As seriously as I take the BlogPoll voting every week, I rarely concern myself with how the poll ends up. It's good for discussion, and not to be taken personally. And it's certainly not something we should lose sleep over.
With that in mind, I'm going to start here with a defense of my fellow BlogPollers before I get to this week's picks.
This week's poll, as you can see on the right of this page, ranks West Virginia ahead of South Florida. Since both teams are 6-1 (1-1 Big East), it does make sense to believe that USF's head-to-head win should be the most important thing between the two teams.
Normally, I would agree. After all, the Bulls won 21-13. Fair and square. No outside interference. No chairshots behind the referee's back. Nothing. They won, and they deserved to win.
That was four weeks ago. In fact, Sunday marks exactly one month since the September 28th game in Tampa. Things change. Since that game, USF has an underwhelming win over (gulp) Florida Atlantic, and they lost last week to Rutgers. West Virginia hasn't beaten anyone good, but they have stomped everyone else they played, taking care of business to the point where the closest win was 31-14 over Maryland.
I am one of the voters who picked West Virginia ahead of South Florida in this week's poll. I thought long and hard about it before I pulled the trigger on my vote. In the end, my decision came down to something covered in Brian's BlogPoll "Starter's Guide" that he wrote back in 2005 when he launched this thing:
Teams should be ranked without regard to future schedules. Please don't rank Purdue high because they miss Michigan and Ohio State this year. Teams should also not be ranked on their performance in previous years. At all times it should be an approximate ranking who would beat who on a neutral field this year.Emphasis mine. Yes, South Florida already beat West Virginia. And they deserved a high ranking. Still do (they're spot in the poll is nothing to sneeze at). However, there are things to consider here.
- The game was in Tampa. That's to point out that it was NOT on a neutral field. The final was 21-13, a one-score margin.
- West Virginia outgained South Florida 437-274.
- West Virginia had 21 first downs to 13 for USF.
- West Virginia had almost ten minutes more possession time than USF.
- It's not every day that WVU commits six turnovers in a game.
- Their best player, QB Pat White, was injured and couldn't finish the game.
BlogPollers, please discuss. I'm moving on to picks.
Last week: 9-5
Indiana at Wisconsin: This game might mean more for the Hoosiers than the Badgers. Wisconsin has virtually no shot at a major bowl at this point, and Indiana still needs a win to qualify for a bowl. For them, a bowl game this year would mean everything. The Badgers can't stop the run, no matter what they did against putrid Northern Illinois (-13 yards). Indiana will spread the Badgers out and run for at least 200 yards, or they won't win. And even if that happens, IU might not win. Their defense couldn't stop Penn State, and Wisconsin's offense is also pretty good (don't laugh, Penn State fans - that was an aberration, I hope). I'll take the Badgers at home, though this is going to be a really good game.
The pick: Wisconsin
Michigan State at Iowa: The Hawkeyes impressively defended home field against Illinois a couple weeks ago, and they followed up on that by getting throttled at Purdue. Iowa is a tough team to figure out, but I think they'll take care of the home turf Saturday. Michigan State is driven by their running game, and that's Iowa's strength on defense. The Hawkeyes will find enough holes in the Spartan defense to control the clock and win.
The pick: Iowa
Ohio State at Penn State: I'm tempted. I think Penn State can move the ball on tOSU's defense. I think their defense can cause Boeckman and company problems. I think 100,000-plus fans will cause tOSU problems. And I'm still somewhat cautious about the Buckeyes after what happened last year (yeah, I know, last year was last year, but it's tough to forget about how that season ended). The Nittany Lions offense is just too scattershot for my taste. They can move the ball, but as evidenced by the Michigan game earlier in the season, they don't always do that. I'll take tOSU, with full knowledge that I could be overthinking this one.
The pick: Ohio State
West Virginia at Rutgers: Here's WVU's shot at showing all the skeptics that they deserve a higher spot in the polls, even with one loss. Rutgers pulled out all the stops against USF, using a fake punt and a fake field goal to net them ten points in a three-point win. They'll do everything they can to beat WVU, but they can't do enough. The Mountaineers will run the ball, White won't get hurt, and they won't turn it over six times.
The pick: West Virginia
USC at Oregon: Both teams have impressed, and both teams have found ways to lose at home. USC can run the football, which will be an issue for Oregon's defense. However, I think Oregon's balanced offense and home crowd are bigger obstacles. We know the Trojans will come to play, as they always do in big road games. It just won't be enough in this one. Ducks win.
The pick: Oregon
Other games (home team in CAPS)
PURDUE over Northwestern
MICHIGAN over Minnesota
ILLINOIS over Ball State
TEXAS TECH over Colorado
TEXAS over Nebraska
Florida over Georgia (at Jacksonville)
South Florida over CONNECTICUT
Kansas over TEXAS A&M
South Carolina over TENNESSEE
California over ARIZONA STATE