Poll Watch: Ohio State Climbs to No. 6, but Must Worry About UNC and Stanford

By Vico on November 30, 2015 at 1:15 pm
28 Nov 2015: Members of the Stanford special teams unit celebrate after K Conrad Ukropina (center) hits game winning FG as time expires in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Stanford Cardinal football game in Palo Alto, CA. Final score, Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36. (Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire)
Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire

Monday's Poll Watch returns with a glimpse into the peculiarities of the AP Top 25 ballots and ballot voter data even now with the College Football Playoff committee releasing its late season rankings. We scan these ballots to look for interesting patterns and what they may say about the college football landscape as the season progresses.

Ohio State Climbs to No. 6

Ohio State's 42-13 win over Michigan gave the Buckeyes a negligible boost in the rankings from last week. The Buckeyes are now No. 6 in the AP Top 25, or nominally the "top two left out" if the Associated Press decided the field of four for the playoff.

However, no voter put Ohio State in his or her top four. The Buckeyes maxed at No. 5 on ballots cast by Garland Gillen and Joey Knight.

The lowest votes for Ohio State are at No. 9. These ballots were cast by Laura Keeley, Josh Kendall, Michael Lev, and Sam Werner. The ballot cast by Keeley, in particular, should not be a surprise. Keeley was one of the most vocal voters in the AP to dump her proverbial "stock" in the Buckeyes when it became apparent midseason that the struggles on offense would preclude Ohio State from meeting its preseason expectations.

If you're curious about where Ohio State ranks among the other Big Ten teams on a given ballot, do know that Michigan State is ranked ahead of Ohio State on every ballot. This, by the way, is fair and I do not think any Ohio State fan should protest that loudly.

Interestingly, there is one ballot cast in which 11-1 Ohio State is above undefeated B1G West champion Iowa. Joey Knight has Ohio State at No.5 and Iowa at No. 6.

Can Ohio State Seriously Climb Two Spots Higher?

If you had asked me shortly after Michigan State's victory over Ohio State, I would've been more confident in Ohio State's ability to sneak into the top four than I am now.

In other words, North Carolina—arguably the hottest team in the country right now—has a bad South Carolina loss and two FCS teams on its schedule. Stanford has one more loss than Ohio State. I thought Ohio State compared favorably.

However, North Carolina and Stanford have championship games next week while Ohio State does not. They have the ability to make proverbial "statements" to the committee while Ohio State hopes last year's playoff run and last week's Michigan win will be sufficient.

Further, both are not far behind the Buckeyes. Stanford was 235 points behind Ohio State last week. It's just a 60-point cushion this week. Likewise, Ohio State's 151-point lead over North Carolina last week is an 112-point lead this week.

I can live with Ohio State's exclusion from the playoff this year, though I would obviously prefer its inclusion. However, where's the room? Oklahoma is done and played a de facto Big XII championship game against Oklahoma State that Baylor and Texas Christian did not have the luxury of playing last year. The winner of the Big Ten Championship Game is in the field. Two spots are already taken without further knowledge of what the playoff committee deliberates in the next two weeks.

Ohio State fans are hoping for an Alabama loss in the SEC Championship Game, which would eliminate the SEC altogether. That is awesome by itself but it is also a necessary condition for Ohio State's hopeful inclusion into the top four.

The worry right now is Ohio State would also need a North Carolina win in the ACC Championship Game that could ostensibly put North Carolina in the field even if it removes Clemson from it.

If Stanford wins the Pac-12 Championship Game (i.e. if it beats USC again), that might put Stanford over Ohio State in the eyes of the playoff committee if the movements in this week's AP Top 25 are any indication.

Oh, Michigan...

Ohio State beat the shine off Michigan on Saturday. This dropped the Wolverines from No. 12 to No. 19. Only Florida had a worse day in the polls than the Wolverines.

The individual tumbles in the voter data from last week are quite fun. For example, Chadd Cripe slid Michigan from No. 13 last week to No. 22 this week. John Adams had a similar movement from No. 13 to No. 21. Brent Axe has Michigan at No. 21 this week and had Michigan at No. 12 last week. Eric Avidon had Michigan at No. 9 last week and No. 21 this week.

However, I was surprised how forgiving some of the voters were. Adam Zucker moved Michigan from No. 13 to No. 16. Dave Reardon had Michigan at No. 15 last week and No. 17 this week. Ed Johnson moved Michigan down one spot to No. 15 (from No. 14 last week). Laura Keeley had Michigan at No. 13 last week and No. 15 this week. Eric Hansen has Michigan at No. 13 this week and had the Wolverines at No. 12 last week.

All told there were 14 ballots this week in which Michigan fell just three spots or fewer. There were an additional five ballots in which Michigan fell just four spots or fewer.

Go Blue, I suppose.

Other Peculiar Observations

  • There are some interesting differences of opinion about Oregon. Sam McKewon has the three-loss Ducks at No. 7 while Garland Gillen has Oregon unranked.
  • Northwestern appears as high as No. 8 on an AP voter's ballot. That ballot was cast by Doug Lesmerises.
  • Chadd Cripe has three-loss Ole Miss at No. 11. Three-loss Memphis is unranked on all but three ballots. Weird how that works out.
  • Sam McKewon is the most bullish voter on the Trojans. He has USC at No. 15.
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