The Associated Press doesn't offer too much direction to its poll voters, but it spells out one voting guideline pretty clearly: Pay attention to head-to-head results.
That order absolutely killed me as I constructed my poll ballot on Sunday morning. I had to drop USC for losing to Washington, but I couldn't drop the Trojans below Ohio State, because USC won in the Horseshoe a week earlier. I had to drop BYU below Florida State -- which had to be ranked below Miami -- but I couldn't rank the Cougars below Oklahoma, a team BYU beat two weeks earlier.
So I followed the rules and kept all the head-to-head winners above the head-to-head losers, with one exception. I didn't jump Washington over USC, because I didn't rank the Huskies. Sorry, but before they beat the Trojans, they had won one game (against Idaho) since 2007. If they handle Stanford this week, the Huskies probably will crack next week's poll.
But I'm not sure I can rank them above USC if the Trojans begin winning again. The head-to-head rule makes perfect sense, but at some point, I have to rank teams based on their body of work. By keeping the head-to-head winners above the teams they vanquished, I stiffed Cincinnati -- which deserved to move up and didn't -- and Virginia Tech -- which didn't deserve to move down.
Besides, we're headed for a scenario that could turn head-to-head on its head. If Miami beats Virginia Tech this week, the Hurricanes will be 3-0 going into a matchup with 2-1 Oklahoma. If the Sooners win, they'll have beaten Miami, which beat Florida State, which beat BYU. Hugh Falk, the proprietor of Pollspeak.com, suspects this chain of events would force voters to shut down like the logic-operated android women from Star Trek: The Shatner Generation. I'm guessing it'll look more like the money scene from the 1981 classic Scanners. In other words, we're going to need a mop to clean up the mess.
Last Week: 1
Florida Gators (3-0)As I sat in the Florida Field press box Saturday watching the Gators out-slog Tennessee, I couldn't help but think of the scene in Rocky IV when Rocky opens up a cut above Ivan Drago's eye. Apollo Creed-turned-Rocky trainer Tony "Duke" Evers says, "You see? You see? He's not a machine! He's a man! He's a man!" In this analogy, Florida's lack of depth at receiver is the cut over the eye.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 23-13
Next game: Saturday at Kentucky
Last Week: 2
Texas Longhorns (3-0)Just as Tennessee did against Florida, Texas Tech proved Saturday that the Longhorns are not unbeatable -- though they should be far less beatable when quarterback Colt McCoy fully recovers from the flu. Even if this football thing doesn't work out, McCoy could make millions marketing the PB&J/Pedialyte cure for the ailment.
Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 34-24
Next game: Saturday vs. UTEP
Last Week: 3
Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)The Crimson Tide feasted on two cupcakes after their season-opening statement against Virginia Tech. Now comes Arkansas, the wildcard team that will play some role in the destiny of the SEC West's three national title hopefuls. If last Saturday was any indication, the Razorbacks can score, but they can't play a lick of defense. That will have to change against Alabama.
Last game: Beat North Texas, 53-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas
Last Week: 7
California Golden Bears (3-0)The Golden Bears probably let Minnesota hang around too long Saturday, but we can forgive them just this once. With USC visiting Berkeley on Oct. 3, this week's trip to Oregon could best be represented by a Las Vegas-style neon sign screaming TRAP GAME!!!!
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 35-21
Next game: Saturday at Oregon
Last Week: 6
Ole Miss Rebels (2-0)Before we move the TRAP GAME!!!! sign to Eugene, can we take it to Columbia? Playing a Thursday night national TV game coming off a Saturday game is a nightmare for high-ranked teams. No need for style points here, Rebels. Just win the game.
Last game: Beat Southeastern Louisiana, 52-6
Next game: Thursday at South Carolina
Last Week: 8
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)The Nittany Lions finally get a crack at the team that kept them from playing for the national title last season. The rest of us finally will get an idea whether Penn State will compete for the national title this season.
Last game: Beat Temple, 31-6
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa
Last Week: 10
LSU Tigers (3-0)That opening-week win at Washington looks a heck of a lot more impressive now. Maybe we were a little too hard on the Tigers' defense. We should find out more in Starkville on Saturday.
Last game: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 31-3
Next game: Saturday at Mississippi State
Last Week: 4
USC Trojans (2-1)The Trojans aren't going to go 0-for-the-Apple-Cuppers, but they do need to work out some kinks before they go to Berkeley for what might eventually be considered the Pac-10 title game. Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp split snaps with the first team Monday. Expect Barkley to start if he's physically able.
Last game: Lost to Washington, 16-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Washington State
Last Week: 9
Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1)Unlike most of my fellow AP voters, I didn't feel the Buckeyes deserved to drop this week. They rebounded from a loss by thumping a Toledo team that looked excellent eight days earlier in a win over Colorado. Folks are knocking Tresselball right now, but this team is built to win the Big Ten. That quest starts Saturday.
Last game: Beat Toledo, 38-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Illinois
Last Week: 22
Miami Hurricanes (2-0)Now we'll find out if the Hurricanes can handle all this praise we're lavishing upon them. Quarterback Jacory Harris is getting all the attention, but let's not forget offensive tackle Jason Fox, linebacker Sean Spence and safety Randy Phillips, who also deserve credit for the Canes' rise. If they can beat Virginia Tech, start printing those ACC Coastal Division T-shirts. Remember, Virginia and Duke are in the same division.
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 33-17
Next game: Saturday at Virginia Tech