January 08, 2010
• Alabama is Number One. No doubts here: All 118 voters in the Coaches' poll (whose members are obligated to vote for the BCS champion) and the Associated Press poll (whose members are not) cast Alabama in the top spot.
That kind of unanimity hasn't been easy, even in the era of enforced 1 vs. 2: The last team to earn every first place vote in the AP without a note of dissent was Texas in 2005, which also happens to be the last undefeated champion. Sixteen AP voters broke ranks last year in favor of undefeated Utah over one-loss BCS champion Florida; 14-0 Boise State gets no such love this time.
• Attack of the Killer Tomato Cans. Speaking of Boise: The Broncos come in at No. 4 in both polls, the highest finish in school history and the highest of an unprecedented group of teams from outside of the "Big Six" conference. TCU (No. 6) joins Boise in the top 10 in both polls, followed by BYU (No. 12), Utah (18) and Central Michigan (23 AP, 24 Coaches), matching last year's record of three mid-major teams in the top dozen and breaking '08's record of four small-conference outfits in the poll at large.
• That's a mighty fine ballot you've got there. There's no significant disagreement between the two polls: The widest gap for any single team is three slots. The top seven and 16 of the top 19 in both polls are identical, and only USC (No. 22 AP, No. 20 Coaches), Texas Tech (21 AP, 23 Coaches) and West Virginia (25 AP, 22 Coaches) are more than one position away from their standing in one poll to the other.
• Above all, consistency. The Coaches' poll, which has tended to favor Penn State over Iowa at every available opportunity and still had the 10-2 Nittany Lions ranked ahead of the 10-2 Hawkeyes going into the bowls despite Iowa's win in Happy Valley in October, finally came to its senses: The Hawkeyes' Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech bumped them up a surprising four spots on the coaches' ballots, to No. 7, one spot ahead of the eighth-ranked Lions.
With that correction, the only teams in either poll ranked below similar teams they defeated head-to-head are 11-3 Georgia Tech (No. 13), which comes in three spots behind 11-3 Virginia Tech (No. 10) despite the Yellow Jackets' win over the Hokies and eventual ACC championship; and 9-4 Ole Miss (No. 20 AP, 21 Coaches), which is looking up at 9-4 LSU (No. 17) despite beating the Tigers in a wild finish in November.
• Elevator, going up. The two newcomers to the top five are Boise State (No. 4) and Ohio State (No. 5), which move up after big BCS wins and set themselves up for even higher expectations going into next fall. The Broncos bring back a whopping 20 starters, including quarterback Kellen Moore (who's only going to be a junior), which could easily land them back in the top five to open the '10 season, and Ohio State's young bunch will be back in the thick of the mythical title chance behind Terrelle Pryor's graduation to a previously undiscovered plane of hype on the heels of his MVP effort in the Rose Bowl.