With the October 17th release of the BCS rankings looming, solidifying a position at or near the top of both the AP and USA today poll is becoming increasingly important. While these rankings are calculated in a smoke-filled room with algorithms I don't pretend to understand, the AP and USA today polls are generally pretty good indicators of what the BCS rankings will look like. A high initial ranking could mean the difference between attending the Sugar Bowl or the Alamo Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl or the Poinsettia Bowl.
Let's take a look now at which teams aren't getting the respect they deserve in the polls.
Ranking: 15 (AP and USA Today)
Reason for the low ranking: The Hawkeyes went on the road early in the season, and though they mounted a valiant comeback, they were ultimately thwarted by a late Arizona TD pass.
Why they deserve to be higher: Though they have lost a game, the nature of that loss must be taken into account. They played a talented Arizona team on the road. In addition to facing a hostile crowd, the Wildcats have a stifling defense, giving up only 231 yards/game and 11 points.
Iowa, too, is a defensively stout team, giving up just over 11 points and 242 yards per game. This past weekend, the Hawkeyes suffocated a struggling Penn State attack in a 24-3 victory.
Additionally, the Hawkeyes' Ricky Stanzi is a capable signal caller who is averaging over 254 yards/game in the air and has thrown for 11 touchdowns. Though, the Iowa rushing attack isn't as powerful as in years past, Stanzi and his receiving corps are capable of shouldering the offensive load.
This is a very dangerous one-loss team, one that should be ranked ahead of teams like Utah, Miami, and offensively challenged LSU. The Hawkeyes do have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks, however, with games against Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin in succession after a bye week.
Ranking: 23 AP and 24 USA Today
Reason for the low ranking: Jimbo Fisher's team went on the road in the second week of the season and was simply manhandled by Oklahoma. The offense sputtered while the defense looked porous in a 47-17 defeat.
Why they deserve to be higher: Let me give a brief disclaimer. I'm not suggesting that Florida State should vault into the top 10, but I do think they should be positioned inside the top 20.
Christian Ponder (who has been in college for what seems like a decade) is a capable and accurate quarterback. His team looks to him for leadership, and despite some decision making lapses, he generally provides it.
The Seminoles' defense is second in the ACC, giving up only 15.4 points/game, and they will likely continue their defensive dominance against a relatively weak conference.
While the lopsided loss is an ugly blemish on their season, expect Florida State to win the ACC. The Seminoles began their ACC campaign against Virginia last Saturday with a 34-14 victory. Expect Florida State to flex its' collective muscle this week against Miami.
Ranking: 4 (AP and USA Today)
Reason for the low ranking: Oregon put on an offensive show Saturday night against a good Stanford team, coming back from an early deficit for a big conference win. With this big W, the Ducks catapulted over Boise State in the national polls.
Why they deserve to be higher: Now you might be asking yourself why a No. 4 ranking is too low, but for Boise State, every slip in the polls is another blow to its BCS Championship aspirations. Boise has already played (and beaten) the two teams on its schedule that were supposed to lend credibility to a championship campaign. Unfortunately for Boise State, the Broncos' signature win against Virginia Tech in a de facto road game, has been less profitable than once thought because of Va. Tech's loss to JMU the following week.
While they will get an opportunity to face another ranked team in conference (Nevada), a victory would not be considered a signature win. Boise is hamstrung by a weak conference slate. The Broncos should not, however, be ranked lower than Oregon at this point in the season. They have played well against two tough opponents in Oregon State and Va. Tech (the latter has since rebounded to win three straight games).
They are a target week in and week out from conference opponents who would love to derail the Bronco's BCS hopes. And, while I know it's a new season, and Oregon has a lot of different pieces on offense, like LaMichael James, Boise beat Oregon a year ago in the opener. While that can't necessarily factor in, it shouldn't be forgotten.
If Oregon goes on to run the table against a surprisingly deep Pac-10, the Ducks will deserve to be ranked ahead of Boise. But until Oregon faces a few more difficult opponents, Boise should remain third in the rankings.
Reason for the low ranking: The West Virginia Mountaineers went on the road early in the season to play the LSU Tigers. Though LSU's offense has been relatively horrendous, much to the chagrin of the Tiger faithful, Death Valley is still one of the hardest places to play in the country. Had the Mountaineers not dug themselves an early hole, or allowed Patrick Peterson to terrorize them on special teams (blocked fg and punt return TD), the Mountaineers may have escaped with a win.
Why they deserve to be higher: Unfortunately, someone in the Big East will get an automatic bid to a BCS bowl. Expect West Virginia to be that team. Though nowhere near as dynamic as Pat White, Geno Smith is an effective passer, averaging 230 yds/game to compliment a rushing attack averaging nearly 150 yds/game.
Coupled with a defense that is only giving up 14.5 pts/game, expect West Virginia to make its way into the polls shortly, en route to a Big East title.
Ranking: 11 AP and 13 USA Today
Reason for the low ranking: Despite leading for much of the game, Arkansas watched its chances of defeating No. 1 Alabama slip away after two costly interceptions from Ryan Mallett. The first pick set up Alabama's go-ahead score while the other sealed the victory for the Crimson Tide.
Why they deserve to be higher: The Razorbacks lost in heartbreaking fashion to Alabama at home. Despite the loss, however, they proved that they belong with the nation's premier team. If not for two poor decisions by Mallett, the outcome may have been very different.
The Razorbacks don't run the ball particularly well and have struggled to stop the opponents' rushing attack. However, their potent passing attack will certainly win many games. Expect the Razorback offense to carry them throughout their tough SEC schedule to a top ten finish.
(As an aside, how can Arkansas possibly be ranked below Florida in the USA Today poll? They both have one loss, to the same team. Florida was exposed in a 31-6 humiliation at the hands of Nick Saban's team. Arkansas, on the other hand, nearly pulled off the colossal upset. Come on USA Today.)
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