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Top 25: And now, for the main event

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Now in its seventh year, the College Football BlogPoll is a weekly effort of dozens of college football-centric Web sites representing a wide array of schools under the oversight of SB Nation. As always, this is an ever-evolving snapshot meant to judge teams exclusively on their existing resumés. It pays as little regard as possible to my guess as to what's going to happen over the course of the season, or what would happen in a make-believe game "on a neutral field" or anywhere else. It's subjective, but ideally, it's not a guess: It's a judgment on the evidence that actually exists. It is not a power poll.

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Alabama and LSU had the weekend off ahead of Saturday's blockbuster, winner-take-all tilt in Tuscaloosa, leaving 'Bama to alternate back to the top of the fifth and final edition of the Crimson Tiger Swap. Nothing has changed except the countdown to Nov. 5: Given their respective schedules, they've clearly been the two most dominant teams in the country over the first eight weeks and attempting to discern between them before Saturday night is an exercise in futility. Fortunately, we don't have to wait much longer.

Statistically, with Stanford's triple-overtime squeaker at USC and Wisconsin's second loss at Ohio State, the title of "Most Consistently Dominant" belongs exclusively to Alabama: The Crimson Tide are outpacing opponents by 32.5 points and 257 yards per game, and 3.6 yards per play, the widest margins in the nation on each count.

Cowboys up. Oklahoma State is more firm at No. 3 after crushing Baylor, 59-24, a game the Cowboys led 49-3 after three quarters despite some grisly stats in the final accounting. As bad as the defense looks on paper, OSU is increasingly difficult to deny as the other half of the championship equation: Six of their eight wins have come against teams currently sitting at .500 or better, four of them on the road (at Tulsa, Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri) and all but one by double digits. Aside from their second half comeback at Texas A&M, the Cowboys have not trailed at any point in any other game.

Hold that Tiger. I didn't ding Clemson quite as severely as the voters in the mainstream polls for blowing its perfect record at Georgia Tech, mainly because the back-to-back-to-back wins over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech that vaulted the Tigers into the national consciousness still hold up against almost any other trio of victims on any resumé in the country. In fact, if there's a top-10 outfit I'm starting to have second thoughts about, it's Arkansas.{YSP:MORE}

The Razorbacks escaped an upset at Vanderbilt Saturday by virtue of Vandy's overwhelming dedication to being Vandy in the fourth quarter, but it was the second consecutive week the Hogs found themselves having to rally from a double-digit deficit against a double-digit underdog. Their most impressive win is over Auburn, a fringe poll team at best; their second-best is another second half rally over another fringe poll team, Texas A&M, which has made a regular habit of giving away halftime leads against competent offenses. This weekend's date with South Carolina will tell us a lot about both teams.

The Knot. I'll admit: It feels really strange to rank Michigan as the Big Ten's second-best team to this point when the Wolverines' only chance against a fellow contender resulted in a convincing defeat at Michigan State. But Michigan is still at the top of the conference standings going into the November stretch, now that MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State have all taken turns beating up on one another in a round robin that's resulted in a 2-1 mark for the Cornhuskers and Spartans, a 1-2 mark for the Badgers and Buckeyes and a lot of confusion in the tie-breaker department.

In retrospect, I'd probably bump Penn State in front of Michigan — the Nittany Lions' two best wins, over Illinois and Iowa, are better than Michigan's over Notre Dame and Purdue, and the Lions have a "better" loss, against Alabama — although that would also require overlooking its alarmingly narrow escapes against Temple, Indiana and Purdue. As it stands, this should all sort itself out in neat-and-tidy fashion over the next month, at which point everyone can shake hands over an informed, well-reasoned consensus.

Proof. This week's resumé grid for public consumption:

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Ls: Losses
PPG: Average margin of victory (points per game)
YPP: Average margin per play (yards per play)
Sked: Strength of schedule (as calculated by Jeff Sagarin)

As always, everything will be completely different next week.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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