A couple of weeks ago I watched two “experts” on ESPN argue over whether or not college football should have preseason polls. The idea of the debate was that it’s impossible to tell how good anybody really is until at least a month into a season, so the early polls only hurt teams that seemingly come out of nowhere. In theory, the ESPN guys were right. Every year there are a number of teams that have to make the slow, painful climb from the ranks of the unranked, even if they truly are one of the nation’s elite squads. But as a fan, the polls are absolutely necessary. Having a number in front of a team’s name – even if it’s an arbitrary one – adds an extra layer to every matchup. If you don’t believe me, try picturing that Stanford-USC upset without the number one in front of the Trojans’ name. Kind of loses some of its luster, doesn’t it?
The polls are obviously necessary, but sadly, even this late in the season, they aren’t always right. That’s where I come in. See, my Saturdays essentially consist of nonstop college football, sandwiched around the occasional greasy meal and a maniacal effort to find out which game Erin Andrews is doing the sideline reporting for. I’ve seen every top team in action, and here’s how I think they stack up:
1. Oregon: Led by Heisman-favorite Dennis Dixon, the Ducks have proven to be the best team in the nation’s most unpredictable conference. They’re neck-and-neck with LSU in my eyes, but a 39-7 beatdown of #12 Michigan early in the season vaults Oregon to the top of my rankings.
2. LSU: Anyone who doubts the Tigers needs only to check out their schedule. They have five wins over teams that were ranked in the top-20 at the time. The loss at Kentucky hurts, but I’ll let it slide since it’s virtually impossible to go undefeated in the Southeastern Conference.
3. Ohio State: According to the real polls, they’re the top team in the country. I don’t see it. The Buckeyes’ schedule is a joke, but if they can beat Michigan on the road in the season’s final game, it would be hard to keep an undefeated team out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.
4. Oklahoma: Even though Adrian Peterson left these guys to break NFL records, the Sooners are almost as good as ever. Led by freshman quarterback Sam Bradford, this is one of the nation’s most explosive offenses.
5. Missouri: I can’t believe I’m writing this, but these guys might be the nation’s fifth-best team. I give the Tigers credit for playing a tough nonconference schedule, and their only loss has come on the road at Oklahoma.
6. West Virginia: Nobody is more fun to watch than the Mountaineers, and for that reason alone they make it this high. I would give up my eighth-born child for just one chance to watch this offense take on a tough SEC defense like LSU.
7. Georgia: They should be number one purely because of their celebration scandal against Florida and the fact that their best player is named Knowshon. Well, Knowshon should know that it’s mandatory for me to have two SEC teams high in my rankings, so the Bulldogs fit in at lucky number seven.
8. Arizona State: Talk about your missed opportunities. A victory over Oregon likely would have vaulted the Sun Devils to the championship game. Instead, the Pac-10’s second best team is hanging on to its top-10 life.
9. Kansas: These guys haven’t played anybody, but being undefeated this late in the season is enough to keep them high in the rankings.
10. Florida: Look, I realize that they’ve lost three times. But talent-wise, this team can beat anybody, anytime, anyplace. Plus, you’ve got to love a team that lets its 235-pound quarterback run draws and QB sneaks 15 times a game.