By Mitch Light
I don’t vote in the two polls that make up two-thirds of the BCS standings — the coaches poll and the Harris poll. But I do a weekly ranking, of all 120 FBS teams, on our website. And it is something I take seriously. It’s not rocket science, but it does take some time to sort through every team and determine where they should be ranked based on which teams they beat (and when they beat them) and which teams they lost to (and when they lost).
It can get pretty confusing, especially in a league like the Big East, which has five teams with two losses in league play. For example, Louisville beat Rutgers. Rutgers beat Cincinnati. Cincinnati beat Louisville. Here’s another one: Syracuse beat West Virginia. West Virginia beat Rutgers. Rutgers beat Syracuse. In each of these cases, it is very difficult to figure out which teams should be ranked higher in the 120 poll. But at least in these examples, the teams involved each lost other games, which allows the voter to get a better read on the teams.
That, however, will not be the case among SEC superpowers if Arkansas defeats LSU this Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge. If this happens, we will be facing — in my opinion — the most difficult dilemma in the history of the college football poll. If the Hogs do manage to pull off the upset and Alabama takes care of business at Auburn, I have absolutely no idea who should be ranked No. 1 in the nation. In this hypothetical scenario, all three teams would be 11–1 with no losses to any team outside of the Big Three in the SEC West.
• Should it be Arkansas, which would be coming off a win against the No. 1 team in the nation on the road? Makes sense. Until you consider that Arkansas lost, 38–14, at Alabama on Sept. 24.
• Should it be Alabama, which handled Arkansas with ease in September? Makes sense. Until you consider that Alabama lost at home to LSU on Nov. 5.
• Should it be LSU, which won on the road against Alabama? Makes sense. Until you consider that LSU would be coming off a loss at home to Arkansas.
There truly is no right answer. Every argument that you come up with can be shot down with sound reasoning. But at some point, every voter — whether it’s for the AP, Harris Poll, Coaches poll or a website like ours — will have to make a decision. So, for arguments sake, if Arkansas beats LSU Friday afternoon by a score of 24–20, I likely will keep LSU No. 1 in the Athlon Sports poll.
From watching these three teams all season, I believe that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the nation. Arkansas is obviously very good, but this team has flirted with disaster too many times — vs. Texas A&M, at Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt. LSU has played a slightly more difficult schedule than Alabama, and the Tigers, of course, beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
So while it does seem strange to vote a team No. 1 in the nation even though it lost at home in its most recent game, I believe putting LSU atop the poll is the best decision at this point of the season.
AROUND THE SEC
• LSU has allowed 11 points or less in all seven SEC games. Let that sink in.
• Ole Miss ranks 11th or 12th in the SEC in 15 of the 17 stat categories maintained by the NCAA.
• The seven SEC teams that Georgia has defeated have a combined record of 12–39 in league play. Auburn, at 4–3, is the only team in that group with a winning SEC record.
• Tennessee’s Tauren Poole rushed for a season-high 107 yards in the Vols’ win over Vanderbilt. It was Poole’s first 100-yard game in SEC play since he rushed for 107 yards against Ole Miss last November.
• Alabama’s Trent Richardson has as many rushing touchdowns (20) as the next two players on the SEC leaders list combined —Auburn’s Michael Dyer (10) and Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy (10).
• Vanderbilt has only hit two of eight field goal attempts in SEC games.
• Alabama and Georgia are the only two teams in the league with over 2,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving.
• Kentucky ranks 118th in the nation with a 4.13 yards-per-play average.
• Alabama has almost 1,000 more rushing yards in SEC play than Tennessee. The Crimson Tide lead the league with 1,427 yards in seven games; the Vols are last with 447 in seven games.
• South Carolina has only allowed one pass play of at least 40 yards, tied with South Florida for fewest in the nation.