At the start of every season we Associated Press poll voters receive a set of guidelines, but one suggestion often goes ignored: Don't hesitate to make significant changes in your ballot from week to week.
Needless to say, the most significant changes come at the top. This past weekend, Alabama and Florida struggled. Meanwhile, the Texas offense looked so much like its 2008 counterpart that I checked the Wall Street Journal to make sure the economy hadn't collapsed again. So, two weeks after I dropped Texas to No. 3 and a week after I jumped Alabama over Florida, I again shuffled the top three.
At this very moment, Texas looks like the best team in the country. So for this week, the Longhorns are No. 1. Alabama, which claimed the top spot last week after I used the dubious transitive property to compare the Crimson Tide and Gators, falls to No. 3. Florida remains No. 2.
The SEC flip-flop came after I considered my reason for leaping Alabama over Florida in the first place: each team's performance against Arkansas. After this weekend, I compared each team's performance in a home game against Tennessee. Though the Gators didn't blow out the Volunteers, they never really were in danger of losing. The Tide, meanwhile, needed not one but two field goal blocks by nose tackle Terrence Cody to beat the Vols. While Cody vaulted to the top of my quarterback-free Heisman list, the Tide fell in the rankings.
This will doubtlessly anger many people in the Yellowhammer State, just as last week's rankings angered people in Florida and Texas. Feel free to send your concerns via e-mail or Twitter, but remember one thing: The season doesn't end today. I'll rank them again next week, and your team may wind up on top.
Last Week: 3
Texas Longhorns (7-0)We saw the Colt McCoy of old Saturday against Missouri, but it's unclear how much of that was due to the Longhorns' improvement and how much was due to Missouri's abject refusal to play defense. Oklahoma State's defense should give the Longhorns more trouble this week, but if Dez Bryant remains in NCAA purgatory, the Texas defense may prove too much for the Cowboys.
Last game: Beat Missouri, 41-7
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State
Last Week: 2
Florida Gators (7-0)Florida president Bernie Machen says we shouldn't call Florida-Georgia the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party anymore, so here goes: This year's edition of the Planet's Biggest Solar-Powered Libation Celebration is getting very little attention, but this remains a dangerous game for Florida. Georgia assistants are coaching for their jobs. The Bulldogs are coming off an open date. Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes is limited by a sore groin. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has carried 66 times in the past three games. This is a recipe for disaster, and the Gators know they'll have to stay on edge.
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 29-19
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia in Jacksonville
Last Week: 1
Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0)The Crimson Tide had just enough mojo left to beat Tennessee. That game could be the one that punctures Alabama's air of invincibility, or it could be the closest anyone gets to 'Bama on its march to the national title. After a week off, a refreshed Tide team may come out against LSU and prove Cody's game-winning block was just like the one Florida's Jarvis Moss made against South Carolina in 2006 -- the play that saved a title.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 12-10
Next game: Nov. 7 vs. LSU
Last Week: 4
Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0)No Tony Pike, no problem. Backup Zach Collaros started, and the Bearcats routed Louisville. It really won't matter who starts against Syracuse, either.
Last game: Beat Louisville, 41-10
Next game: Saturday at Syracuse
Last Week: 5
USC Trojans (6-1)USC jumped two spots in the BCS rankings this week, proving the Trojans -- should they keep winning -- probably are next in line for a crack at the national title if any of the top three falter (Sorry, Cincy and Iowa). The Trojans face their toughest remaining test Saturday in Eugene. If they survive, they have to feel good about their chances.
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 42-36
Next game: Saturday at Oregon
Last Week: 8-0
Iowa Hawkeyes (6)The Big Ten likes for its teams to finish their regular seasons the weekend before Thanksgiving. That gives them a lot of time to prepare for bowl games, but it also takes away open dates. The Hawkeyes, after two tough road games in a row, return home to face better-than-its-record Indiana. Will Iowa, which has no open date, have enough gas in the tank to run the table?
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 15-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana
Last Week: 7
TCU Horned Frogs (7-0)Finally, my fellow AP voters gave the Horned Frogs a little credit for having one of the nation's nastiest defenses. The coaches, Harris Poll voters and especially the computers also showed the Horned Frogs love after TCU crushed BYU. Now, if TCU can win out and Boise State doesn't receive a significant boost in the human polls that factor into the BCS standings, TCU will claim the non-automatic qualifier spot in the BCS, probably in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last game: Beat BYU, 38-7
Next game: Saturday vs. UNLV
Last Week: 8
LSU Tigers (6-1)The Tigers remain very much alive for a berth in the national title game, but they need to forget about Tuscaloosa until next week. They wouldn't want to see their season derailed by Tulane because they got caught thinking about Alabama.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 31-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Tulane
Last Week: 9
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1)Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they lost to the wrong team. Penn State needs two Iowa losses to compete for the Big Ten title or to make any significant move in the polls, and the Hawkeyes aren't playing like a team that will lose two of their last four.
Last game: Beat Michigan, 35-10
Next game: Saturday at Northwestern
Last Week: 10
Boise State Broncos (7-0)The computers are punishing the Broncos for their weak schedule, and the voters aren't far behind. Boise State badly needs Week 1 victim Oregon to beat USC on Saturday. That way, voters who adhere to the unwritten head-to-head rule will have no choice but to elevate Boise State. If USC beats Oregon, the Broncos will become the world's biggest Utah fans, because the Utes look like the only team capable of knocking off TCU.
Last game: Beat Hawaii, 54-9
Next game: Saturday vs. San Jose State