NGSC Sports

Utterly Unbiased Top 25: Mountaineers!


IT REALLY IS fitting this week’s version of the Utterly Unbiased Top 25 should come out on Halloween Week.

It’s spooky what happened to our rankings when we sat down and reassessed the wins and losses of our nation’s top teams. If voters are being completely honest and thorough, they would sit down each week as we did and constantly reorder the teams based on how wins and losses look as time passes. Generally, though, the process all too often involves moving up teams that won this week and dropping those who lost.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with the conventional method. There’s something to be said for taking the “what have you done for me lately” approach. There’s also the “eye test” in which we all do to some effect.

This week, there were two obvious teams at the top of the heap – undefeated Mississippi State and Florida State. Following those two were 18 one-loss teams, 11 two-loss teams and unbeaten Marshall. We set Marshall to the side for the moment and ranked every team’s best victory 1 to 29. Then their second-best victory, 1 to 29.

Next, the 18 one-loss teams had their losses ranked 1 to 18 while the two-loss teams had their losses collectively under consideration and ranked from 19 to 29. We totaled the points and had our rankings.

Lastly, we looked at Marshall’s two best wins and inserted the Herd appropriately.

So, when you ditch when a loss or win occurred and you take the style points out of it, what happens?

This happens … and we can hardly believe it ourselves:

1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-0) … Won at Kentucky 45-31/No change

2. FLORIDA STATE (7-0) … Did not play/Up one spot

3. AUBURN (6-1) … Defeated South Carolina 42-35/Up one spot

4. OLE MISS (7-1) … Lost at LSU 10-7/Down two spots

5. OREGON (7-1) … Won at California 59-41/Up two spots

OK, so what happened to Alabama, a team that went into Tennessee as our No. 5 team and won? Blame the Pac-12. UCLA re-emerged into our re-ordered rankings this week and Utah continued to climb as their resumes grew stronger. UCLA’s resurgence bolstered Oregon’s resume, already strong with a win against Michigan State and an apparently non-fluke loss to Arizona (that could change in time, of course). Ole Miss dropped substantially further in other polls, but when we looked at their resume, the Bulldogs’ had the third-best overall victory (against Alabama, so there) a modest win against Texas A&M and a not-that-bad loss at LSU. Hard to punish them for that. People question Auburn’s overall strength, but wins at Kansas State and against LSU with just the loss at No. 1 Mississippi State are hard to argue with.

6. ALABAMA (7-1) … Won at Tennessee 34-20/Down one spot

7. TCU (6-1) … Defeated Texas Tech 82-27/Down one spot

8. LSU (7-2) … Defeated Ole Miss 10-7/Up eight spots

9. BAYLOR (6-1) … Did not play/Up two spots

10. KANSAS STATE (6-1) … Defeated Texas 23-0/No change

One of these teams are not like the other, one of these teams just is not the same … yeah. We see you rolling your eyes. LSU, really? Hey, we were just as surprised, but let’s look at the details. LSU owns what we consider to be the best win among all teams in consideration after our top two. The Tigers took down Ole Miss. Arizona’s win at Oregon and Ole Miss’ win against Alabama followed closely behind. As for LSU’s second-best win? It was Wisconsin. In our view, that was the third-best “second-best” win behind Auburn’s win against LSU (Kansas State was Auburn’s first win by virtue of it coming on the road) and TCU’s win against Oklahoma. LSU’s losses? Mississippi State and Auburn. Whoa. So, yeah, that resume sticks it in front of Baylor or Kansas State. TCU’s case is interesting. Not often a team scores 82 points against a Power-5 foe and drops. But despite all the hype, TCU’s best wins remain Minnesota and Oklahoma. Far from impressive among the elite squads. That cost them.

11 GEORGIA (6-1) … Did not play/Up one spot

12. WEST VIRGINIA (6-2) … Won at Oklahoma State 34-10/Up nine spots

13. MICHIGAN STATE (7-1) … Defeated Michigan 35-11/Down five spots

14. ARIZONA STATE (6-1) … Won at Washington 24-10/Up one spot

15. UTAH (6-1) … Defeated USC 24-21/Up nine spots

Happy Halloween, right? The Mountaineers and Utes climbing nine spots while Sparty tumbles five? Look closer and there is a good reason for it. Michigan State’s best win is Nebraska, a victory that is looking better by the day but ranked ninth among the 29 teams under consideration. Their second-best win? Our guess is as good as yours, but all we could come up with was Purdue. Yuck. But what threw us for a loop was Michigan State’s loss at Oregon. We thought that was pretty impressive, but alas, it rated as only sixth, thanks in large part to four SEC West teams wreaking havoc on their peers. Meanwhile in Morgantown, what we’ve got is a team with wins against Baylor(!) and at Oklahoma State. Those strong wins, combined with two very quality losses (Alabama, Oklahoma) pointed the Mountaineers well upslope. Utah, meanwhile, made a big move in part because the other remaining teams under consideration lacked the combo of wins the Utes own (at UCLA, vs. USC).

16. ARIZONA (6-1) … Won at Washington State 59-37/Down three spots

17. NEBRASKA (7-1) … Defeated Rutgers 42-24/Down three spots

18. NOTRE DAME (6-1) … Did not play/Down nine spots

19. OHIO STATE (6-1) … Won at Penn State 31-24 (2OT)/No change

20. OKLAHOMA (5-2) … Did not play/Down two spots

Holy Golden Domers what the heck happened to the Irish? Well, let’s think about it for a moment. Yes, the loss at Florida State counts as the second-best loss in the land. The fact Notre Dame dropped nine spots to No. 18 tells you what the other side of its resume looks like. Notre Dame’s two best wins are a squeaker against Stanford and … um … Purdue? Or should we go with North Carolina? Michigan? Whomever you think it is, it’s awful. Quick, if there’s a tournament among the above five teams, who wins the round-robin? That’s a baffler, ain’t it? Maybe it’s Notre Dame, but until they grab a true marquee win, we can’t give it to the Irish.

21. CLEMSON (6-2) … Defeated Syracuse 16-6/Down one spot

22. UCLA (6-2) … Won at Colorado 40-37/Not ranked

23. MARSHALL (8-0) … Defeated Florida Atlantic 35-16/No change

24. DUKE (6-1) … Did not play/Not ranked

25. COLORADO STATE (7-1) … Defeated Wyoming 45-31/Not ranked

OK, fire away. We’re having a difficult time with Duke and Colorado State as well. Seriously? These guys are better than, say, Wisconsin, East Carolina, Missouri, Louisville, Boise State and Minnesota? Heck, are they even better than Georgia Southern? Surprisingly, the answer (for now) is yes. Duke’s wins are at a 6-2 Georgia Tech and a 4-4 Virginia. Collectively, that’s not overwhelming, but it does rate slightly better than Wisconsin’s wins against Maryland and Illinois and, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, Duke’s wins stack up competitively with Missouri’s two best wins against Florida and South Carolina. The difference-maker was Duke’s one loss. That provided just enough space between it and the others to get it in at No. 24. How about Colorado State? That one loss also helped it out. Could be that we gave too much weight to the one-loss teams, but we figured there needed to be some sort of reward. Colorado State does have an impressive win, though – at Boston College. We doubt seriously either team will still be in the rankings next week, for as the season advances, resumes grow and shrink and those of Wisconsin and Missouri have much growth potential. Georgia Southern? Not so much.


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