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Dr. Saturday

Top 25: Tigers, Cowboys holding back the flood

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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First, the boring part: Yes, of course, undefeated LSU and Oklahoma State are alone at the top here, as they are everywhere else, and clearly deserve to be. Hope you weren't expecting any surprises. Now, on to the fun stuff.

Splitting heirs. Among one-loss teams, I separated the candidates first by wins: Thanks to its convincing romp at Stanford, Oregon joined Alabama and Oklahoma as the contenders with the best overall scalp collections — the Ducks' and Crimson Tide's standing out for quality (blowouts over otherwise unbeaten Arkansas and Stanford, respectively) and the Sooners' for quantity. Those three, I ordered according to loss:

• Alabama lost in overtime to the No. 1 team,
• Oregon lost fairly big to the No. 1 team,
• Oklahoma rallied to avoid losing big to a team that's lost its subsequent three games by a combined 126 points.

When you break it down, it's not really that complicated. If the Sooners complete their redemption tour by beating Oklahoma State on Dec. 3, then it gets complicated. But not until then.

What's with the gap between Boise State and Houston? The Coaches' Poll used Boise State's loss to TCU as justification to drop the Broncos behind unbeaten Houston based strictly on the loss column. But there is no comparison between the win columns. Boise State's best win was a season-opening thumping of Georgia, now 8-2 and on the verge of the SEC Championship Game; Houston's best win was a season-opening squeaker over UCLA, now 5-5 and on the verge of getting its head coach fired. Boise State has beaten four teams currently sporting winning records; Houston has beaten one. Jeff Sagarin ranks Boise State's schedule as the 43rd-toughest in the nation; he ranks Houston's schedule 123rd, behind South Dakota, South Dakota State and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.{YSP:MORE}

For all of their gaudy statistics, the Cougars' last five wins have come against teams that are a combined 21 games under .500. In their only three games against teams not currently sporting a losing record — UCLA (5-5), Louisiana Tech (6-4) and UTEP (5-5) — they survived by a grand total of 12 points. Under no circumstances is this a top-ten team.

At least, not yet. Houston's next two games are both against winners (6-4 SMU and 7-3 Tulsa), and wins in both would set up a showdown with streaking Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. At 13-0, the Cougars could be BCS-bound and justifiably prowling the edges of the national elite. But not until then.

About face. The biggest reassessment this week was in the Big Ten, where solid road wins by Michigan State (at Iowa) and Nebraska (at Penn State) conquered last week's skepticism, vaulting the Spartans and Cornhuskers back to the brink of the top ten. And where Michigan State and Nebraska go, Wisconsin must logically follow. Michigan and Penn State bring up the bottom half of the Big Ten Bloc at Nos. 18 and 19, respectively.

The casualties of the Big Ten's upward mobility are SEC rivals Georgia and South Carolina, both of whom fell after big wins because… honestly, why did I have them in the top 15 in the first place? Georgia has beaten one team with a winning record: Auburn. South Carolina has beaten one team with a winning record: Georgia. Neither has played LSU or Alabama from the West; incredibly, the Bulldogs also miss Arkansas. With a win Saturday over Kentucky, they'll complete the easiest run to the SEC Championship Game in the 20-year history of the format, but I'm wondering if I have them too high as it is.

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

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L: LossesPPG: 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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