Sunday, October 13, 2013

Seven Weeks In

Every college football season has at least one Saturday where several big upsets cause turmoil in the polls. Although the word "turmoil" is hyperbolic when describing the impact of yesterday's upsets, it does appear that yesterday might count as 2013's "Upset Saturday."

No one saw Utah beating Stanford, though in hindsight, perhaps some us should have. The Utes are a solid team that nearly beat 5-0 UCLA, and this game was on their home field one week after Stanford's nationally hyped and tightly contested battle against 16th-ranked Washington. In other words, for Stanford this was a textbook example of a trap game, and the trap ensnared them.

Even more surprising, however, was Oklahoma's inability to prevail in the Red River Shootout. Texas was circling the drain, Mack Brown's coaching acumen was assumed to have long since taken its leave, and the Sooners were starting to look like a don't-mess-with-'em bunch of overachievers who stood out in stark contrast to the underachieving Longhorns. But then they got run off of the Cotton Bowl turf by a team that was imminently beatable. To lose like that when the beatable underachievers are your biggest rival is 100% unacceptable, and the Sooners deserve to be ejected from the rankings for it. With extreme prejudice.

Northwestern losing to Wisconsin -- one week after Northwestern narrowly fell to Ohio State, and when Wisconsin was playing at home with its back to the wall -- certainly does not count as an upset even with Northwestern being the ranked team going in. What is a surprise is that the Badgers made it look easy and blew Northwestern away by 29 points. The Badgers proved that they are clearly one of America's best twenty teams.

We are now at the point in the season where keeping a week-to-week Top 20 or 25 becomes increasingly difficult. The wear and tear of the season takes its toll on every team, so the open question is always how far should you drop a good team after they lose a game; and on the flip side, how do you bring an unranked team into the rankings if none of the ranked teams did something that makes them deserving of dropping out?

You have to place weight on all of the circumstances, which include strength of schedule up to now; the quality of the opponent a team just played versus who they played the week before (see Stanford above); the nature of the injuries they are coping with, and how they are coping with them; whether the game in question was at home or away, etc.

Going back to the "see Stanford above" example, a very big part of me believes Utah deserves to be ranked, especially when you consider that they too were coming off a big game going into yesterday's contest. But who should I remove from my Top 20 after having already done away with Oklahoma and Northwestern?

I thought about making room for Utah (or Texas Tech) by removing my own alma mater, Auburn, because Auburn's win yesterday was against one of the worst teams in the FCS -- but then again, why penalize my Tigers when that was their first gimme opponent of the year, and when they have a better record that Utah, and when they play in the acknowledged toughest conference in America, and when nothing that earned them entree to the Top Twenty a week ago changed yesterday?

Auburn plays #10 Texas A&M this coming Saturday, and if they lose then, that might be a reason to drop them. But then again, it might not. Since logic says the #20 team should lose to the #10 team in the latter's stadium, why drop #20 lower? If #10 defeats #20, doesn't that usually do more to confirm their respective rankings than it does to change them?

Anyway, I am rambling and who wants to read rambling? I will be out of town this coming weekend so I don't know if I will post any predictions this week, nor do I know if I will post any rankings until two weeks from now. But here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty based on what has happened through this season's first seven weeks:

1.    Alabama
2.    Oregon
3.    Clemson
4.    Ohio State
5.    Louisville
6.    Florida State
7.    Missouri
8.    UCLA
9.    LSU
10.  Texas A&M
11.  Baylor
12.  Miami
13.  Stanford
14.  Georgia
15.  South Carolina
16.  Wisconsin
17.  Washington
18.  Virginia Tech
19.  Florida
20.  Auburn

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