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My AP ballot: To rank Arizona or not rank Arizona?

RELATED: Cats enter AP poll at No. 24

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez has the Arizona Wildcats in the Top 25 discussion after two games. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Associated Press instructs its voters in its college football play to “base your vote on performance, not reputation or preseason speculation.”

That’s a great strategy. For later in the season. When you have a lot of performances to gauge.

After only two weeks, what you’re left with when putting together a Top 25 is a combination of what you thought you knew, what you think you know … and the small sample size of results.

Which leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Which brings me, specifically, to Arizona.

The Wildcats weren’t in my big pile of 90 or so teams not to be considered for preseason rankings. They didn’t move the needle when they squeezed out a week 1 win over Toledo, in overtime.

Beating 18th-ranked Oklahoma State 59-38 on Saturday night changed everything.

What I thought I knew gets replaced by what I know — that was a really good win, one of the best in the nation through two weeks.

The jury is still out on how good the Cowboys really are this season. If they turn out to be unworthy successors to possibly the best team in the school history, then the quality of Arizona’s win will be judged accordingly. But, for now, that is a high-quality win.

Arizona deserves to be ranked.

I put the Cats at No. 25.

I start the process by ranking each team within its own conference. USC and Oregon are at the top of the Pac-12, of course. I put UCLA third in the league because of its victory over Nebraska and because the Bruins started at a higher place in my mind than Arizona.

So did Stanford. Although the Cardinal’s two wins — a close one over San Jose State and a rout of Duke — aren’t as good as Arizona’s resume, I kept Stanford ever-so-slightly ahead of the Cats. Remember, at this stage of the season, you’re still mashing together results and perception.

If it was solely results-oriented than Louisiana-Monroe, which won at Arkansas, would be ahead of Florida State, which has defeated two lower-division schools.

You might ask: Well, who cares about this poll?

The AP vote isn’t used in the BCS formula. It is for entertainment purposes, a conversation piece. But it is a really big conversation piece.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez knows that.

“Nowadays, everyone knows all the scores, but it seems they put that Top 25 on the ticker, don’t they?” Rodriguez said. “And it just goes on and on all week. So I told the guys, ‘I want to be on the right side on that ticker.’”

Here is my Week 2 ballot:

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. USC
4. Georgia
5. Oregon
6. Oklahoma
7. Florida State
8. West Virginia
9. Michigan State
10. South Carolina
11. Clemson
12. Virginia Tech
13. Texas
14. Michigan
15. Ohio State
16. Kansas State
17. Louisville
18. Tennessee
19. Florida
20. UCLA
21. Boise State
22. Notre Dame
23. BYU
24. Stanford
25. Arizona

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