r\nOn Friday, I predicted the first team to nine points would win Stanford-Notre Dame, and the first team to 50 points would win cal-Washington State. I was right on Stanford. I was wrong on cal…\r\n

\r\nThey Couged it. In the Cougiest fashion possible…\r\n

\r\nI can’t be the only one who thought Gerard Wicks actually scored a touchdown on first and goal for the Cougars with seconds to play. I’m shocked no one reviewed it. Maybe if they had, it wouldn’t have come down to that missed field goal that would have won it…\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… if the NFL insists on playing Thursday night games, they need to give those teams a bye the week before. That’s one way to avoid the absolutely unwatchable product Thursday Night Football has been for years…\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… the first thing I saw when I flipped on my TV Saturday morning was Katy Perry flipping corn dogs all over the set on College GameDay. I should’ve known right then what kind of day we were in for. Between the chaos in college football and the drama in the MLB playoffs, last Saturday may have been one of the weirdest, most dramatic, most amazing sports days we’ve seen in a long, long time…\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\nPAC-12 PICKS\r\n

\r\nFor drama? Greatest week in the Pac-12 in a while. For my picks? Worst. Week. Ever.\r\n

\r\nOregon @ UCLA. This game should be sponsored by Safeway, because I expect a lot of sacks. Bruins will have more. I like UCLA by 10.\r\n

\r\nWashington @ cal. With that defense, I should be staying away from picking the Bears. I really should. Why do I have a feeling they’ll come through again? I like cal by four.\r\n

\r\nU$C @ Arizona. Have the Trojans learned from their mistakes against the Sun Devils? The bigger question is: can they do anything about it? I like Arizona by 13.\r\n

\r\nLast week: 1-4 (straight-up), 0-5 (ATS).\r\n
This year: 7-5 (straight-up), 4-8 (ATS).\r\n
Last year: 35-10 (straight-up), 24-21 (ATS).\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\n


\r\nTroy Clardy hosts evenings 7p-11p and Oakland A’s pregame & postgame shows on San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game. The 2014 season marks his 22nd year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 13th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy’s Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or follow him on Twitter @TroyClardy.\r\n


\r\n

\r\n




\r\n

Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out on\r\nall the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our\r\naward-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in\r\nStanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com\r\n(sign-up)!

\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"[MEDIA:1379130] Follow @TheBootleg I taught Mike Leach how to use Google. True story.

In October 2005, Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech. I had just started at ESPN Radio in Bristol. I had booked Leach to appear on the old GameNight show, and he requested that we call him 30 minutes before to remind him of the interview.

Sure enough, 30 minutes out, I called Leach on his cell phone. He thanked me for the reminder, then—out of the blue—he asked, “How can I find out which writers voted for which teams in the poll?” I told him I wasn’t totally sure, but that he could probably Google it.

“Google?” a puzzled Leach asked. “What’s that?”

With that, I taught one of the most innovative coaches in college football about one of the basic parts of the internet experience.

Nine years later, Leach and I will cross paths again. This Friday, we’ll both be at Stanford Stadium, just five miles from Google’s campus, as he coaches Washington State against Stanford. Interesting timing, too, because after I saw this week’s college football poll, I had the same question that Leach had for me.

I expected Stanford to fall in the polls following its loss to No. 9 Notre Dame. That’s usually how the polls work. And, in an especially anarchic week of college football, eight teams in last week’s AP Top 25 poll lost. I wasn’t prepared for just how far the mighty Card would fall.

I don’t exactly think of Notre Dame as top-ten material, but—according to the polls—Stanford had the best loss. After all, no one else who was ranked lost to a top-10 team on the road on a last-minute touchdown. But the Cardinal did. And they were penalized by dropping eleven spots in this week’s poll, hanging by a thread at No. 25. How the hell does that work? Who’s responsible for this?

Now that the Oakland Athletics’ season is done, I have a little more free time on my hands these days. I spent a good part of my Tuesday afternoon sorting through all 60 of the ballots for this week’s Associated Press Top 25 college football poll. Of the 60 voters, 24 saw fit to not put Stanford on their ballots.

On the flip side, Larry Vaught of the Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger put the Card No. 15 on his ballot. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press had Stanford as his 16th-best team in the country right now. In all honesty, that seems about right to me. I certainly don’t think there are 24 teams in college football that are better than Stanford right now. Not with the Treefense.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. The indications were there in the national discourse all through the weekend. The SEC West has some pretty good teams, but when that division beats itself up, everyone stumbles over themselves to declare it the best collection of teams in college football.

Meanwhile, Arizona beats Oregon and everyone cracks on the Ducks. UCLA loses to Utah and the Bruins immediately get written off. A loss by a Pac-12 team always somehow reflects poorly on the conference. That narrative, sadly, is also reflected in the polls.

Even among the Pac-12’s teams, Stanford seems to have drawn a raw deal in the polls. The Cardinal didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, getting totally outclassed in the second half in the process. They didn’t lose at home, falling asleep and completely forgetting to defend a Hail Mary pass at the buzzer along the way. They didn’t lose at home to an unranked team, watching as their former Heisman candidate QB got sacked ten times.

These events happened to Oregon, USC, and UCLA, respectively. The Ducks and the Bruins each slipped ten spots. The Trojans fell out of the poll completely, going from No. 16 to No. 28. Stanford got short shrift from the voters, but only U$C had a steeper drop of any team from last week’s AP poll to this one.

Equally shocking was Arizona’s 19-spot leap to a No. 10 ranking in this week’s poll. No, the Wildcats’ win over Oregon wasn’t exactly a fluke. As bad as the Ducks offensive line looked against Washington State, it looked far worse against Arizona. And Oregon’s defensive line got totally erased, especially in the second half.

But if the Wildcats played the Ducks ten times on a neutral site, do you really believe Arizona would beat Oregon more than five times? I’m having a little trouble coming to that conclusion.

If you told me a few weeks ago that California would be a factor in the polls at any point this year, I’d have told you to stop hanging out on Telegraph Avenue. But Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, the Arizona Daily Star’s Daniel Berk, and Seth Emerson from the Macon Telegraph/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Ga.) all had the Bears No. 24 on their ballots. That makes cal the 36th-best football team in the country, according to the AP poll.

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but how can I put cal in my poll when they have next to no defense at all? If we’re ranking offenses, the Bears make my top ten easily. A top-25 team? In Berkeley? I need to see them tackle somebody before I can do that.

Let’s widen the camera shot from just the Pac-12, because the Cardinal weren’t the only ones to come up short on the road in a battle of ranked teams last weekend. Alabama lost to then-No. 11 Ole Miss on the road, getting outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma’s defense was beaten by big plays all day, as they lost to then-No. 25 TCU on the road. Texas A&M was down 41-24 after three quarters, losing to then-No. 12 Mississippi State in Starkville.

Did those teams fall as hard in the polls as the Cardinal did? Nope. The Tide fell just four spots, from No. 3 to No. 7. The Sooners were No. 4, now they’re No. 11. The Aggies dropped eight spots to No. 14.

Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M lost to ranked teams on the road, none of which were ranked in the top 10. In all of those games, the lower-ranked team won, in some cases, convincingly. And neither the Tide, the Sooners, nor the Aggies paid the price in the polls that the Cardinal did for losing to a higher-ranked team on the road. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

That’s not even the most perplexing thing about all this. On Saturday night, No. 19 Nebraska played No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, in raw, rainy weather. The Spartans almost ran the Huskers out of the building, rolling to a 27-3 lead. Nebraska decided to show up in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points, but still lost 27-22.

There were similar playing conditions in East Lansing as there were in South Bend. And that game wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt to look at, either. So in similar situations, how does Nebraska fall only two spots to No. 21 while Stanford darn near falls out of the poll?

By the way, a check of all 60 ballots for this week’s poll unearths some doozies. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy has Arizona No. 2 in his poll. You read that right. I saw Arizona State as high as No. 13 (according to Logan Lowery of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal). Just as a reminder, less than two weeks ago the Sun Devils dropped a 35-point stinkbomb of a loss to UCLA. At home.

There’s more. Doug Doughty from the Roanake (Va.) Times doesn’t have Stanford on his ballot, but has Penn State No. 25. The same Penn State that got throttled by Northwestern. NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant goes one better. He has Penn State No. 22, ahead of Utah (No. 24), UCLA (No. 25), and Stanford (NR). I can’t believe it myself.

Of course, the larger problem with this is that there are September polls in the first place. There probably shouldn’t be any polls of any sort in college football until the first weekend of October, at the earliest.

Stanford Football has been ranked in the AP polls for 71 consecutive weeks, a school record. It wasn’t that long ago when Cardinalmaniacs were pumped just to see Stanford in the “also receiving votes” category. But if the Cardinal fall into that pile again, at least they’ll know whom to send their stern emails to. Without having to learn how to Google them.

(By the way, my top 10 this week is as follows: Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Oregon.)

********** ********** **********

Stanford’s biggest problem on offense is not the quarterback. It’s not necessarily the inability to consistently get Ty Montgomery the ball. The biggest problem is that the Card have no running backs who can break a tackle or move a pile. On Tuesday, I asked David Shaw if that’s a fair assessment of his backfield. Shaw’s response: “Yup. It is.” And he didn’t seem too thrilled about admitting it…

When you have a running back who can break a tackle and move a pile, many times you’re facing second and three instead of second and nine. Anyone who has watched football for any length of time knows that’s a huge, huge difference. That’s especially true for this offense…

Take a bow, Arizona. Wait, on second thought, don’t do that. You might get flagged…

On Friday, I predicted the first team to nine points would win Stanford-Notre Dame, and the first team to 50 points would win cal-Washington State. I was right on Stanford. I was wrong on cal…

They Couged it. In the Cougiest fashion possible…

I can’t be the only one who thought Gerard Wicks actually scored a touchdown on first and goal for the Cougars with seconds to play. I’m shocked no one reviewed it. Maybe if they had, it wouldn’t have come down to that missed field goal that would have won it…

if the NFL insists on playing Thursday night games, they need to give those teams a bye the week before. That’s one way to avoid the absolutely unwatchable product Thursday Night Football has been for years…

the first thing I saw when I flipped on my TV Saturday morning was Katy Perry flipping corn dogs all over the set on College GameDay. I should’ve known right then what kind of day we were in for. Between the chaos in college football and the drama in the MLB playoffs, last Saturday may have been one of the weirdest, most dramatic, most amazing sports days we’ve seen in a long, long time…

********** ********** **********

For drama? Greatest week in the Pac-12 in a while. For my picks? Worst. Week. Ever.

This game should be sponsored by Safeway, because I expect a lot of sacks. Bruins will have more.

With that defense, I should be staying away from picking the Bears. I really should. Why do I have a feeling they’ll come through again?

Have the Trojans learned from their mistakes against the Sun Devils? The bigger question is: can they do anything about it?

1-4 (straight-up), 0-5 (ATS). 7-5 (straight-up), 4-8 (ATS). 35-10 (straight-up), 24-21 (ATS). ********** ********** **********

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