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Poll Watch: Sagarin kickoff edition
Who's up for a brand new weekly feature?
We'll call this Poll Watch, and we'll try to post it every Sunday or Monday of the football season (and who knows, maybe we'll also tackle basketball once it gets rolling). We'll discuss weekly fluctuations in the USA Today coaches, Harris and AP polls while grabbing some insight from some of the computer ranking systems that contribute to the BCS formula.
Or rather, let's poll.
The best thing about the start of conference play could be the rivalry games or the ratcheted-up stadium atmospheres. Or it could be the fact teams have played enough football to start giving weight to USA Today's usually-reliable Sagarin Ratings (explanation included).
For the past several weeks I've waited eagerly, Christmas Eve-style, for the calendar to turn to October and for the numbers to take on more meaning.
The time has come: Let's take a look at how the Big 12 stacks up.
Teams are ordered by national ranking (there are 120 FBS and teams):
- 10. Texas
- 16. Oklahoma
- 24. Missouri
- 25. Nebraska
- 31. Kansas
- 39. Oklahoma State
- 49. Texas Tech
- 60. Baylor
- 63. Texas A&M
- 73. Kansas State
- 80. Iowa State
- 81. Colorado
It's no secret Oklahoma's narrow but nationally televised loss to Miami, along with Texas A&M's disaster loss against Arkansas didn't do much for the reputation of the Big 12, but the computers seem especially nonplussed by the conference.
Undefeated Texas — ranked No. 2 in the AP poll — placed 10th in the Sagarin Ratings, most likely due to an easy schedule. Texas was one of just two teams ranked in the top 10 with an opening-month schedule strength ranked 75th or worse.
Oklahoma slid to 16th on the heels of its disappointing jaunt to South Beach, but it could be worse: A schedule propped up by quality opponents Brigham Young and Miami has kept the Sooners above water.
Missouri and Nebraska, teams set to square off Thursday night, are both ranked between 18th and 24th in the polls. Missouri's strength of schedule (111th) means the Tigers didn't prove much by rolling up big offensive numbers in September.
Missouri wunderkind quarterback Blaine Gabbert http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/05/gabbert_.jpg
We know a little bit more about where Nebraska stands after its loss against Virginia Tech. The Huskers have outscored opponents 157 to 28, but couldn't find the end zone in the loss to the Hokies.
After rolling through the season's opening month unscathed, Kansas seems to fit the same mold as Missouri: big wins and no losses, but no marquee opponents on the schedule so far.
The Jayhawks have played well consistently in 2009, with an improved pass rush on defense and dependable depth on offense. KU's opponents, on the other hand, have been anything but consistent.
• UTEP (Sagarin #102) lost to Buffalo at home.
• UTEP gained 53 total yards while allowing 64 points to Texas
• Duke (#93) lost to Richmond, a strong FCS squad. Strong ... but still FCS.
• Northern Colorado is not a quality opponent. The Bears are Sagarin's 187th ranked (out of 245) Division-I team.
• Southern Mississippi (#71) fell at UAB, an upset driven by the absence of Southern MIss' top two offensive playmakers.
• UTEP topped Houston, the early-season darling that knocked off Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
• Duke hung with Virginia Tech for 60 minutes before losing by eight points.
• Southern Miss could tally a second victory against a major-conference foe this coming weekend at Louisville (the Golden Eagles defeated Virginia already this season).
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech — two teams that fell to Houston in September — are in the same boat. The teams boast flashy offenses to go along with unproven defenses. The squads' non-conference losses place them a rung below Missouri and Kansas.
Sagarin appears to have diagnosed the Big 12's bottomfeeders fairly well. The Baylor Bears aren't the "Bad News Bears" of years past, but without quarterback Robert Griffin, the conference schedule could be an upstream swim.
Texas A&M looked fantastic while jumping out to a 3-0 start against also-rans from the Conference USA and the Mountain West, but not so good in a 28-point loss against Arkansas.
Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray and a mob of Arkansas tacklers http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/05/am_.jpg
Kansas State and Iowa State are separated by seven spots in the Sagarin Ratings, and one blocked point-after-touchdown in real life. Maybe one or the other should be slid up or down a few spots to reflect the competitive balance between the teams.
This video pretty much sums up Colorado's 2009 season, if "Real buffalo : dominated handlers :: dominating opponents : CU Buffs."
It should be interesting to see how these computer-generated rankings sway and shift as the conference season starts in earnest this week. And there will definitely be plenty to talk about seven days from now when every Big 12 team has a league game under its belt.