My take on the top 25, with perhaps some controversial moves among the undefeated.
Well, that was a pretty eventful weekend of college football, wasn't it? Alabama's loss (and Louisville's, as if that matters) leaves three undefeated and postseason-eligible teams in FBS: Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Oregon. My ballot is below, with some discussion:
Alabama's loss caused me to revisit my ranking of the three relevant undefeateds, and led to a change. Full disclosure: I grew up as a Notre Dame fan, earned a graduate degree from Notre Dame, and root for Notre Dame when the Irish are not playing IU. I am not neutral on this matter. I don't think it has affected my analysis, but I think it's important to disclose that in every Blogpoll post for as long as ND is in the title hunt.
First, let's consider schedule strength: according to Sagarin, ND is #28, Kansas State is #29, and Oregon is #45. Also, I averaged the Sagarin ranking of each team's opponents, and came up with 48.9 for ND, 53.7 for K-State, and 67.3 for Oregon. Notre Dame's worst opponent has been #99 Boston College. Two of K-State's opponents, North Texas and Missouri State, rank lower than that. Two of Oregon's opponents, #152 Colorado and #174 Tennessee Tech, are essential FCS quality opponents. Obviously, it's not Oregon's fault that a once-proud Colorado program is in the crapper, but they get no relief for Tennessee Tech. Both Notre Dame and Kansas State have played 10 teams from the six major conferences; Oregon has played 9. Notre Dame's two non-BCS opponents are BYU, a quasi-major program, and Navy, a team that has victimized many major programs over the last decade, including ND. K-State played North Texas and FCS Missouri State. Oregon played Fresno State (respectable but not BYU-respectable), Arkansas State (MAC-level at best), and Tennessee Tech (FCS). If the sole inquiry were strength of schedule, then Notre Dame would be #1.
Weighing against ND, however, are the scares against BYU, Stanford, Pitt, and Purdue. Notre Dame has been in a position to lose much more often than either of the other teams. Where that leaves me, then, is with K-State #1 and Notre Dame #2. I think K-State's overall performance outweighs ND's schedule advantage. On the other hand, despite their strong standing in the beauty contest (they have demolished their opponents), Oregon's schedule significantly lags the others to date. Now, of course, the Ducks finish with Stanford, Oregon State, and then USC or UCLA in the PAc-12 title game. ND finishes with #122 Wake Forest and USC, a team Oregon already has played. By this metric, if Oregon wins out, I probably will be hard-pressed to keep ND ahead of them. But based on accomplishment to date, I think the current ranking makes sense.
One final note: I know it gets tough when one reaches the bottom of the poll to find quality teams. But anyone who ranks Kent State should be publicly caned. I know they are 9-1. They also got curb-stomped by Kentucky. Kentucky! And their best win is over a supremely overrated Rutgers team. Stop it. Kent State probably isn't among the 50 best teams, let alone the top 25.