Tigers taking over top 10 as Auburn, Mizzou keep rolling

Tuesday October 26th, 2010

The e-mail landed not long after last week's Power Rankings were published. The subject line? "OK, maybe I deserve that ..."

Actually, Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal didn't deserve the scorn I heaped upon him in the introduction to last week's rankings. I questioned how Anderson could possibly rank Wisconsin 10 spots below an Ohio State team it had just beaten. I assumed Anderson was one of those voters -- and there are a few -- who don't pay attention to the games. In fact, the Wisconsin/Ohio State gaffe came because Anderson is trying something different this season in an attempt to rank teams without bias.

In past seasons, Anderson ranked teams the same way most of us -- including me -- do, using research, personal observations and gut instincts to formulate the rankings. Our intentions are noble, but the fact of the matter is that none of us can completely eliminate bias no matter how hard we try. (Not necessarily for where we went to school, but for the teams we've seen more.)

Anderson has attempted to eliminate that bias this season by using a point system. He was kind enough to share it with SI.com. Here it is. (For reference purposes, here is Anderson's ballot for this week.)

* Ten points per victory.

* One point for each opponent's victory, except for FCS opponents (no points).

* One point for every 10-point margin of victory (minus a point for every 10 points in a loss). In other words, if a team wins by 32 points, it gets three points in addition to the 10 for the victory.

* Total points divided by games played. Ranking by average. "I break any ties," Anderson wrote. "Auburn and TCU tied on my ballot, but I had Auburn ahead going into the week and kept it that way. There also were ties between Wisconsin and LSU (I believe Wisconsin has the stronger résumé), Arizona and Florida State (I think Arizona is playing better) and Mississippi State and Hawaii (Bulldogs already were ranked)."

Anderson evaluates teams in the same fashion as the computer polls that make up part of the BCS formula. That approach eliminates plenty of biases, but it also produces some curious results such as the Ohio State/Wisconsin situation. Anderson joked that he knows he'll get a ton of hate mail now that the formula is public. So be nice, folks. Anderson is a poll voter making an honest effort to rank teams as fairly as possible.

If only all the voters in the polls that actually count in the BCS rankings put forth so much effort.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 1
The Ducks blasted UCLA last Thursday, showing the nation in a primetime ESPN setting how it looks when a PlayStation offense comes to life. This performance, of course, was summarily dismissed by Boise State supporters (Don't you realize the Broncos beat Oregon 13 months ago?) and SEC supporters (Aww, what a cute little offense) because of the poor quality of the opponent. This week, Oregon will face a USC team that, thanks to NCAA sanctions, is playing its most important game of the season. I'll be covering the game, and a team ranked No. 1 in a major poll has fallen in the last three games I've covered. Can Oregon break my Angel of Death streak?
Last game: Beat UCLA, 60-13
Next game: Saturday at USC
2 Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 2
As expected, the Broncos got leapfrogged by Auburn in the latest BCS standings. Even more disturbing in the land of blue turf is TCU's creep toward Boise State. The teams are separated by mere percentage points now, and TCU could surge ahead by beating Utah on Nov. 6. Boise State's best hope is for the other contenders to lose. This might not help if TCU loses to Utah, as the threat of the Horned Frogs might simply be replaced by the threat of the Utes.
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 48-0
Next game: Tuesday vs. Louisiana Tech
3 TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 3
How dominant has TCU's defense been? The touchdown the Horned Frogs allowed to Air Force in the first quarter on Saturday was the first TCU had allowed in the month of October. This week, the Horned Frogs have to focus on UNLV and not allow their thoughts to drift to Salt Lake City and the biggest game of the season the following week.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 38-7
Next game: Saturday at UNLV
4 Auburn Tigers
Last Week: 6
Auburn ran for a stunning 440 yards -- a school record against an SEC opponent -- against LSU last week. Quarterback Cam Newton placed himself in the lead in the Heisman Trophy race. The Tigers jumped to No. 1 in the BCS standings. So why aren't they No. 1 here? Because this is the same team that allowed 43 points, 428 passing yards and five passing touchdowns the previous week against Arkansas. Auburn shredded LSU's very good defense, but LSU's offense has been subpar all season. What will happen when the Tigers face a team with a good offense and a good defense? That remains to be seen. A resurgent Georgia team could provide a test in a few weeks, but the best measuring stick for Auburn will be the Iron Bowl at Alabama.
Last game: Beat LSU, 24-17
Next game: Saturday at Ole Miss
5 Utah Utes
Last Week: 5
Utah Utes (7-0)
The Utes get the least respect nationally of any of the remaining undefeated teams. That will change if they can beat TCU, but first they must get past the Falcons. Air Force has lost two in a row, but they always play Utah tough. Though the Falcons have only won once in the past five meetings, they were within a touchdown in all four losses.
Last game: Beat Colorado State, 59-6
Next game: Saturday at Air Force
6 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 21
A sizable chunk of the Missouri fan base qualifies for the Told You So e-mail of the week. Kelly from Plano, Texas, probably said it best: "I think you have missed Missouri badly. Excellent balance and depth! ... Coaches rank them 16th. BCS says 11th. You say 21st. I am curious where Bob Stoops ranks them." I seriously underrated Missouri, and hopefully a 15-spot jump in the polls will rectify that oversight. The Tigers played outstanding defense against Oklahoma, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert has plenty of weapons. Still, this is uncharted territory for these Tigers, and they don't have the luxury of a creampuff following their historic win against the Sooners. They have to go to Lincoln for a game that likely will decide the Big 12 North title. Can they stay focused now that they're the toast of college football?
Last game: Beat Oklahoma, 36-27
Next game: Saturday at Nebraska
7 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 8
The Spartans survived Northwestern, and now they face the toughest challenge remaining on their schedule. If Michigan State can beat Iowa, the Spartans should have an excellent shot at playing for the national title. They would be the AQ-conference team with the smallest chance of getting beaten the rest of the way.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 35-27
Next game: Saturday at Iowa
8 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 9
The Badgers have the week off to scoreboard-watch, and the game they'll watch closest will take place in Iowa City. If Iowa can beat Michigan State, it opens the possibility of a three-way tie for the Big Ten title. With wins against Ohio State and Iowa, the Badgers might be best positioned to take advantage of such a tie.
Last game: Beat Iowa, 31-30
Next game: Nov. 6 at Purdue
9 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 10
The Crimson Tide get to rest up for their clash with LSU, which is nice, because three-fourths of Alabama's conference opponents get to rest up for the Tide. Alabama's only remaining game against a team not coming off an open date is a payday affair against Georgia State eight days before the Iron Bowl.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 41-10
Next game: Nov. 6 at LSU
10 Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: 11
The Buckeyes bounced back from their loss at Wisconsin by unleashing hell on Purdue. Now, like the Badgers, the Buckeyes must hope Iowa can knock off Michigan State to allow the rest of the Big Ten contenders back in the conference title race.
Last game: Beat Purdue, 49-0
Next game: Saturday at Minnesota
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