Highlights from the ballot …
— First, an important reminder: I consider the caliber of competition when deciding where to slot teams on a weekly basis.
Teams don’t automatically drop after losses or rise after wins. Often, losses to quality opponents reveal more about teams than victories over creampuffs.
— Alabama overtook Georgia for the No. 1 spot after its dominating victory over Miami.
— Penn State, which was No. 12 on my preseason ballot, jumped to No. 5 following the win at Wisconsin.
Season openers on the road are difficult. Season openers on the road against conference opponents are even tougher. Season openers on the road against ranked conference opponents are the toughest possible Week One assignment — and the Nittany Lions deserve to be rewarded for the win.
— Iowa, which wasn’t included on my preseason ballot, is No. 9 this week after walloping Indiana. The Hawkeyes sure look like the early favorite in the Big Ten West.
— As was the case in the preseason, there are five Pac-12 teams on my Week One ballot — just not the same five teams.
I removed Washington, of course, and naturally added UCLA. The only question was how high to slot the Bruins after their sizzling start.
Granted, we don’t know exactly what to make of LSU — it’s entirely possible the Tigers will finish fourth or fifth in the SEC West.
But at this point, the Bruins sure look like one of the top teams; we slotted them just below Iowa in the No. 10 hole.
USC jumped from No. 20 on the preseason ballot to No. 12 this week — partly because of forgettable performances by other teams and partly because their 30-7 win over San Jose State, the defending Mountain West champs with an NFL-level quarterback, qualifies as an impressive Week One showing.
Oregon is No. 14 this week, down three from its preseason placement.
Two teams that had been slotted ahead of the Ducks dropped down (North Carolina) or out (Indiana).
But five teams jumped over them after what we considered more impressive performances: UCLA, USC, Penn State, Iowa and Notre Dame.
Arizona State fell two spots, to No. 15, while Utah fell three, to No. 19. Both defeated FCS opponents and dropped below teams that recorded more impressive wins.
This year and every year, remember: It takes time for the ballot to sort itself out because of the unbalanced schedules.
Some teams play ranked opponents early, providing immediate clarity on their top-25 merits. Other teams face creampuffs for weeks, leaving us to guess on their relative position.
By late September, the ballot should be based entirely on quality results.
3. Ohio State
5. Penn State
6. Iowa State
7. Texas A&M
11. Notre Dame
15. Arizona State
18. Virginia Tech
21. Oklahoma State
22. North Carolina
24. Texas Tech
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