Monday's Poll Watch returns with a glimpse into the peculiarities of the AP Top 25 ballots and ballot voter data. We scan these ballots to look for interesting patterns and what they may say about the college football landscape as the season progresses.
Where Ohio State Fell
Ohio State's loss to then-unranked Penn State was arguably the top story of Week 8. It also meant Ohio State was sure to fall out the top four. No one should be surprised Ohio State fell from No. 2 to No. 6 with the latest poll.
The overall distribution of votes were normal. The mode is a No. 6 vote. The median is a No. 7 vote. The "average" is 7.24. It has three No. 5 votes from Kirk Bohls, Bill Landis, and, the spirit animal of this feature, Jon Wilner. Its lowest votes are four No. 10s and a No. 11. Josh Kendall is responsible for the No. 11 vote.
All told, Ohio State's vote distribution suggests there appears to be no large subset of voters who think Penn State "exposed" Ohio State as a "fraud". It also means there might be some overall consensus among the AP voters that Ohio State could still be a playoff team by season's end.
That would clearly require running the table. Michigan would need to remain undefeated prior to The Game as well, assuming Penn State has no other loss on its schedule.
Ohio State had a bad week. Houston may have had "the worst week ever" befitting a spin-off of that old VH1 show. It started with an announcement from the Big XII that it would not expand. Since part of Tom Herman's future earnings at Houston is connected to promotion to the Big XII, that's a major loss for Tom Herman. Houston followed that Big XII announcement with a 22-point loss to Southern Methodist, a school that Tom Herman spent part of the spring trashing as some "private school in Dallas" with the expectations of a chump program.
We understand the price of a championship. That price is the same for Alabama as it is for Ohio State and UH. In order to pay that price, you've got to be willing to invest. There's a price for nine-win seasons and prices for eight-, seven-, six-win seasons. Those prices are a lot easier to pay.
And if you're satisfied with going 7-5 and going to the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, then great. Then you're in the wrong program and we'll find a place for you to go. I hear there's a private school up in Dallas that's really looking to try to get to seven wins. We can certainly find you a home.
The 22-point loss to a conference cellar-dweller is curtains for Houston's aspirations this year. It was not going to make the playoff after the loss at Navy but it still could've secured the Group of Five invite to the New Year's Six ahead of an undefeated Boise State. That's now off the table as well. Houston's season will end in a bowl closer to the "Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl" than the Peach Bowl or the Cotton Bowl.
The loss also meant Houston hemorrhaged 699 points from last week to this week, more than the 314 votes Ohio State lost from Week 8 to Week 9. It appears on just 23 ballots. It does, however, have two No. 18 votes. Those came from Eric Hansen and Jonny Miller.
Is Anyone Buying Boise State?
This take won't be a scorcher like last week's hate fest on the garbage-caliber play of the SEC. Whatever team gets the Group of Five invite to the Cotton Bowl is going to make that bowl's selection committee very unhappy. No Group of Five team looks that good or marketable right now. The Cotton Bowl will spend December begrudging the Rose, Sugar, and Orange committees for having contracts with various Power Five conferences to fill out their games, making the Cotton Bowl responsible for falling on the Group of Five grenade. This would've been fine if it were an undefeated or one-loss Houston. Right now, it's looking like the Cotton Bowl will be compelled to take Boise State.
This Boise State team, by the way, gained just 22 points in the AP Poll despite three losses ahead of it in the AP rankings. This is in large part because Boise State secured a sloppy win against BYU despite turning the ball over five times. It had a similar limp effort against 4-4 Colorado State in its last game. Only the three-point win at home against Washington State has aged well among the games on Boise State's résumé.
Few AP voters are enamored with the Broncos' résumé to date. Mike Barber, Matt Charboneau, and Garry Smits have the Broncos at No. 9. Kirk Bohls has Boise State at No. 6. They are the exception. The Broncos have four votes at No. 18 and five votes at No. 19. There are also two votes at No. 20 and even a No. 22 vote from Matt Galloway.
There seems to be a sense of dread for the Cotton Bowl this year. There at least is among the AP voters.
Other Peculiar Observations.
- The AP Poll says hello to Penn State after its upset of Ohio State on Saturday night. Penn State appears on 41 of 61 ballots and was ranked as high as No. 10 (Josh Kendall).
- Auburn—yes, that Auburn—is the AP No. 15. It even has a No. 6 vote from Nathan Deen.
- Jon Wilner has Colorado at No. 15. He also has Arkansas at No. 17. Your guess is as good as mine.
- The top ten says hello to West Virginia for the first time since 2012. It's ranked no higher than No. 6 on any voter's ballot, though.