This week we have several big shocks to explain. Start with Alabama’s fall from No. 1 to No. 4. Remember that we are not ranking potential, we are not predicting the season’s end, and we are not imagining the outcomes of imaginary games between these teams. That’s what poll voters do, but we don’t. We give teams grades for what they actually accomplished in their games.
As a result, Alabama’s very average performance (a raw score of 92) against a very weak Fresno State team, at home, a game worth only 80 points, did not compare to the grades for their rivals. Oklahoma State won on the road, Oklahoma crushed Ohio State, and Penn State defeated a top fifty team. Alabama’s grade wasn’t the result of poor play but rather the absence of exceptional play against a weak opponent. The Tide were gifted with two short field possessions and managed only one field goal. Bama generated only four explosive plays and one failed to produce a score and another was on defense. They converted just four of ten third downs while forcing third downs on less than half of their opponents series. You might expect to see these numbers against top fifty competition but not against the bottom thirty.
Three more shocks involve the polls’ love affairs with over-ranked teams from Washington, Clemson and USC. The Trojans did well to beat Stanford but still carry the burden of a lackluster performance in their opener against Western Michigan. In Washington’s case it’s a matter of playing weak competition, two teams from the bottom thirty. In Clemson’s case the logic seems to be that they wear the crown so they should be treated with some respect. They get some credit for smothering Auburn but Auburn has to be recognized as offensively inept and overrated. At the same time, the Clemson offense could only score twice and once was a gift.
Had either Stanford or Auburn beaten higher ranked opponents, they’d have been added to our list of ranked teams. Both failed and continue to wait on the sidelines. Instead, we’ve added LSU, now ranked in the top eleven by the coaches. The Tigers provide the final shock this week. Their first two game performances are actually fifth best in this group. LSU is the victim of the poll voters’ preseason preconceptions (ah, misconceptions) and are therefore underrated.
This week the polls managed to overrate or underrate nearly all of the top twelve teams. There’s no way as yet to know how many good teams aren’t ranked simply because the polls didn’t put them in their preseason top twelve.