The problem with ranking teams so early in the season is balancing what we have seen from this year's teams -- the ones we're supposed to be ranking -- with their counterparts from the previous year. By Week 10, this won't be a problem because teams will have hefty 2011 résumés. But at this point, it's still quite difficult to use only this year's results, especially when some schools insist on front-loading with cupcakes. Several of the nation's best teams (LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma) have been kind enough to schedule challenging early matchups that allow for some evaluation of their 2011 merits, but others -- we're looking at you, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech -- have forced pollsters to read their histories as well as their tea leaves in an attempt to rank them accurately.
This also answers the most common question I've received over the past two weeks. Why am I the only Associated Press poll voter who has yet to rank Texas? The answer: Texas squeaked by a BYU team that got crushed by (also unranked) Utah, then beat a UCLA team that lost to (also unranked) Houston. Yes, UCLA beat Oregon State, but so did Sacramento State. Had the Longhorns gone 10-3 last year, I probably would have them ranked. But Texas went 5-7 last year and forfeited the benefit of the doubt that comes with a string of successful seasons. Right now, I have Texas just outside the Top 25 behind last-team-in Iowa State, which beat the Longhorns in Austin last year. Conveniently enough, the two teams play in Ames on Saturday. The winner will be ranked. The loser probably will not.
You're probably asking why we even bother to rank teams this early. You're not going to like the answer: Because you read the rankings. In fact, you're obsessed with them. If you didn't read them, we wouldn't do them. We're not in the business of giving readers what they don't want. So if you'd like for us to wait until Week 6 to begin ranking teams, spend the early part of the season reading some of the great works of American literature instead of reading -- and whining about -- the rankings. Need some suggested reading? Look no further than this Top 25.
(Also, it has come to my attention on Twitter that some of you hate the themed Power Rankings with the fire of 1,000 suns. Too bad. Keep up the complaints, and next week I'll compare the Top 25 teams to Lifetime Original Movies.)
NCAA Football Power Rankings
Next five: Texas, Houston, USC, Washington, Kansas State
Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.