Dropped Out: Florida State (#24), Northwestern (#25).
1: Honestly, Alabama probably doesn't deserve No. 1 anymore. Their best win is still over a Georgia team that's almost slipped out of the poll. Their next-best is a home squeaker over a four-loss Ole Miss team in which the Tide got outgained. The escape in Baton Rouge looks less explicable by the day. The only real argument I've got in their favor is that an undefeated team from one of the old power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10) should get the benefit of the doubt and automatically not be ranked below a defeated team. Is that argument enough? Maybe, maybe not. I may change my mind before the final ballot goes in Wednesday.
2-4: I was sorely, sorely tempted to rank Texas Tech over Texas after Mack Brown made such a convincing argument during Saturday night's Oklahoma-Okie St. game about the importance of head-to-head results. I mean, he's right, how is it fair to rank one team ahead of another when they've got the same record and one of them beat the other fair-and-square on the field? Clearly, Texas Tech ought to be ranked ahead of the Longhorns.
Sarcasm aside, by this point I think Oklahoma's pretty clearly got the best resume of the three teams in the Big 12 logjam. With Cincinnati wrapping up the Big East, their advantage in nonconference play is staggering. In Big 12 play, let's compare the Sooners' and Horns' results against common opponents:
vs. Texas Tech: OK +44, Texas -6.
vs. Oklahoma St.: OK +20, Texas +4.
vs. Kansas: OK +14, Texas +28.
vs. Baylor OK +32, Texas +24.
vs. Texas A&M: OK +38, Texas +40.
Your totals are OK +148, Texas +90. Even if you throw out the Tech comparison for the sake of keeping anything head-to-head-related out of this--though I don't think you should--Oklahoma still has the edge here. The 'Horns do get bonus points for facing Missouri instead of Nebraska out of the Big 12 North, but that only counts for so much after Missouri fell in Lawrence and Nebraska (who the Sooners annihilated and Texas didn't face) wound up with a share of the division title.
It's not enough to make up for Oklahoma's out-of-conference advantage, in any case. Oklahoma is the right choice here. And oh, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia all taking the pipe means that the Gators were closer to No. 5 than No. 3 this week.
5-9: No surprises here. I actually kinda feel for USC: they scheduled the preseason No. 1 team in the country in their nonconference slate, crushed them, suffered one semi-excusable misstep, then went right on to crush everyone else in their path. It's not all that different a resume from Florida's--in fact, it might even be better with that Ohio St. win sitting on it. But because the SEC gives Florida a shot at Alabama and the Pac-10 offers the Trojans nothing of value, the Gators could be off to play for the crystal football while USC shares sob stories with Penn St. in the Rose.
10-15: Boise gets a bit of a bump with the Oregon win looking valuable again. Oklahoma St. doesn't have the wins that Cincy and Ga. Tech do, but they don't have losses to the likes of UConn or Virginia, either. The Bearcats' and Jackets' array of decent-to-fair wins are still enough, though, to keep them ahead of Ball St., who I salute for their accomplishment but who hasn't beaten a team this year that's even in consideration for the poll.
16-20: Ole Miss and the two Big 10 teams hold their positions, with Oregon falling between them after rocketing up the poll. The Ducks didn't have any bad losses, but until last week they didn't have any wins of consequence, either. With the Beavers' pelts on their wall (hyuck) the overall resume takes a huge leap forward. With that loss and the defeat at Stanford still around their neck like a millstone, Oregon St. falls to the back of the "Hey, we have a bunch of losses but we also beat a top-10 team!" pack behind Ole Miss and Iowa.
21-25: Yes, Pitt and BC both go in front of Mizzou and the Dawgs, who don't have anything on their resume like Pitt's win over Iowa or BC's collage of decent ACC wins. Mizzou's best win is at Nebraska; Georgia's is--ugh--still either at LSU or at South Carolina. Yuck. Cal grabs the last spot in the poll as their win over Oregon appreciates in value.
Waitlist: Northwestern and Nebraska have minor complaints.