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OU AP pickers leave this voter fit to be Tide

Citizen Staff Writer
GIMINO COLUMN

There were 240 ballots cast in major college football polls over the weekend, and I have just one question for 210 of the voters:

What the heck were you thinking?

The college football circus was back in town last week – down goes USC, down goes Georgia, down goes Florida, down goes Wisconsin – causing the first major poll shakeup of the season.

Not shaken enough, though.

The problem with having preseason rankings is that those initial perceptions, often misguided and based on reputation, remain long after the season starts and results began to pour in.

A reminder: The Associated Press instructs its voters to discard perception and rank teams based on performance.

So let’s consider performance.

If you just dropped into the season by parachute after five weeks – without any idea of where a team started in the rankings – the answer to who is No. 1 would be abundantly clear.

It’s Alabama.

Not Oklahoma.

Or anybody else.

Yet, the Sooners received 43 of 65 first-place votes in the AP poll, 57 of 61 first-place votes in the coaches poll and 102 of 114 votes at the top of the Harris poll.

No. 2 Alabama got 21 first-place votes in the AP poll, while a scattered eight other first-place votes went to LSU, Missouri or Texas.

Sidebar for a second. Texas? The Longhorns have defeated Florida Atlantic, UTEP, Rice and an Arkansas team undergoing a major transition.

Looking good while sweeping that not-so fearsome foursome is nice and all, but it’s not exactly the degree of difficulty that leads to gold medals or No. 1 ratings.

Let’s hold off on drinking the burnt-orange Kool-Aid until the team has attempted the high hurdles.

OK, now that I’ve angered the Hook ‘em Horns crowd, let’s get back to the Boomer Sooners.

The only plausible explanation for why Alabama is not ranked No. 1 is that the Crimson Tide started the season as a fringe top 25 team, actually unranked by the coaches. Oklahoma, meanwhile, was considered a national title contender.

Memo to voters: It’s not wrong to jump one undefeated team over another.

Try it some time.

The reason Alabama should be No. 1 is that its road victory at Georgia on Saturday stands as the most impressive performance of the season. The Tide, stunningly, was up 31-0 at halftime.

Alabama dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Georgia’s rushing game to 50 yards. That was similar to how Alabama crushed Clemson in the season-opener, holding the Tigers – with future NFL runners James Davis and C.J. Spiller – to zero rushing yards.

Now, Georgia came back in the second half – I wouldn’t expect anything less of such a good team – but Alabama ended up winning 41-30 after giving up two touchdowns in the final three minutes.

Oklahoma hasn’t done anything wrong.

The Sooners can’t do more than play the teams on their schedule, and they have been excellent in doing so, turning in a notable performance Saturday by easily handling visiting TCU 35-10.

As someone who has bemoaned the Pac-10′s poor record against the Mountain West Conference this season, I understand how good OU’s victory was Saturday.

But it doesn’t compare to Alabama’s deconstruction of Georgia. Although Clemson is again disappointing when expectations are high, beating the Tigers 34-10 in such good fashion on a neutral field counts for something pretty good, too.

Oklahoma’s résumé of Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Washington and TCU just doesn’t match up to Alabama’s.

Remember, this is not a projection of where the teams will eventually finish. This is a five-week snapshot.

If we were talking about projections, though, I think Alabama can keep this going.

The Tide is strong along both lines. The rushing defense has asserted itself. The offensive line, led by future first-round Andre Smith, gives Alabama a stop-me-if-you-can running game.

John Parker Wilson is a talented senior quarterback.

Young, exciting players are all over the field.

Coach Nick Saban knows a few things, too.

This is only his second season at Alabama, but you know who else won national titles in his second season? Urban Meyer at Florida. Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Bob Stoops at Oklahoma.

USC went from 6-6 in Pete Carroll’s first season to a semi-dynastic run in his second.

That’s all happened this decade.

These schools have something in common: They were national powers who had the right players and the wrong coaches.

Amazing what the right coach can do.

Of course, there is a lot more football to be played – thank goodness – and what looks good this week isn’t necessarily the same thing that looks bright and shiny next week.

But for this week, Alabama is No. 1.

And 87.5 percent of the poll voters got it wrong.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: agimino@tucsoncitizen.com

OU AP pickers leave this voter fit to be Tide

ANTHONY GIMINO

agimino@tucsoncitizen.com

Gimino’s Top 25 AP ballot

1. Alabama, 2. LSU, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Missouri, 5. Penn State

6. Texas, 7. Georgia, 8. Auburn, 9. USC, 10. Ohio State

11. Florida, 12. USF, 13. Utah, 14. BYU, 15. Vanderbilt

16. Virginia Tech, 17. Texas Tech, 18. Boise State, 19. Wisconsin, 20. Fresno State

21. Kansas, 22. Oklahoma State, 23. North Carolina, 24. Oregon, 25. Wake Forest

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