Nine weeks are in the books for the college football season, and as each week passes the performances of the nation's top teams become increasingly critical in determining how they stack up and who gets to play in the biggest bowl games once the calendar flips to winter.
The AP and Coaches' polls are out and reflect some of the big games that went down across the nation in Week 9, with schools dreaming of contending for the national title suffering crippling losses, while others improved their argument for a place in the BCS Championship game.
Since even dropping one spot in these polls makes a difference, here we'll cover 10 teams that were unjustly ranked by one or both the AP and Coaches' polls after Week 9. Be sure to chime in if you think other schools were wronged by these two sets of rankings.
The lords of the blue turf are enjoying another great season, undefeated after seven games, but they can't manage to crack the top two in the all-important USA Today Coaches' Poll. The Coaches' Poll carries greater importance because it's included in the algorithm the BCS uses to formulate its standings, meaning being third severely hurts Boise State's chances of getting a BCS Championship berth.
And at this point they deserve to be top two, and are in fact second in the AP poll after being second in both rankings after Week 8. Auburn is a team that has two tough games left on its schedule against Georgia and Alabama, not to mention the likelihood of playing in the SEC Championship game.
Boise State is a more realistic bet to run the remaining table, although it has potentially tough games upcoming against Hawaii and No. 24 Nevada. Neither of these games, though, are like battling three potentially brutal SEC opponents, and while this may work in Auburn's favor if it wins out, Boise deserves to leap frog the Tigers even if Auburn only suffers one loss.
The BCS can only keep the Broncos down for so long.
This is a bit like arguing for both sides, but I think if Auburn is going to sit at No. 2 in the all-important Coaches' Poll, they should be equally heralded by the AP voters. The fact that there's a disparity between two and three is no doubt a testament to the wide-open nature of the national standings this year, but I think Auburn, to this point, has accomplished the most of any team besides No. 1 Oregon.
My gripe with Boise State's ranking and continual BCS shunning has more to do with projections of future shortings by the BCS should they go undefeated and Auburn lose one game.
But that's not to under-sell Auburn. Auburn's run this deep into the season is truly impressive and deserving of a top two ranking nationally, in my opinion. The Tigers have prevailed in all their toughest games and have one of the best athletes going in college football today in quarterback Cam Newton.
It's not surprising that Alabama is ranked above Utah despite the Utes being undefeated through eight games. The Crimson Tide's one loss came at the hands of a tough South Carolina team, and voters clearly weigh their other in-conference victories more than Utah's impressive undefeated run.
The Utes survived a close game against Air Force in Week 9, but next week comes their biggest test to date. They can truly justify a potential top five ranking if they can knock off TCU at home, a game with monumental bowl game ramifications.
A Utah win could get them as high as number four in the rankings and could potentially garner a first place vote or two, but for this week they deserve to be one spot higher than the one-loss Crimson Tide.
Stanford's only loss has been at the hands of consensus No. 1 Oregon, a three-touchdown beating up in Oregon. Otherwise the Cardinal has looked like a national contender, knocking off USC, Washington State and Washington in consecutive weeks, three very solid Pac-10 wins.
Losing to an offensive juggernaut like Oregon on its home field is something that can happen to even the best teams, and Stanford belongs at No. 10 in both polls. The AP has them pegged right this week but I think the Coaches' Poll undervalues the talent that Stanford has, led by elite quarterback Andrew Luck.
Stanford can further stamp its ticket into the top 10 by getting a big win in Week 10 against Arizona, another top 25 team from the Pac-10. With the game taking place at Stanford, I like the Cardinal's chances of upping their stock come next week's polls.
Michigan State plummeted in this week's polls, and deservedly so after heading out on the road and getting smacked down by 31 by the Iowa Hawkeyes. However, MSU had proved itself to be one of the Big Ten's top teams, and that's a conference that boasts much more depth and parity than in years' past. Iowa is still ranked in the top 20 despite suffering two losses, and it joins Ohio State and Wisconsin in the national rankings.
I think Michigan State deserved to be a few spots higher, outpacing both Arizona and Missouri. Missouri had a chance to cement itself on the national scene, but it was handily dispatched by Nebraska. And Arizona is overrated heading into a week in which they'll travel to Stanford, an extremely tough game.
Michigan State should be ranked ahead of those two teams at the very least.
I understand the level of respect heaped on SEC teams, but coming off a 10-point win over previously-ranked Kansas State, on the road in Manhattan (the one in Kansas), Oklahoma State and its 7-1 record should be ranked above two-loss SEC squads Arkansas and South Carolina.
Led by 26-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State has enjoyed a great season in the Big 12, only losing to Nebraska in a shootout two weeks ago. The fact that Nebraska easily dispatched Missouri should have woken voters up to the fact that Oklahoma State is a quality team.
They can cement a place above teams with two losses, but with more national exposure by beating Baylor next week. The Baylor Bears are currently ranked in the top 25 themselves, so maybe a Cowboys win would be enough to lessen the opinions of Arkansas and South Carolina enough for Oklahoma State to leap over them.
Nevada had cruised to an undefeated record and opened its WAC conference schedule with a win, but then things fell apart on the road against Hawaii, a tough conference game that Hawaii won 27-21.
The WAC looks to be an improved conference with the strong seasons of Nevada, Hawaii and of course Boise State, and to me Nevada deserves to be a few spots higher particularly in the AP poll. The AP ranks them below Florida State and North Carolina State, two ACC rivals who battled this week.
I think the Wolfpack should be at No. 23 in both polls, not just the Coaches' poll. They have their biggest test in a few weeks when they welcome Boise State on Thanksgiving weekend, but until then if they keep winning, they should leap over two-loss teams that have gotten muddled in tough conference play.
Baylor is fresh off a victory against in-state rivals Texas on the road in Austin. The Bears' worst loss this year came at the hands of TCU, a top five team currently, and Baylor has enjoyed a very strong season in the Big 12. They've also defeated Kansas State, a team that's sat in the top 25 previously during the 2010 season.
Their loss to Texas Tech seems to continue to be held against them, as they are unable to climb above Mississippi State or Virginia Tech, fellow two-loss teams. Baylor has lost most recently of the three schools, but a win against Texas and K-State in consecutive weeks should bump Baylor up a few notches in the national polls. If the Bears upset Oklahoma State next week, I expect to see Baylor inch closer to the top 20.
Hawaii statistically has the best passing offense in the nation, led by quarterback Bryant Moniz. The Rainbow Warriors opened the season sluggishly, losing at home to then-ranked USC in a shootout, and then going on the road and dropping a game to Colorado, an unimpressive result.
Yet since then Hawaii has rattled off six straight wins, including an upset of conference foe Nevada, who was in the top 25 at the time.
Hawaii has been unable to rally its way back into the top 25 in advance of its huge meeting with Boise State next Saturday. Hawaii deserves some more national attention, as the program has carried on its successful ways in the wake of June Jones' departure for SMU.
The Big East seems to have fallen completely out of favor with the national pollsters, as Syracuse is unable to crack the top 25 in either poll this week in spite of having a very solid season building. The Orange are 6-2 but can boast of victories against West Virginia when it was still in the top 25, as well as Cincinnati and USF.
The Orange's losses were a non-conference game away at Washington, a tough assignment for an East Coast team, as well as a drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh at home. Yet they have emerged as the cream of the Big East, a conference once highly-regarded.
They still have four tough games remaining with Louisville, Rutgers, Connecticut and Boston College, but Syracuse deserves consideration for at least a spot in the low end of the top 25. The Orange are a solid two-loss team that is penalized for their conference's general struggles.